Sunday, 26 July 2015

O HENRY: THE LAST LEAF


2015-30   O Henry: The Last Leaf

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Sue and Johnsy lived at the top of a building with three floors. One of these young women came from Maine, the other from California. They had met at a restaurant on Eighth Street. There they discovered that they liked the same kind of art, the same kind of food, and the same kind of clothes. So they decided to live and work together. That was in the spring. 

Toward winter a cold stranger entered Greenwich Village. No one could see him. He walked around touching one person here and another there with his icy fingers. He was a bad sickness. Doctors called him Pneumonia. On the east side of the city he hurried, touching many people; but in the narrow streets of Greenwich Village he did not move so quickly. 

Mr. Pneumonia was not a nice old gentleman. A nice old gentleman would not hurt a weak little woman from California. But Mr. Pneumonia touched Johnsy with his cold fingers. She lay on her bed almost without moving, and she looked through the window at the wall of the house next to hers. 

One morning the busy doctor spoke to Sue alone in the hall, where Johnsy could not hear. “She has a very small chance,” he said. “She has a chance, if she wants to live. If people don’t want to live, I can’t do much for them. Your little lady has decided that she is not going to get well. Is there something that is troubling her?” “She always wanted to go to Italy and paint a picture of the Bay of Naples,” said Sue. “Paint! Not paint. Is there anything worth being troubled about? A man?” “A man?” said Sue. “Is a man worth—No, doctor. There is not a man.” 

“It is weakness,” said the doctor. “I will do all I know how to do. But when a sick person begins to feel that he’s going to die, half my work is useless. Talk to her about new winter clothes. If she were interested in the future, her chances would be better.” 

After the doctor had gone, Sue went into the workroom to cry. Then she walked into Johnsy’s room. She carried some of her painting materials, and she was singing. Johnsy lay there, very thin and very quiet. Her face was turned toward the window. Sue stopped singing, thinking that Johnsy was asleep. Sue began to work. As she worked she heard a low sound, again and again. She went quickly to the bedside. 

Johnsy’s eyes were open wide. She was looking out the window and counting—counting back. “Twelve,” she said; and a little later, “Eleven”; and then, “Ten,” and, “Nine”; and then, “Eight,” and, “Seven,” almost together. Sue looked out the window. What was there to count? There was only the side wall of the next house, a short distance away. The wall had no window. 

An old, old tree grew against the wall. The cold breath of winter had already touched it. Almost all its leaves had fallen from its dark branches. “What is it, dear?” asked Sue. “Six,” said Johnsy, in a voice still lower. “They’re falling faster now. Three days ago there were almost a hundred. It hurt my head to count them. But now it’s easy. There goes another one. There are only five now.” “Five what, dear? Tell your Sue.” “Leaves. On the tree. When the last one falls, I must go, too. I’ve known that for three days. Didn’t the doctor tell you?” 

“Oh, I never heard of such a thing,” said Sue. “It doesn’t have any sense in it. What does an old tree have to do with you? Or with your getting well? And you used to love that tree so much. Don’t be a little fool. The doctor told me your chances for getting well. He told me this morning. He said you had very good chances! Try to eat a little now. And then I’ll go back to work. And then I can sell my picture, and then I can buy something more for you to eat to make you strong.” “You don’t have to buy anything for me,” said Johnsy. 

She still looked out the window. “There goes another. No, I don’t want anything to eat. Now there are four. I want to see the last one fall before night. Then I’ll go, too.” “Johnsy, dear,” said Sue, “will you promise me to close your eyes and keep them closed? Will you promise not to look out the window until I finish working? I must have this picture ready tomorrow. I need the light; I can’t cover the window.” “Couldn’t you work in the other room?” asked Johnsy coldly. 

“I’d rather be here by you,” said Sue. “And I don’t want you to look at those leaves.” “Tell me as soon as you have finished,” said Johnsy. She closed her eyes and lay white and still. “Because I want to see the last leaf fall. I have done enough waiting. I have done enough thinking. I want to go sailing down, down, like one of those leaves.” 

“Try to sleep,” said Sue. “I must call Behrman to come up here. I want to paint a man in this picture, and I’ll make him look like Behrman. I won’t be gone a minute. Don’t try to move till I come back.” 

Old Behrman was a painter who lived on the first floor of their house. He was past sixty. He had had no success as a painter. For forty years he had painted, without ever painting a good picture. He had always talked of painting a great picture, a masterpiece, but he had never yet started it. He got a little money by letting others paint pictures of him. He drank too much. He still talked of his great masterpiece. And he believed that it was his special duty to do everything possible to help Sue and Johnsy. 

Sue found him in his dark room, and she knew that he had been drinking. She could smell it. She told him about Johnsy and the leaves on the vine. She said that she was afraid that Johnsy would indeed sail down, down like the leaf. Her hold on the world was growing weaker. Old Behrman shouted his anger over such an idea. “What!” he cried. “Are there such fools? Do people die because leaves drop off a tree? I have not heard of such a thing. No, I will not come up and sit while you make a picture of me. Why do you allow her to think such a thing? That poor little Johnsy!” 

“She is very sick and weak,” said Sue. “The sickness has put these strange ideas into her mind. Mr. Behrman, if you won’t come, you won’t. But I don’t think you’re very nice.” “This is like a woman!” shouted Behrman. “Who said I will not come? Go. I come with you. For half an hour I have been trying to say that I will come. God! This is not any place for someone so good as Johnsy to lie sick. Some day I shall paint my masterpiece, and we shall all go away from here. God! Yes.” 

Johnsy was sleeping when they went up. Sue covered the window, and took Behrman into the other room. There they looked out the window fearfully at the tree. Then they looked at each other for a moment without speaking. A cold rain was falling, with a little snow in it too. 

Behrman sat down, and Sue began to paint. She worked through most of the night. In the morning, after an hour’s sleep, she went to Johnsy’s bedside. Johnsy with wide-open eyes was looking toward the window. “I want to see,” she told Sue. Sue took the cover from the window. 

But after the beating rain and the wild wind that had not stopped through the whole night, there still was one leaf to be seen against the wall. It was the last on the tree. It was still dark green near the branch. But at the edges it was turning yellow with age. There it was hanging from a branch nearly twenty feet above the ground. “It is the last one,” said Johnsy. “I thought it would surely fall during the night. I heard the wind. It will fall today, and I shall die at the same time.” 

“Dear, dear Johnsy!” said Sue. “Think of me, if you won’t think of yourself. What would I do?” But Johnsy did not answer. The most lonely thing in the world is a soul when it is preparing to go on its far journey. The ties that held her to friendship and to earth were breaking, one by one. The day slowly passed. As it grew dark, they could still see the leaf hanging from its branch against the wall. And then, as the night came, the north wind began again to blow. The rain still beat against the windows. 

When it was light enough the next morning, Johnsy again commanded that she be allowed to see. The leaf was still there. Johnsy lay for a long time looking at it. And then she called to Sue, who was cooking something for her to eat. “I’ve been a bad girl, Sue,” said Johnsy. “Something has made that last leaf stay there to show me how bad I was. It is wrong to want to die. I’ll try to eat now. But first bring me a looking-glass, so that I can see myself. And then I’ll sit up and watch you cook.” 

An hour later she said, “Sue, some day I hope to paint the Bay of Naples.” The doctor came in the afternoon. Sue followed him into the hall outside Johnsy’s room to talk to him. “The chances are good,” said the doctor. He took Sue’s thin, shaking hand in his. “Give her good care, and she’ll get well. 

And now I must see another sick person in this house. His name is Behrman. A painter, I believe. Pneumonia, too. Mike is an old, weak man, and he is very ill. There is no hope for him. But we take him to the hospital today. We’ll make it as easy for him as we can.” The next day the doctor said to Sue: “She’s safe. You have done it. Food and care now—that’s all.” 

And that afternoon Sue came to the bed where Johnsy lay. She put one arm around her. “I have something to tell you,” she said. “Mr. Behrman died of pneumonia today in the hospital. He was ill only two days. Someone found him on the morning of the first day, in his room. He was helpless with pain.” “His shoes and his clothes were wet and as cold as ice. 

Everyone wondered where he had been. The night had been so cold and wild. “And then they found some things. There was a light that he had taken outside. And there were his materials for painting. There was paint, green paint and yellow paint. And— “Look out the window, dear, at the last leaf on the wall. Didn’t you wonder why it never moved when the wind was blowing? Oh, my dear, it is Behrman’s great masterpiece—he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell.”

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Sunday, 19 July 2015

O HENRY: THE GIFT OF THE MAGI

2015-29  O Henry: The Gift of the Magi


O Henry [1862-1910]

William Sydney Porter, known by his pen name O. Henry, was an American writer. O. Henry's short stories are known for their wit, wordplay, warm characterization, and surprise endings.

The Gift of the Magi is a short story, about a young married couple and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money. 

As a sentimental story with a moral lesson about gift-giving, it has been a popular one for adaptation, especially for presentation during the Christmas season.



                                                 THE GIFT OF THE MAGI

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.
There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.
While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.
In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."
The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.
Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling—something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.
There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.
Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the air shaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.
So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.
On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.
Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."
"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.
"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."
Down rippled the brown cascade.
"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practiced hand.
"Give it to me quick," said Della.
Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.
She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation—as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value—the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.
When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.
Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.
"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do—oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty seven cents?"
At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.
Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."
The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two—and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.
Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.
Della wriggled off the table and went for him.
"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again—you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice—what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."
"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.
"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"
Jim looked about the room curiously.
"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.
"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you—sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"
Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year—what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.
Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.
"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."
White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.
For there lay The Combs—the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jeweled rims—just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.
But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"
And then Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"
Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.
"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."
Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.
"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. 


And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.
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Sunday, 12 July 2015

DHARMA : FOUR LEGS OF - BRIHAD DHARMA PURANA

2015 - 28  Dharma : Four Legs of - Brihad Dharma Purana





When I was studying Jayadayal Goyandaka's Commentary "Tattva Vivechani" on the Bhagavad Gita, [in the footnote of BG 18.31 on pp.742-743], I came across a comprehensive reference to "Dharma" from "Brihad Dharma Purana", which I would like to share with all.

सत्यं दया तथा शान्तिः अहिंसा चेति कीर्तिताः |


The four legs of Dharma are: 
1] Satya - Truth 
2] Daya - Compassion 
3] Shanti - Tranquility and 
4] Ahimsa - Nonviolence.

Of these, 

1]  सत्य Satya - Truth presents itself in the following 12 forms:
1.1 uttering no falsehood 
1.2 keeping one's promise 
1.3 speaking agreeable words
1.4 service of the preceptor
1.5 strict observance of a vow 
1.6 piety
1.7 association with holy men
1.8 doing what pleases one's parents
1.9 external purity
1.10 internal purity
1.11 shyness and 
1.12 keeping no possessions


2]  दया  Daya - Compassion expresses itself in the following six forms: 
2.1 benevolence
2.2 charity
2.3 unfailing geniality of speech
2.4 meekness
2.5 modesty and
2.6 evenness of temper

3]  शान्ति  Shanti - Tranquility presents the following 30 characteristics:
3.1 absence of a cavilling spirit
3.2 contentment even with small amounts
3.3 control of the senses
3.4 freedom from attachment
3.5 taciturnity
3.6 devotion to the worship of Gods
3.7 fearlessness
3.8 gravity
3.9 steadiness of mind
3.10 absence of impassivity
3.11 freedom from craving of all sorts
3.12 abstaining from prohibited actions 
3.13 equipoise in honour and ignominy
3.14 praising others
3.15 virtues
3.16 non-thieving
3.17 continence
3.18 fortitude
3.19 forbearance
3.20 hospitality
3.21 practice of Japa
3.22 offering oblations into fire
3.23 visiting sacred places
3.24 service of noble people
3.25 freedom from jealousy
3.26 knowledge of bondage and freedom
3.27 spirit of renunciation
3.28 endurance even in the face of calamities
3.29 absence of stinginess and
3.30 absence of dull-wittedness.

4]  अहिंसा  Ahimsa or Nonviolence has 7 modes:
4.1 control over one's squatting postures
4.2 abstaining from infliction of pain on others through mind, speech or body
4.3 piety
4.4 hospitality
4.5 serenity, 
4.6 regarding all as one's own and
4.7 a feeling of oneness with others.

This is Dharma. Even a little practice of this Dharma is supremely beneficial and its violation is highly detrimental.

Side by side with this Dharma, one should perform duties consistent with one's grade in society and stage in life.

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Four Legs of Dharma [Duties for Mankind]: [Click Here]

Sunday, 5 July 2015

DHARMA : DIALOGUE WITH MOTHER EARTH - BHAGAVATA PURANA

2015 - 27 Dharma: Dialogue with Mother Earth - Bhagavata Purana  [SB 1.16]


Dharma as a bull with one leg and Mother Earth as a cow [Srimad Bhagavatam 1.16.18-30]
[The personality of religious principles, Dharma, was wandering about in the form of a bull. And he met the personality of Earth in the form of a cow who appeared to grieve like a mother who had lost her child. She had tears in her eyes, and the beauty of her body was lost. Thus Dharma questioned Mother Earth as follows:] 

I have lost my three legs and am now standing on one only. Are you lamenting for my state of existence? Or are you in a sorry plight because the demigods are now bereft of their share of sacrificial offerings because no sacrifices are being performed at present? Or are you grieving for living beings because of their sufferings due to famine and drought? SB 1.16.20

The so-called administrators are now bewildered by the influence of this Age of Kali, and thus they have put all state affairs into disorder. Are you now lamenting this disorder? Now the general populace does not follow the rules and regulations for eating, sleeping, drinking, mating, etc., and they are inclined to perform such anywhere and everywhere. Are you unhappy because of this? SB 1.16.22

Mother, you are the reservoir of all riches. Please inform me of the root cause of your tribulations by which you have been reduced to such a weak state. I think that the powerful influence of time, which conquers the most powerful, might have forcibly taken away all your fortune, which was adored even by the demigods.  SB 1.16.24

Mother Earth [in the form of a cow] thus replied: O Dharma, whatever you have inquired from me shall be known to you. I shall try to reply to all those questions. Once you too were maintained by your four legs, and you increased happiness all over the universe by the mercy of the Lord. SB 1.16.25

In Him reside (1) truthfulness, (2) cleanliness, (3) compassion, (4) control of anger, (5) self-satisfaction, (6) straightforwardness, (7) steadiness of mind, (8) control of the sense organs, (9) responsibility, (10) equality, (11) tolerance, (12) equanimity, (13) faithfulness, 

(14) knowledge, (15) absence of sense enjoyment, (16) leadership, (17) chivalry, (18) influence, (19) the power to make everything possible, (20) the discharge of proper duty, (21) complete independence, (22) dexterity, (23) fullness of all beauty, (24) serenity, (25) kindheartedness, 

(26) ingenuity, (27) gentility, (28) magnanimity, (29) determination, (30) perfection in all knowledge, (31) proper execution, (32) possession of all objects of enjoyment, (33) joyfulness, (34) immovability, (35) fidelity, (36) fame, (37) worship, (38) pridelessness, (39) being (as the Personality of Godhead), (40) eternity, and many other transcendental qualities which are eternally present and never to be separated from Him. 

That Personality of Godhead, the reservoir of all goodness and beauty, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, has now closed His transcendental transactions on the face of the earth. In His absence the Age of Kali has spread its influence everywhere, so I am sorry to see this condition of existence. SB 1.16.26-30



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Srimad Bhagavatam [SB] Audio: [Click Here]



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