Work Life Balance

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"No matter how good one can get, there is always someone who is better"

[This story is based on an episode of Rurouni Kenshin - A beautiful anime/manga]

During the days of the Samurai, there was a Dojo in the grand city of Kyoto where many students learnt the art of swordsmanship. Among them was the hero of this story. The students were mostly good, but only this young man stood out from the rest. He was able to beat all of them with ease. He hardly felt that they were a challenge. One dark night, as the wind blew with all its might, and the rain fell down in torrents, this young man, who was on his way home beheld a sight that would change his life. There was an eerie shriek, one that made him instantly alert. He quickly clasped his sword, ready to swing into action, slightly skeptical however, for he knew not who the foe was. The shriek was that of a young woman who had just been robbed.

The masked bandit who had relieved her of her jewellery was mounted on a powerful steed, their silhouette seemed even more formidable with the inky sky gently lit by the moon as the backdrop. And then a bolt of lightning struck. The blazing eyes of the robber which were briefly illuminated by the bolt froze the young man's blood. He felt paralysed... Those eyes! Those murderous eyes! Suddenly arrived at the scene, a mounted policeman with his unsheathed sword, ready for a duel with the robber. The policeman's horse circled the robber who seemed calm. And then the policeman's horse lurched ahead. But as he was about to swing the sword, in that very instant, another bolt of lightning struck. The young man couldn't even register when the robber's sword had struck, for the policeman was already on the ground. A loud neigh followed, the robber's horse stood on two legs for a moment. He expertly manoeuvred the horse, darted a look at the young man and galloped away.

The young man was awestruck. That is true skill. No matter how good one can get, there is always someone who is better. And he had always felt that he was not at his peak yet, though he was often praised by his classmates. He knew that among those mediocre people, he seemed excellent, but the world was great and wide, with people of amazing talents everywhere. He had to get better, he had to get faster. He made up his mind that till he reaches the level of that swordsman, that robber, he wouldn't stop. He had seen that attack, it had been much faster than lightning, it seemed. An attack of the gods!

The next day, he told his friends that he was leaving school to travel the country, to meet other skilled people and become better. His best friend came to meet him before he set out on his journey. He told him how deeply his younger sister loved him, and told him that she always wanted to be his wife. But the young man was reluctant. "All these bonds will only tie me down. In order to become the best, I should cut myself from these attachments. For, with attachments, I will be weighed down." He walked away leaving his dejected friend behind, promising him that he would be the first person he would talk to once he got back... But when? Nobody knew.

As he was about to reach the outskirts of the city, he heard a soft voice calling out his name. He turned around to see a beautiful young girl standing under the shadow of a large tree by the lake. "I know this means everything to you, and I am not going to stop you. But I want you to know one thing. It is told that the fireflies that come around this place are known to grant any wish to those who truly seek them. I shall pray for your safe arrival everyday... I shall wait for you, by this very tree" she said. The young man merely nodded at her, his resolve being firm, and walked away.

He visited various Dojos across Japan, and learned under various masters. His skills got sharper by every passing day, vanquishing every opponent without even breaking a sweat. But he was never satisfied. His skills were great, and he had felt himself grow, but still, he was not there yet. That speed, that stroke that seemed to be faster than the bolt of lightning. No, he was not at that level yet. He fought harder battles, put his life at risk by fighting opponents with real swords instead of wooden ones, for death is a powerful motivator. He was often bruised, battered and bleeding. But his resolve to become the best never dimmed. However, days had rolled into months, and months had rolled into years. It had been fifteen long years. His skill had surpassed even the gods, but his conviction was no longer the same. He was beginning to accept that he could never reach that speed, that greatness that he sought. He had been very dejected. He thought that the time was right for him to return home, say his goodbyes to his friends and then to commit suicide, for a life without success was not worth living.

As he walked home, nature decided to play a trick on him. For the night was again the same as the one fifteen years back. Strong winds and a heavy rain accompanied by lighting and thunder seemed to follow him through his journey. The trees were swaying, as if they were beckoning him home. As he braved his way through the jungle, he saw something that gave him mixed feelings, those of joy and of sorrow, of anger and of great frustration. For lo! The masked robber was on his horse, his dark cape seemed as black as his murderous character. The young man thought that this was a gift of nature. After throwing away his life due to this man for the sake of one goal, it would be but poetic to die in his hands. He drew his sword. As the sword parted ways with his sheath, the metallic sound prompted the robber to do the same. He dismounted his horse, and confidently approached the nervous young man. It would all be over in an instant, for the robber was the greatest he had ever seen. When they were within each others' range of attack, they both lunged towards each other, their blades approaching the opponents body. And in an instant it was all over. The young man had easily defeated the robber who lay on the ground, bleeding... cursing... Another bolt of lightning struck, and he could see the robber's blood on his sword. The whimpers of the robber were drowned by the crack of the thunder that followed. It had all been over in an instant.

The young man felt it in his gut at that time. It was not a feeling of joy. No, he was far from being jubilant. He realised that he had apparently surpassed the robber years ago. What he had seen the other night, that had apparently been just a mistake. Maybe the robber had already pulled out his sword and it had not been seen by him in the darkness. He had not been that fast after all. It was a trick that was played by lightning. He realised his blunder. He quickly mounted the robber's horse and galloped home, hoping to meet his beloved. As he approached the village, he saw a young man by the tree. He recognised him as his old friend. As he approached him, the young man asked him what a stranger like him was doing around there at that time of the night. The young man did not reveal himself, and instead asked why HE was out looking at the fireflies around the lake at that time. The young man told him about his old friend and his sister. He told him that his sister always believed that the fireflies would make all your wishes come true. The young man smiled. It had become true, hadn't it? He had arrived safe and sound to his village. He told him that the story was indeed interesting, and if it would be possible to meet his sister. The young man shook his head and said, "I am sorry. But she died five years ago. This is her grave, and I come to visit her everyday. She was indeed a remarkable woman."

Similarly, all of us have dreams and goals in life. But we should not follow anything blindly. True, it is a must that one must have passion in everything that they do. But there are some things that you won't get even if you want it. For some things have a life span... Make sure that you cherish your friendship and relationships. They are more important than anything else, or at least, that's my opinion.


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