My memory of summer vacations as a child is all about the bedtime stories my grandparents would tell us on their visits. We would get to hear stories about farm animals, baby Ganesha, (the elephant God of hindu mythology), Lord Kirshna, the origin of our universe and many many more.
On one such visits from my Nana Ji (maternal grandfather), he told me and my sister about the elephant and it was not until recently that I truly, truly understood what he may have tried to conveyed to us through this story.
The story as told by my Nana Ji (who is 94 years old now) went something like this:
“One day as I was on my way to the village post office, I passed by the house of our sarpanch (elected head of village) who had a vishal (giant) elephant tied in front of his house. My small demeanor as a 12 year old boy made the elephant look rather big. This was not a new site for me as I had seen this elephant every time I had passed the sarpanch’s house. But it was only this time that I saw that this humongous animal was held by a small rope tied to one of his hind legs. I went ahead with my chores that day but I couldn’t understand why the elephant did not set itself free. It was tied to a simple rope which it could have easily snapped and set itself free, but the elephant stayed there. I could not understand why and this occupied my mind for the rest of the day.
The next day when my father gave me another postcard to be given in the post office, I was more than happy to go. On my way I had decided to ask sarpanch ji about the elephant. I quickly finished with the post office and stopped near the elephant at the sarpanch’s house. The sarpanch was sitting in the front veranda of his house smoking a hookah making a gurgling sound. I greeted him and asked him why this huge elephant did not attempt to set itself free as he was tied to a simple rope which was not match to the elephant’s strength. The sarpanch, looked at me and smiled, he called me to sit next to him on the khat (cot) and said, “Well, when he was very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie him and, at that age, it’s enough to hold him. As he grew up, he was conditioned to believe he cannot break away. He believes the rope can still hold him, so he never tries to break free.”
It amazed me that this elephant could at any time break free from his bonds but because it believed it couldn’t, it was stuck right where it was.”
Then Nana ji went on to explain me and my sister, “Like the elephants, sometimes we go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before. Failure is part of learning; we should never give up the struggle in life.”
Today I truly understand what he was trying to tell us through this.
Get over your limiting beliefs and try again and again!