The literature of Mahakavi Kalidasa, the revered Sanskrit poet of the 5th Century A.D. is considered holy and sacred as the Vedas in the Indian Culture. Even though he was known for his exemplary poetic work such as Shakuntalam, Malavikagnimitra, Kumaarasambhava, Raghuvansha, etc, his personal life saga is as engaging and inspiring as his poetic tales. As one of the most profound scholars, poet, and philosopher to have ever lived on earth who was honoured as the 9th gem in the court of Chandragupta Maurya, he was rumoured to have the privilege of talking directly with the divine Indian Goddess, Maa Kali. In fact, that is how he even received his name. Below is one of the conversations he had with a stranger woman would make all of us re-think about how what we think about ourselves could be far superficial from the truth.
Kalidasa was once walking through the forest, and it took him all day long to reach to the end of it. Sun was fiercely tempered who seemed to suck every ounce of his energy. While he did not mind the sun, as there was nothing he could do about it, it was the lack of water that bothered him. His thirst became unbearable, and the sight of a woman passing with a pot of water could not make him happier. He thus walked up to her hastily and called out,
Kalidasa – O Mother! Sun has been particularly harsh on me, and so is this unbearable thirst that pricks my throat like a thorn. Please be kind to share your water with me, I plead.
Woman – Son, I know how you must feel. My water is sure to vanish your thirst, but before you do not introduce yourself, I would not part with it.
Kalidas did not want to waste a minute in small-talk. Every word that came out of his mouth seemed to torture his dry throat. However, to not offend the old lady, he quickly replied,
Kalidasa – Very well! Consider me a wanderer.
Woman – How can you be a wanderer my son? There are only two wanderers in the universe, and they are the Sun and the Moon, who never cease in moving. Please tell the truth about your identity.
Kalidasa was taken aback by this response. He cleared his throat and said,
Kalidasa – I agree. Why don’t you treat me as a guest?
Woman – No, you cannot be a guest, young man. There are only two guests in life, one is wealth, and the second is youth. Both are sure to arrive and depart, and never stay even when pleaded a million times! Tell me, who are you?
Kalidasa was at a loss of words at such a profound philosophy! However, the lady’s arguments charged him up. He replied,
Kalidasa – O mother, I am patience.
Woman – I don’t think so. There are only two patient creatures in this world. First is mother earth, who silently bears the burden of all our sins, and second is the trees that surround us. They are always bountiful to everybody without discrimination; even to those who mean harm to them. You are definitely no patient.
Kalidasa increasingly became irritable with his loss and the thirst that seemed to aggravate his temper. He snapped,
Kalidasa – Well, I must be stubborn then!
Woman – No, my child. You are not at all stubborn. Nails and hair are the only two to display stubbornness. No matter how many times you cut them, they always grow back. So be truthful about who you are!
Kalidasa lost his patience. So much for a few sips of water. He yelled –
Kalidasa – Well, I am a fool then!
Woman – How I wish that could be true! There are only two fools to walk on this earth, and you are not among them. First is a ruler who rules people without any adequate qualification, and second is the people who try to please that ruler only to be in his good books, even it means misguiding the ruler in his judgements.
Kalidasa was awed at the intellect of this woman. He, considered as the greatest Sanskrit poet the world had ever seen could not stand tall before an old illiterate woman who must not even know how to read probably. He accepted his defeat and fell to the feet of the woman,
Kalidasa – O mother! How stupid I was to think that I know myself. Our meeting has shifted my perspective, and I cannot be more ashamed of myself. Pardon my ignorance, and show your mercy. Grant me some water, I beg.
Saying this, Kalidasa lifted his teary eyes to catch the glimpse of the woman. What he saw made him think if he was actually present there, thirsty and defeated, or was it all just a dream? In the place of the old woman stood a magnificent figure that radiated like a moon! She was none other than Maa Saraswati who had graced Kalidasa with her divine presence. She spoke in a voice that was soothing than the water in this scorching heat. She smiled and said,
Maa Saraswati – O Kalidasa! Stand up. While you are indeed a great scholar and your words have the healing power and the ability to transform lives, it is your ego about your abilities that belittles all your achievements. You are surely educated, but with your education, you have also given space to arrogance to fill your heart. Hence, I had to myself come to guide you. The mark of a true scholar is not his knowledge, but his humility. Your education is fruitless if it only feeds your ego. That would be a life wasted. A man like you with such revered intellect must understand and preach about how everything one receives and considers as his achievement, are not his to be proud of. All he must do is keep on learning for one never knows enough. So, you must be nothing but a learner, my child.
Kalidasa immediately stood up and folded his hands. He thanked Maa Saraswati for shattering his ignorance. He exclaimed that he has realized his mistake, and would hold on to these pearls of wisdom for eternity. Maa Saraswati, smiled and finally offered the pot of water to Kalidasa whose thirst had been long sufficed. He thankfully accepted the pot with beaming eyes and drank water that tasted sweeter than the nectar! It wasn’t just his thirst for water, but thirst for knowledge also that had been quenched.