Mind Your Language

A young man had a very bad temper. His speech was tempered with abuses and insults. He would argue with his parents over trivial issues and utter scathing words. His parents tried hard to put up with his temper and reform him too, but he was quite incorrigible.

One day, he quarreled with his father. The young lad hurled abuses at his father and walked out shouting, “I’ll never come back! You shall regret this when you are old and have no one to look after you.” He stomped out of the house, banging the door behind him. He loitered on the street, waiting for his mother to come running out, to beg him to come back. She always did that and he expected it. But inside the house, the father held on fast to his wife’s hand and said, “No, my dear! Enough is enough! Let him go. He has to learn the hard way!”

The boy spent the night on a bench in the park. He was hungry and cold. But he was too high headed to return home and apologize. He roamed the streets and bought himself food. A few days passed with the little money he had. He asked for a job at shop and was given a dishwasher’s job. He looked so shabby and malnutritioned by now, that he didn’t look fit for a better job. His job was to serve tea to all the staff at the shop and then clear and wash the tea cups. One day as he was serving tea, the tray tilted and the tea spilt on to an officer and her files. She screamed, “What are you doing? Are you blind?” That was it. The boy shouted back at her, the choicest of words that were in his vocabulary. Needless to say he lost his job. Time passed, he hopped from one job to the other, but every time his tongue and his temper got him out of his job sooner than later.

He had moved to another town and was utterly miserable, but he still had no control over his fork edged tongue. One day he was very hungry. As he roamed around in search of work, he saw an old man cleaning paddy. He begged him, “I am hungry, please give me some money.” The old man took pity on him and said, “Son, I don’t have any money but I can give you some rice, here…. take it.” The old man picked up a fistful of raw rice and put it into the outstretched hands of the hungry boy. The boy walked further trying to figure out a way to cook the rice. He saw an old woman lighting a small log fire. He said to her, “Please boil this rice for me, I am starving. An old man took pity and gave it to me.”

The old woman smiled warmly and took the rice from the boy and put it into a pan along with some salt and water. While the rice cooked, the boy sat down on the floor, resting his tired head in his hands. The old woman asked him how he had gotten himself into this plight. It was the first time anyone had spoken a kind word to him in a long time and somehow the old woman reminded him of his mother. So he started pouring out his story from the time he used to live with his parents and how he’d left home and further on from one job to the next. The old woman looked at him thoughtfully and said, “So, it’s always been the fault of your uncontrollable temper and your evil tongue that has led you from one problem to the other. So why don’t you learn to mind your language?”

The boy glared at her and shouted, “You old hag! Who do you think you are? How dare you speak to me like that?” The old woman got up and picked up the vessel in which the rice was cooking. She said angrily, “You shall never learn, you foolish boy! Take the rice, I won’t have you around, at my hearth. Extend the hem of your Kurta. I said; hold it … now … right now!”

He held out the two edges of his kurta, gaping at the angry old woman, as she poured out the entire contents of the vessel into the fall of his Kurta! Then she said, “Now, out you go. You don’t deserve any kindness.”

The boy walked out into the street, holding the half cooked rice in the hem of his Kurta. The hot water flowing down through the weave of his kurta and the hot steam rising up to meet the tears flowing down his cheeks!

A little boy in the street asked him, “Hey! What’s that dripping through your Kurta?” He swallowed the lump in his throat and whispered, “Alas! It is the juice of my speech, dripping through my Kurta!”

Baba says, Do not contaminate the air by voices of acrimony, scandal, insult or slander. Keep silent when you feel like expressing such ideas, that itself is a service to yourself and others. If your foot slips, you earn a fracture; if your tongue slips, you fracture some one’s faith or joy. That fracture can never be set right; that wound will fester forever.