Cog in the Wheel

Cog in the Wheel

One of my favourite incidents from the Ramayana is the one where the vanara sena (army of monkeys) builds the bridge from Bharat to Lanka. While the monkeys heave and hustle carrying rocks and boulders, a small squirrel watches the proceedings. The monkeys led by Sugreeva, Hanuman, Angada and the wise old bear, Jambavan, inscribe Sri Rama’s name and cement the rocks with sand and trudge one inch after another into the ocean. How magnificent the feat must have seemed from the eyes of the little squirrel. Soon, compelled by its urge to contribute, the squirrel dives in the water, rolls over in the sand with its wet body and then sheds the sand between the rocks to hold them together. It is said that Sri Rama was watching this and fondly picks up the squirrel and strokes its back. The three stripes we see today, are believed to be Sri Rama’s fingers tracing its back.

Why did this incident occur to me all of a sudden? I was hitting a creative roadblock, and professionally I felt like I was stagnating as well. Whatever work I was doing seemed to be mundane, to the effect that I wished for a really mechanical job where I would not have to apply my head or heart at all. My weekends go in some voluntary activities and the remainder of my time goes into meeting family obligations or catching up with friends. It did seem like mediocrity had become the overwhelming sentiment in my life. I was wondering if I had any impact at all on the people around me, on society, on the nation, or even upon my own self.

Out of the blue, on one such day in the past month, I was asked to facilitate an event. Within a week, we had coordinated with the guest speaker across continents, reached out to audiences across Tamil Nadu, made quick work of the technical logistics and the event was a big success. More than that, the speaker gave a presentation that directly appealed to my imagination and offered direct remedies for the stalemate I was facing. This was not even on my agenda, but I was witnessing my cure being hand-delivered to me over an online programme.

I came out of the event feeling fully charged, sure of my place in the larger ‘scheme of things’ and even positively encouraged to do things better and more lovingly. I realised that what mattered was not my ability or capability. It was just my availability. Wherever we find ourselves in life, truly is an effect of our own past decisions. But what we make in each moment is where we will find ourselves in the future. If we find ourselves in a place of stagnation or doing things that we find have no direct connection to our life or its purpose, there can only be two ways out of it.

One, to fully finish or exhaust our role in that scheme of things so that we never find ourselves there again. Two, willingly make efforts to get ourselves out of that rut. Both need our will and energy. Doing both with an inherent faith that it is for a higher cause or to simply trust that it is His work, will give us the courage and capability to make it happen. A cog in the wheel, seemingly small and invisible, becomes crucial in the very functioning of the wheel. Whether we consider ourselves to be insignificant or infinite, it is our bounden duty to perform our actions well.

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Chinmaya Udghosh