Elizabeth and Paul

To my 11 year old daughter, Kaveri

You left for India last night leaving me in NYC.  Really missing your  laughter.

Luckily I have friends here, with whom I will spend emotional time . Not defined as just being ‘truthful’ or honest, but going beyond that. Becoming vulnerable.  Vulnerability is the essence of a real relationship  between people.  Vulnerability is the essence of your  relationship with yourself, with God, with everything. Become so vulnerable that you become like water. Accepting of everything,  And then let go of everything in its flow.

Here’s a story for you.

There was a little girl that fell in love with two pigeons. One was a beautiful white pigeon, and the other shades of blue and green and grey. She named the white one Elizabeth and the other one Paul. Everyday she would rush back from school just as the shadows of the afternoon were getting softer and longer. Elizabeth and Paul would flutter together and sit on the sill of the bedroom the little girl shared with her younger  brother.  Not facing towards the bedroom but always towards the backyard of the house.  There they would sit in a very regal manner. Facing outward gently speaking to each other in what the little girl called ‘gooterrr- goon’.

The little girl was convinced that Elizabeth and Paul came from the kingdom of  ‘Gooterr – goon’ and had lost their way.  She would rummage through the store house of the kitchen and feed them with any seeds she could find.  Of course being an Indian household, it was full of lentils, grains and seeds of all varieties. So there was no shortage of food for them.  Every evening at 4 o’clock the little girl would start a conversation with the Elizabeth and Paul.  She would make the guttural sounds of ‘gooterr- goon’ and they would respond back. She was convinced they were trying to tell her something, and if she would learn their language, she could help them.

No amounts of arguments from her parents that the pigeons just came for the food would convince her otherwise.  The fact is that when her little brother would try to go ‘gooterr-goon’ with them , Elizabeth and Paul would just fly away.  She would show the family the hundreds of pigeons that would fly back  to their homes every evening, and ask why only Elizabeth and Paul would come to see her.   Soon the family became used to their little daughter going ‘Gooterr-goon’ every evening. A sort of ritual. And the pigeons became accepted as part of the family. They would fly away to wherever pigeons go, and come back the next day at the same time.

Till one day Elizabeth, the white pigeon, never came back. Paul would be there, looking lost and lonely. But not Elizabeth. The little girl would go out and shout at all the pigeons that would fly by and go ‘Gooterr-goon’ as loud as possible. It was then that the family realized how familiar they had got to Elizabeth and Paul’s visits.  As they watched their little girl come back with tears in her eyes because Elizabeth had not come, they would hug her and all pray that Elizabeth was fine and happy wherever she was.

Then one day Elizabeth did come back. She looked sad and weak. And when the little girl went ‘Gooterr – goon’ at her Elizabeth would not respond. To her shock the little girl realized why. Somebody had shot Elizabeth. The lead pellet from the air gun was still embedded in her throat.  Anything that Elizabeth pecked at would just come out of her throat. It was miracle she was still alive.  It was a horrific sight and the little girl panicked and thought Elizabeth was going to die, and that she had come back to the little girl asking to help.  The whole family was distraught.  They all realized how much they too had come to love the pigeons.

The little girl’s father was one of Delhi’s more famous doctors. Unable to take Elizabeth’s suffering he took her into his surgery, and cleaned her wounds. He took out the pellet that some unthinking cruel person has shot her with. To that person it was just a game, a sport. But to Paul, Elizabeth was his companion. To the little girl, her best friend. To the family now, a a precious life that needed to saved.

I still remember how my father gently cleaned the wound, and then stitched together Elizabeth’s wounds, saying words of comfort to my sister.  But because I was a ‘man’ he would look me in the eyes. The expression telling me that there was little chance for Elizabeth surviving. I remember my mother bringing Elizabeth into our prayers every night.

Elizabeth did survive. I watched in wonder as her wound healed, as the wound of a human being would. The family stood around happily on the day Elizabeth could finally eat without the seeds spilling out of her throat. She never got her ‘Gooter-goon’ quite back, but she was active again and could fly as she did before. I have never worked out how my father, a pediatrician, could operate on a pigeon and heal her, but will always remember Elizabeth for bringing such joy to our  family.

So dear kaveri. The grandfather you only remember as a much older man struggling with age, was once the most compassionate doctor I have ever seen. Your aunt, my sister, once a little girl consumed with fantasies, dreams, love and life, now coming to terms with the experiences of life.  Remember that compassion is the greatest gift of them all.

136 thoughts on “Elizabeth and Paul

  1. simply b’ful… feeling so emotional… u r a master in urself… hope to get more from ur side

  2. I have Tears in my eyes Thank you to share this lovely story with us.mein apni chotti niece ko yeh kahani zarror sunaooga

  3. This is beautiful! Kids have indeed such pure soul and pass on that purity to us !! waiting for more..

  4. sir you’re fabulous………i think it wont be a surprise if you create another panchtantra.

  5. awesome sir………..quite touching,,,,,,,,,,,,,,its all love n affection taht matters in life,.,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  6. shekhar… u r the great story teller i have ever seen. U have the gift or an art of puting the finger right at the heart of readers or audience.. kudos..

  7. Well told beautiful story , I will tell this story to my daughter as well when she is ready to understand , now she is three , compassion is life.

  8. What colour is compassion? Orange? The Kapurs- an orange family? It’s all about love and giving. And I like the reference to the fading old man- with an orange sparkle*

  9. compassion or Empathy will be greater gift? Write to develop a cult of empathy in children.good attempt…

  10. Just as shining Sun illuminates moon & several others,story-teller Shekhar emitted light to illuminate so many including me!

    Do we express gratitude to Sun for emitting light; emphatic answer will be “No”. But, we do Surya-Namaskar to take a bow before source of light….as mark of respect and gratitude.

    Shekhar sir,I take a bow !

  11. I always try to teach my son about compassion and love to fellow human beings. Since my son has been born, I have learnt love from him and the joy of giving to others and it has changed my life.
    I salute you for putting it so beautifully in words..

  12. If we could, as human show the same compassion towards our folks who feel are inferior (in whatever sense) and hence neglect their sufferings or do not show enough compassion towards them, the happiness index in our life and their life, would just multiply and there would joy all around.

  13. Just to say this Shekar Kapur… I was working out today and found myself talking to the lady next to me who was riding the recumbent bike so fast I had to comment, and we began to talk of how she has taken care of her daughter with hydrocephaly and cerebral palsy for 24 years. For sixteen of those years she was alone … now she is married and her daughter lives in a group home… so I am speaking of someone, who is just getting life back. It was as though we were flying somewhere and she was my seat mate, because the connection was
    I spoke to her of your blog. It impresses me so much. i am just getting back to this world, because of changes I have made. I hoped to say first that i loved your story and all of the comments that I read, but I left a gift of knowing I had shared a deeper part of my connections by sharing where someone else could find your place of perfect attitude and hope. Love your work and all that you do. Ulric(seattle)

  14. Love this story. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

    Compassion is of course the pinnacle of human emotions – not even love.

    Love comes next. When compassion rules the heart – the way, we see the world -will be entirely different.

    But, compassion need not be limited to just one or two. It can be Universal. A Buddha’s compassion is just that.

  15. read the story written by you for your daughter kaveri and was reminded of the innumerable stories that my mother used to weave for me when i was a little girl.wish parents today would take the trouble to create simple yet morally profound tales for their little ones.

  16. Sir, every word spelled emotions. Could connect very easily.Love ur thoughts and ur style to bring it out so beautifully.

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