SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Creativity : The Magic Horse; a sufi tale

1.       • Creativity [originality, ingenuity]: Thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things; includes artistic achievement but is not limited to it . (~VIA~)  

      Creativity is a synergy of two : Adaptability and Originality. To take an idea and convert into an original work is the basic tenet of creativity. Everything comes out of something!
       Another important aspect is that creativity is accompanied by chaos
      and creativity is found when we are allowed to think in free spirit without fear.  

     Most folktales are examples of creative thinking. Either the story plot takes us through a creative journey or the hero and heroine finds a resolution in a creative manner. So you can tell any story for strengthening this particular character.
Vocabulary to use  

  Story : The Magic Horse - a Sufi story retold by Idries Shah, retold here by me. This is a wonder-filled story of possibilities and outcomes and how any creative act may take you down a path that is unpredictable, unusual and perhaps even impractical. Yet we can always make choices that finally leads us to our hearts's desire and happiness and that in itself is a creative process. This is a fairy tale with many layers, but merely listening to it may open up a sense of wonder in a child and many questions in an adult.
   Suitable for 6 years and upwards

       King Mumkin was a benevolent ruler who encouraged much creativity in his kingdom. He had two sons Hoshyaar and Tambal, which as you know means intelligent and ignorant as they may have well been.
   The King who was always on the look out for new possibilities, announced a price to anyone who could bring a device or a contraption that was unique and different and useful.
   An Ironsmith who had invented a wonderful machine stepped forward, on hearing of the award.  He shut himself up in a secret place and diligently worked with a complex plan on a machine; a gigantic Fish that could swim in and under water and even travel by air; all while carrying immense weight within itself.
   While a carpenter who also wished to create something unique, took his simple tools and went into the woods to create, after much thought and reflection a beautiful wooden Horse which looked very real but seemed to not have any practical value. The two presented their unique creations to the King.
   King Mumkin, who had been sceptical of what the Fish could do, took one look at the immense usefulness and practical application of the Fish, declared it the winner, scarcely giving the Horse a second chance and Prince Hoshyar was entrusted the job of using the Fish to its maximum potential while the Ironsmith was rewarded with much wealth and honorariums.
" Nothing can be as useful as the wondrous Fish” declared Prince Hoshyar. The Fish became a much sought after invention.

  Yet the patient carpenter waited for an opportune time for his work to be recognised, and it did come. Soon King Mumkin called for the carpenter and his Horse, bored with the Fish and its wonder.
  “This is merely a plaything” the King dismissed the beautifully carved Horse.
  “It may not look much, but this horse is different” stammered the carpenter. “While the fish needs to be directed, this Horse can sense the rider and lead him or her to their heart’s desire” he explained hesitantly.
  “Such a silly unpractical thing is only fit for Tambal”, muttered the King under his breadth.
  “Let me keep it Father” said Tambal at the same time.
  “Keep the Carpenter in custody, till he can figure out some use for the Horse, and Prince Tambal you can play with this toy till you bore of it” said the King.
   So Prince Tambal took the beautiful life size Horse to his chambers and spent the whole night touching, feeling, observing...why even smelling and just stopped short of licking it! To his delight, he saw many knobs and dials hidden discreetly at the nape of the Horse and as he twisted and turned them, he found the Horse could actually move. He seated himself on the Horse and turned few dials and lo behold, the Horse flew upwards into the sky, taking him to where ever his heart wished for that night. In this way he spent many wondrous evening flying to far off land and returning, filled with the magic of visiting new lands and stories of the sights he saw there.
  One day he met Hoshyar on his way back from another productive day with the wondrous Fish. He looked at Tambal idling his time away with the Horse and commented (like many brother’s do); “I have found my heart’s desire, as I am working for the good of all, but I do not see much in your playful ways”.
  Tambal didn’t have much to say, but those words left him with a deep need to find his heart’s desire. So that night he sat on his Horse and stated clearly.” Take me to my Heart’s Desire”
  And away flew the Horse, across the land , over mountains and forests and seas, and finally it glided towards a most magical mysterious flying Palace. Let me tell you about this Palace. It had been created specifically to safeguard the beautiful Princess Precious Pearl, by her magician Father and King; Kahana. It was guarded by Mute guards and no one was allowed to speak or befriend the poor Princess.
  The Horse landed in that very magical Palace with Prince Tambal, and so carefully that no one saw them come, except the Princess. The Princess who yearned for company could not help but fall in love with this talking Prince, who was also gentle and kind while speaking to her.
  “But my Father will never let us marry, as he wishes to marry me off to a powerful magician King who lives on the other side of our Kingdom.” She said with despair.
  “I will convince him” said Tambal and mounted his Horse to fly to the palace on the ground.
  The way to the palace was filled with enchanted things and Tambal’s eyes were darting here and there, trying to see and hear and look at everything. But when he reached the Palace gates, he heard the bells ringing, announcing the King was not in and had left the palace for elsewhere.
  “He has gone to see his daughter in the Whirling Palace” informed one of the guards.Now Prince Tambal had to wait or follow the King to the Whirling Palace. But something told him the King may not like to see him at the Whirling Palace and so he quietly flew his Horse into the balcony of the Palace. Hoping to wait and watch for the King there.
  Yet sleep overwhelmed him. He had never been on such a long adventure before and soon Tambal let the Horse stand in a corner and went and laid down himself in a secluded spot in that very balcony which ran around the Palace of the magician King Kahana.
  Back in the Whirling Palace, our Princess was too excited and too naive to hide anything from her Father and she blurted out the story of Prince Tambal and her desire to marry him.
  “Never”, yelled the King furiously and sped back to his palace, hoping to make rapid arrangements that would ensure his daughter married the man he had chosen for her.

  In the Palace, the guards had found the Horse and seized it to show it to their King.
  “Aha! That scoundrel is here somewhere and will surely come back to take his Horse” he exclaimed. Kahana did not even try to understand the magic behind the Horse and swiftly ordered it to be locked up in a cupboard.
  Prince Tambal woke up with a start and realised to his dismay that he was stranded in a magical kingdom with no way or means to escape without his flying Horse. His only thought was to somehow get back to his own kingdom and take his father’s help and come back to claim his heart’s desire – yes, the beautiful Princess Precious Pearl.

  But a man with nothing, how will he cross the treacherous desert? He had no choice and poor Tambal suffered from the many moods displayed by the desert. The sun beating down during the day created mirages and the cold frost of the night made him delirious. He saw people where there were none, he saw water, and cities that were merely his imagination. The days telescoped into the night. He was on the verge of giving it all up, with no hope of ever reaching home or going back to the Princess, he seemed to not know what his heart desired anymore....until he saw an oases glimmering in the sand.
  Is it real or my imagination he wondered? But finally for once the oases did not disappear and he ran towards it and thirstily drank from the pond, and grabbed the fruits deliciously hanging from the trees and devoured them. Then in almost a swoon, he slept and slept for a long while.
  When he awoke he felt different. His hands looked bigger, and alas they had big claws and fur at the end. His head felt heavier and alas he had horns growing from them. “Woe is me”, he yelled, “My appearance has changed though I am still Tambal from within. Yet who will know me, how will Precious Pearl even recognise, me – this beast that I have become” he wept and wailed, sobbed and threw himself to the ground....
  As the moon rose and Tambal’s crying stopped, a light was seen approaching him from afar. It came closer to reveal an old man with a long white beard, carrying a lamp. “Who is this, an evil in disguise?” thought Tambal.
  The gentle voice then told him “My son, you have been affected by the influences of this place You are lucky, I come in time having heard your loud cries. If you want to escape, then firmly think of your Heart’s Desire and take a few of the dry fruits that lie at the bottom of the tree. Then follow your destiny” so saying he walked away.
  Prince Tambal found the dry fruits and quickly ate some with relish. His horns disappeared and so did his claws and fur with the rising sun.
  Sounds of horses galloping reached him and as he watched from the safety of the trees, he saw a procession of horsemen approach. One of them looked regal and princely, he rode over to Tambal and in a loud voice announced himself, having mistaken Prince Tambal as the guardian of the oases.
  “We demand some of these fruits as we have ridden from afar and cannot remain for long; for I am Jadugarzada, son of the magician King of the East and on my way to marry the Princess Precious Pearl of the Kingdom of the West. Here take this bag of gold and give me some fruits instead”, he said as he tossed a bag to Prince Tambal.
  “So this is my destiny”, thought prince Tambal as he quickly plucked some fruits and gave it to the Son of the Magician. You know what will happen here. As they watched Jadugarzada grew horns and claws and fur and was quite befuddled and confused, and insisted he was normal, while they were all deformed and enchanted.
  The Councillors who had accompanied him were flummoxed. How could they go to claim the Princess, and go they must?
  After much debate and we really don’t know why and how such things turn out the way they turn out. The councillors decided to make Tambal act as the Magician Son and they covered Jadugarzada with a hizab and coerced him onto a horse and tied him too, till he regained his senses, they declared.
  “We will make this oaf go through all the ceremonies, for he looks the part. Once it is done and the Princess is with us, we can then decide what to do with him.” They rationalised a plan.
  So Prince Tambal by a queer turn of events now found himself decked up in finery travelling to the palace of King Kahana. There he was taken with great ceremony to the Palace and their marriage was conducted with much pomp. In all of this Princess Pearl got a glimpse of the groom and almost fell off her chair in astonishment.
  Prince Tambal signaled to her to remain silent and with a quiet nod and a look conveyed what he wished to convey and that is a language known to those who love another. That itself was a task as the head of Magician Prince party was keeping a close watch on them.
  The Head soon announced it was time for the Bride to leave with the Bridegroom party. “ Oh Wise and Wonderful Monarch, Oh Just and Glorious Monarch it is time for us to accompany the bridal pair back to our land in order for them to establish their new home”. he said
  Now Prince Precious Pearl looked with alarm at her husband Tambal; for once they were out of the Palace, she knew they would kill Tambal and the Magician Prince was also recovering his senses, though his fur and horns were still there. Time was crucial here and Tambal quickly whispered in her ear.
  “Fear Nothing. We must follow our destiny and act as best as we can. Agree to go, but say you will not leave without the wooden horse”.

  King Kahana was annoyed at this strange request , but being convinced that it was a mere plaything that she desired to have in the new home she was leaving to go to; he agreed and the Horse was finally brought out from the cupboard that it had been shut in for all this time.
  Just then the Magician Son from the East; Jadugarzada, threw off his hijab and yelled at Tambal, while Tambal grabbed the Princess on one hand and the bridle of the Horse on the other and swiftly climbed up with the Princess as well, and with a turn of a dial and swish of a nob, the Horse flew up, up and away. All those gathered below watched with astonishment  at this sudden turn of events; helplessly.
  With his heart’s desire by his side, Prince Tambal returned to his Kingdom. The people were overcome with delight at his safe return. King Mumkin was overjoyed and when he heard the stories that Tambal had to share with him, he too was amazed and perhaps even a bit envious.
  The carpenter was released and rewarded, Prince Tambal and Princess Pearl were made the heirs to the throne, while Prince Hoshyar remained quite happy with his wondrous fish. “There is nothing more rewarding than working with my wondrous fish and that is what makes me happy”, he said.
  So they lived happily ever after and people say that;
  “Those who want fish can achieve much through fish, but those who do not know their heart’s desire may first have to listen to the story of the wooden horse”

   The story ends here, but not our adventures...   


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence- "An Artist to the Rescue"` Gujarati Folktale

Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence - Transcendence
- A strength within us that connects us to a higher purpose and meaning through appreciation of all that is beautiful and to find beauty in everything (~VIA)

There are 3 aspects of this appreciation:
Appreciation of physical beauty
Skill or Talent
Appreciation of moral goodness

This strength enables us to appreciate the wonder of the world around us. It helps us see beauty in nature and helps us become mindful of all that is already around us. Look at life with a positive perspective and to engage with those around in a selfless manner. This particular strength lies within the realm of Transcendence.

 This folktale is very illustrative of all these 3 aspects of appreciation, beauty and excellence. This folktale can be used as trigger to talk about beauty, that lies within and beauty that is seen around us. It can be used to break myths about what is traditionally seen as beautiful (A sad princess painting can be beautiful). It can also be used to discuss the selfless nature of individuals or even an artistic creation.

Vocabulary to use to strengthen this character:


"An Artist to the Rescue" ~~~~ Gujarati Folktale

Once Upon a Time, there was a Princess who was very talented and kind. She loved to ride on her horse into the forest and spend all her time with nature. Once as she was riding in the forest, somehow she rode so fast that soon she could not see her other friends and followers.

Quickly she got down and climbed the tallest tree, (she was very good at such things) and from the top branch she looked around. But what she saw was shocking; a fire was raging in a part of the forest and as she watched the birds and animals fleeing from there, she also saw a birds nest.

The father and mother geese were trying to protect their chicks. The fire came closer and closer to the nest and the poor mother and father tried to fly away, but the fire was too close. Finally the father flew away to safety leaving behind the mother and the baby chicks. The mother stayed back to protect the chicks...

The princess quickly climbed down, unable to watch this anymore and rode back to her palace to gather help to save the forest. But what she saw bothered her terribly and she felt angrier and angrier towards the male bird for flying away, leaving it’s family behind.

“I am sure all these men all over the world are like this. I will never trust them again. I will never marry”. She told herself.

From that day on wards she put on a serious face and told her parents that she would never marry. She refused to give any reason for her decision. Her old parents were very upset and tried to talk to her and tried to understand what had happened and why she was behaving this way. Yet the princess refused to share her story with anyone except two of her closest friends who she swore to secrecy.


Days passed and an artist came to their kingdom. He had traveled far and wide and had painted many beautiful scenes and things, but when he took one look at the sad princess, he felt a strong urge to paint her. With her permission he painted her and captured her feelings and features perfectly. But instead of giving the painting to her, he just took it with him and left the kingdom to travel to other lands.


He went to another kingdom known for rewarding artists and sold his painting to the King of that land for a lot of money. The King was enchanted by the painting and the expression he saw on the princess’s face. Looking at it every day made him very curious to find out who the original Princess of this painting was. But by that time the artist who had painted this picture seemed to have disappeared from the land. Nobody knew who he was, or who the princess in the painting was. Things became very different from then on. The King lost interest in the land and kingdom, in his desire to see or meet her and became as sad as the Princess in the picture.

How strange, isn’t it?


The Chief Minister of the land was an old, wise and trusted friend of the family. He could not bear to see his King becoming so sad and despondent.

“What can be done? I am too old to set out at my age to search for the King’s Princess. I wish we had someone who could volunteer to do this. We cannot spare our soldiers and I am sure they do not have the wisdom to handle such an important task’, he said to his young and resourceful daughter Saralatha.

“Let me do it Father. Give me a years time and I am sure I will find the Princess our King loves” 

Saralatha herself was a good artist and so she made a copy of the painting that hung in the palace and disguised herself as a travelling artist. She barely knew where to go, but she rode here and there and everywhere. She showed the picture of the Princess in many lands and asked whether they had seen such a Princess, yet no one had.

It was December and a year of travelling was behind her and she was tired and weary. No one had recognized the Princess in the picture and Saralatha was ready to give up as she entered what she thought in her mind was the last kingdom that she would ask.

“Have you ever seen such a Princess?” she asked a potter who was turning his wheel with great skill.

“Oh Yes! She is the Princess of this very land and we call her ; “ The Princess who is Determined Never to Marry”

“What? Never to Marry? What is wrong with her? Did something terrible happen?” asked Saralatha with a sinking heart. “Oh!  How am I going to convince the Princess to get married to our King?” She wondered. 

No one could tell her the story behind the Princess's strange behavior and so Saralatha was determined to find out why. Having slept over night on the problem, she woke up with a fresh, new idea!


Every day she walked to a place close to the palace and started painting beautiful pictures of the palace and gardens. Soon everyone was talking about her wonderful paintings and the King summoned her into the palace to paint and decorate different parts; walls and ceilings and arches.
Soon the women, children and men working in the Palace started standing around her while she painted and admired her work. This soon turned to friendship and Saralatha very wisely but gently started questioning the ladies about the Princess and her decision not to marry.

The closest friend to whom the Princess had told her story, was unable to keep the secret to herself any longer and very soon Saralatha knew the story of the Geese and the fire.


Saralatha started painting a wall. She sketched and painted and filled many small details of "A" story on that wall. This story was the exact reverse of what had happened to the Princess.
It showed an antelope trying to protect its young ones during a fire, but here the Mother leaves the foals to the Father and goes away and a Prince is watching the whole scene.

The beauty of this painting reached the ears of the Princess and she finally came herself to see it.
“Yes! It is her!” thought Saralatha. “This is the Sad Princess in the painting. All the hardships I have gone through are worth this moment in gold”.

The Princess was mesmerized to see the painting.
“What is the story in this painting?” she asked Saralatha curiously.

Saralatha pounced on the chance to tell her a story, that you and I know was not true, yet she made it so believable the Princess was amazed that Saralatha’s King was the prince in the picture who shunned women because he saw an antelope Mother run away instead of protecting it’s young ones!

“How Strange?” she said. “There seems to be more than one side to a story. Can it be possible that I have made up my mind in a hurry after watching just one incident of the Geese birds? I would like to meet your Prince and perhaps have a discussion with him on the mistakes we make by jumping to conclusions too soon.”

"Yes, of course you can meet him" assured Saralatha as she hastened back to her kingdom and explained the whole story to the King. The delighted King appreciated Saralatha’s immense hard work and rewarded her for all that she had done.  

Over time the King and the Princess met and had many wonderful conversations and then you know they finally decided to get married and of course lived happily for a long time.

As for Saralatha, she became a very famous artist and traveled to far off lands, carrying her paints and her stories with her and wherever she went people appreciated her wonderful skills and talents.

 ~ Gujerati folktale adapted from A.K.Ramanujam: "One more use for an Artist "~

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Citizenship – (responsibility towards the country) – Savitribhai Bhai Phule

Citizenship - To strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity.  Civic strengths that underlie healthy community life 

Vocabulary to be used : 

Story is suitable for children above 7 years. Some parts can be edited out as is required by your audience.

(pencil sketch by Sangeeta Kamath - inspired by the story!) 

Go, Get Education
Be self-reliant, be industrious
Work, gather wisdom and riches,
All gets lost without knowledge
We become animal without wisdom,
Sit idle no more, go, get education
End misery of the oppressed and forsaken,
You’ve got a golden chance to learn
So learn and break the chains of caste.
Throw away the Brahman’s scriptures fast.
— Poem by Savitribai Phule

This is a poem written by my Guru, my teacher and you can even say someone I considered as dear as my mother.
 I am Mukta and I am 14 years old, I belong to the Matang community of Maharashtra. My community was considered very backward and no one thought that we should go to school, study or even learn.  I was lucky that my dear teacher Savitribai broke this thinking and stepped out of her house along with her husband Sri Jyotirao Phule and started a school for us in the year 1851. I was one of the first students to join, we were just 8 of us at the beginning but soon this increased as more girls joined the school and we were soon more than 48 students!

But I must tell you it was not easy for my dear teacher. She herself was taught English & Marathi by her husband secretly, because if anyone came to know that a girl was studying then she would get thrashed. But my teacher’s husband was a wonderful man who believed improvement in a child comes through the mother and a country will progress only when women are educated.

When she got married and came to Jyotiba’s house she had brought a book along with her, and seeing her interest in reading he started teaching her. She was 9 years and he was 13 years! Soon Jyotiba (Tatya as we called him) told his father that his wife could read and write, but they were just thrown out of the house for this reason.

But Jyotiba did not fear, he trained my dear Savitribai to become a teacher (she was just 18 years and the first Indian Woman teacher) and they started a school for the Dalits ( Mahars and Mangs) and especially enrolled the girls who till then were treated worse than animals. Oh Yes. You may be surprised I am using such a strong word. But we Dalits were treated very badly by the so called upper class Brahmans who kept us to do all the very dirty work and believed we were not intelligent enough to study.

But we proved them wrong; in our first board exam that was held a few months after the school started, we passed all our papers with flying colours. In fact our mothers used to complain to the Headmistress that we were always studying late into the night.
I remember one of my little friends even got a prize for getting top marks and when she went to collect the prize she boldly asked the Chief Guest not to give her any gifts of toys and goodies  but to give the school a library of books!*

Not only did Savitribai Aai (ma) teach us, she guided us in many other ways also. She was so upset with the way Brahmin widows were being treated, that she opened an orphanage for pregnant and widowed women in her own home in Pune and started taking care of them and the babies that were born. We called it the “Home for the prevention of Infanticide”. If you knew how these poor women were treated you will feel lucky to be born at a time when such things are banned.

The purpose of education according to Savitraibai Aai was to give us the ability to know the difference between right & wrong and make the right choice between truth & untruth.
So I too decided to voice my opinion on what I thought was wrong, I wrote an essay in Marathi in which I spoke strongly about the laddukhau (laddu eating) Brahmins and questioned God on his unfair practise of allowing only some people to read the Vedas. I asked God what religion I should follow to be allowed to read the Vedas (as the Brahmins were not allowing us). The Editor of Dyanodaya newspaper was so impressed with my strong essay, he even published it. I was thrilled and decided I will continue to speak up about equal rights and human rights from then on.

Poor Savitribai Aai, she was not even getting paid salary for her work, but she continued her teaching as she considered it her sacred task. That is not all, sometimes small minded men would be waiting around corners or at the street end and throw cow dung, mud and stones at her. But she did not bat an eyelid, and continued her work with determination and courage, keeping two sarees in the school, so that she could change out of her soiled saree. Can you imagine being treated like this almost every day?!

She was  compassionate, calm and so giving! She would cook for anyone who went home, and even give away clothes and things for those who went to her, saying “What am I going to take with me, when I am gone”.  Watching Savitribai Aai and Tatya talk to each other was delightful. So much of respect and love, I was in awe of them and their relationship.
Savitribai ma also gifted me a collection of her poems called Kavya Phule that has forty one poems written in Marathi about social issues, nature and history. I keep this with me as my most prized possession.

Everybody knows about Rani Lakshmi bhai of Jhansi but not many know of my dear beloved Savitribai Phule of Pune.  She is my role model, who showed me that education is most important for all regardless of caste, community or economic status and gender and that everyone must learn to stand up for themselves. She is a true Citizen of this nation.

~ original story written by Sowmya Srinivasan. Please feel free to use the story. But please do give me some credit! Credit also the original texts;
facts collected from various sources: