Zeenath Jahan

Once upon a time there was a boy called Adil, who made a paper boat to sail in the pond at the park. Next day he proudly marched to the park, holding his beautiful boat up so everyone could see. Imagining how all the other children would envy him when they saw his boat sail, he chuckled to himself in pleasure. Reaching the already crowded pond he put his boat down with a flourish and stood back, arms akimbo, waiting for the 'oohs' and 'aaahs' from the children gathered there when they saw the boat sail.

But the boat stood where it was. It stood and stood, while he grew angrier and angrier at its dumbness, at not understanding what it had to do in the water. Finally the boat became soaking wet and filling with water it tilted and sighed to the bottom of the pond.

The next day Adil carefully made another boat. THIS one was sure to sail! But the boat stood and stood where he had put it before joining the other in its watery grave.

Everyday Adil made a boat, and every day it sank to the bottom of the pond. Each time this happened he became more angry and unhappy, but soon cheered himself by thinking,

'There must have been something wrong with the boat. I'll make another, a much better one!'

Yet, each 'better' boat he made soon sank to the bottom of the pond, too. Nasty boats!

Finally, Adil decided he was not using the correct materials and so he scoured the craft shops in town for stronger paper. He made a boat from the toughest material he could find and stood by in pride to watch it sail.

It stood in the water longer than the others, but soon it too sank to the bottom of the pond. Peering into the waters and seeing his boats huddled together at the bottom of the pond made him furious. Nasty, nasty boats!

It wouldn't have been so bad if Jamal, who also came to the park each evening, hadn't succeeded where he had failed. His anger at his boat grew each time he saw Jamal's boat merrily sailing on the pond.

He wanted to kick and scream, but ofcourse he didn't. He had been well taught, and he knew that was not the done thing! No one was to know what he felt, no one was to know the extent of his frustration, for that would be a greater weakness and humiliation than standing by watching his boats sink to the bottom of the pond. With his steely control Adil stood by, smiling, calm and collected; yet seething within.

One day he finally pocketed his pride and asked Jamal,

"What paper do you use to make your boats? How come they never sink? You keep messing about with your boat, while I don't even touch mine; yet your boats sail and mine sink!"

Jamal looked up and said,

"It is not the quality of the paper that matters, it is how you treat the boat." Then thoughtfully, with a secret smile he added,

"The trick is in the handling of it, of knowing what your boat needs, and the boat will respond by doing what you want."

Not wanting to show his ignorance, Adil did not ask any more questions; instead he secretly watched and studied Jamal's technique. He noticed that every now and then his friend would prod the boat nudging it to go forward.

He had never prodded his boats. He never helped them along on the still waters of the pond. He had expected them to know intuitively what he wanted, while he stood by watching them, waiting for them to sail. Because they were boats he expected they would know how to sail. Instead ofcourse they had slowly disintegrated, sinking to the bottom of the murky waters.

The next time Adil went to the pond to sail his boat he prodded it sharply with a twig from the over-hanging willow; but this did not solve the problem either. The boat sank to the bottom of the pond even faster.

Deciding to study Jamal's technique a little more closely he realized he had been too impatient and had pushed too hard. When too abrupt and harsh, the prodding that would have made it sail merely filled it with water even faster than when it had just stood in the water.

It took Adil a month and a day to learn how to prod his boat; gently, but with enough power for it to fulfill its function and move under the momentum of his touch. Adil watched happily as his boat sailed proudly for the first time; but his heart sank when it eventually filled with water disappearing from sight.

All that wasted time and effort of learning how much and when to prod the boat! Adil was now thoroughly disgusted. He decided that paper boats were silly, childish things to make and to sail. Who needed them anyway, nasty boats!

Pretending to ignore Jamal sailing his silly boat, he kicked a pebble about in the park and was relieved when Jamal picked his boat out of the water to go home.

Every day Adil went to the park, and everyday he kicked pebbles about near the pond, watching Jamal sail his boat. Finally it was too much for him and again he asked Jamal,

"How is it that your boats never sink?"

Jamal was busy nudging his boat past some reeds and took a moment to reply. Then squinting up at Adil he said,

"You must know your boat. You must be sensitive to its needs. Helping it when it needs to sail, and picking it out of the water when it has had enough."

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