|Mollusc (mollusk, in American English)|
Little Johnny went as usual to his grandma when he was bored of everything else. Grandma would tell him interesting stories. Johnny was carrying his mother’s latest pearl necklace that came free with the saris she had ordered online.
“Pearls,” said grandmother fondling the necklace. “Shall I tell you the story of pearls today?
Johnny was excited. Do pearls have a story too?
Yes, they do, said grandma. A great story. Do you want to hear it?
Of course, Johnny was all ears.
Pearls are found inside the body of creatures living in the oceans, started grandma. Shell fish. Molluscs. They are extremely tender creatures. Like the soft boys and girls you may see at school. Do you see such boys and girls?
Yes, there are some. Johnny agreed.
What happens to them? Asked grandma.
Boys bully them.
Exactly, said grandma. Bullying becomes an acute problem if you are very soft. The molluscs are too soft for this world. So the nature gave them a protection. They have a very thick and hard cover outside their soft body. If you see the molluscs with their hard shells you will think what horrible creatures they are. But, in fact, they are the most delicate creatures in the ocean. So delicate that they have to live inside their thick shells all their life.
How boring! Exclaimed Johnny.
Yes, agreed grandma. Very boring life. Who likes to live jailed within thick walls? Everybody loves freedom. Everybody wants to venture out beyond one’s limits. The molluscs too do the same. The urge to open up their shells becomes very strong. And they open up. What happens then?
Some bully comes and bullies, said Johnny.
Exactly. Grandmother fondled Johnny’s lovely cheeks. Bullies abound in the world. Even simple dust particles can be bullies for a mollusc. Some such particle enters the shell of the mollusc when it is opened up. You know, whenever you go out into the open spaces out there, this is a risk that you run. Some filth may enter inside you.
Virus, said Johnny. He had a computer class that day at school.
Yes, viruses are just waiting to enter inside you. That’s how the world is. And they enter the shell of the mollusc when the mollusc only wants to enjoy some freedom in the sea. But any little speck that attaches itself to the delicate body of the mollusc is like a thorn that enters your body.
|Pearls - as imagined|
Ouch! Johnny knew how painful it is to have a thorn in his flesh. He had them piercing his body occasionally when he entered the rose garden. He could imagine what it would be like to have one of those thorns sitting inside your body. His imagination had not yet been ruined by his school which would eventually give him rules for everything including how to read a newspaper. But Johnny was too young for reading newspapers.
Once the speck enters the shells close, grandma continued. The shells are a defence mechanism, you know. But the speck inside becomes a terrible pain. What do you do when you have pain?
Apply the balm, said Johnny. He had seen grandma applying the balm frequently in different parts of her body.
Exactly, said grandma hugging Johnny. The shell fish applies a balm. It secretes body fluids. Your father once told me that the scientists call the body fluids by some names like aragonite and corichiolin. But the names don’t matter. They are the tear drops of the shell fish’s body. The shell fish cries in pain. And its body sheds tears. The tears form an enveloping layer round the thorn in the flesh. But one layer is never enough for the pain to subside. So the shell fish, the mollusc, continues to shed tears. More and more liquid layers are added. These layers become solid as they are laid. Many, many layers of such pain balm become ...
... the pearl, Johnny completed the story with brilliance in his eyes.
Yes, said grandmother. Pearls are formed... ok, you tell me, what did you learn from the story?
We have to cry a lot if pearls are to be gained, said Johnny.
Grandma smiled. Tears were always a part of her stories. And Johnny knew it in his own childish way.
Pearls cannot be created, said grandma paraphrasing Johnny, without a lot of pain.
Acknowledgement: I’m indebted to Maggie (my wife) for this story. Last Sunday (Palm Sunday, for Christians) she visited the local church after a long time. Her job never gave her time to attend the church. But she was excited that the system had changed and she could now attend the church every Sunday starting from the Palm Sunday . She had invited me too. But churches and temples don’t appeal to me except for their architecture. Maggie came back from the church and told me the story of the shell fish. The “Father” (priest) had narrated it in his sermon. Probably, Maggie wanted to tell me that my present situation was good enough to produce some pearls J The grandmother and Johnny are the only pearls I could add to Maggie’s (her priest’s) story.