The Sluggard.

Uma sighed as she went about her work. Vijay her last child was causing her much worry. He was so different from her other children. Whenever she asked him to do a job he would say, “Later Mother. I promise I’ll do it.”

But the work never got done. If she continued nagging him, he would start but never complete the job.

Now his teachers began sending her complaints.

“If Vijay doesn’t complete his homework, he will be sent home,” said one teacher.

“He is going to fail, and will repeat the class. Such a shame for an intelligent boy!” said another.

Uma was at her wit’s end. Her friends gave her mixed advice. One said he must be very intelligent, and was bored by school work. Others thought he was plain stupid, and could not understand what was taught.

Uma took Vijay to many doctors. They tested him and prescribed vitamins and tonics. Only one of them told her the truth.

“The boy is lazy and needs discipline. Disconnect the TV and take away all his comic books. When you give him any job to do see that he completes it within a given time.

If he doesn’t, you must punish him.”

Uma decided to send Vijay off to his grandmother who lived in a remote village. There was no TV, or cinema or books to read. There were no children with whom he could play. Grandma was busy all day. She did the housework, tended the garden, looked after her goats and poultry. Vijay lay back in an easy chair, and watched her bustle around. She never once asked him to help her.

Vijay was bored to tears.

“Why don’t you give me some work to do?” he asked.

“Oh! No. Your mother says you hate work. So you just relax and enjoy yourself.”

“You could try me,” he begged.

“And you would probably leave the chores half done. No my boy, I like to do my own work.”

One day she was in the garden, watering the plants. When she looked up, she saw a spider weaving its strands between two branches.

“Vijay, come here and see this,” she called.

By now, Vijay was willing to do anything his grandmother asked. They stood there hand in hand, watching the spider spin its lacy web between two stems. Sometimes, if a strand got broken, the spider would weave it again. It went on and on, back and forth, until it finished the job, and a delicate web glowed in the sunlight.

“How beautiful!” said Vijay.

“Yes,” agreed Grandma, “How hard the little spider worked! It never stopped half way and left it incomplete.”

“I wonder what would have happened if it was left half done?” asked Vijay.

“It would have starved to death, because the spider wouldn’t have been able to catch any flies.”

Two days later, Vijay accompanied Grandma to a shop in the village. They had to walk through a shady grove, and the boy’s attention was caught by two tailor birds twittering in the treetops. Grandma was in a hurry, and Vijay could not stop to watch them. But he came back again later in the day. For several days he watched fascinated, as the birds skillfully built their ‘up-side-down’ nest. At last it was over, and Vijay was happy for the birds.

But then one night, there was a raging storm. The rains beat down, and the wind howled through the trees. Vijay was worried about the up-side-down nest. He was certain that it was destroyed by the gale.

“What will the poor little birds do?” he wondered.

At dawn, he ran into the grove expecting the worst. But the nest gently swayed in the breeze, and the two birds twittered merrily to each other.

“Granny, the nest is intact,” he shouted, as he ran back into the house.

“Of course me boy, Tailor birds are careful builders. They choose branches that will not break, but will sway in the wind. Even when there are babies or eggs inside, they are safe in a room of their own. The birds know that if their nests are half built, they can never have a family. You saw how hard they worked to build their home.”

Vijay was suddenly ashamed. He was the only person who didn’t like to work.

“If birds and insects are so hard working, why can’t I be?” he wondered.

“Grandma, I want to go home,” he said.

“But why? Your mother gives you work to do, and your teacher punishes you for neglecting your homework. You stay here with me, and I’ll never bother you.”

“Grandma, I love you. But I must go back. I promise I’ll never be lazy again.”

“I’m glad about that. You may have talent, but if you’re lazy, all is lost,” said Grandma, giving him a hug.


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