The Right Question
Once upon a time, very long ago, in the land of South India, there was a father and son. Victor and Vicky were their names.
Victor, the father, wanted to teach Vicky how to be a very wise person. So for demonstration they go on a walk. Soon they came across Nanu walking his fat milk cow.
This is not a familiar site now at all – a man walking a cow on the streets! Well, it used to be in olden days, even as recently as 20 – 30 years ago.
Victor made a gesture to Nanu to stop… like this… and Nanu stopped, and he stopped the cow.
“Hey, Nanu, I am going to ask you some questions to teach my son how to learn by asking questions. Is that okay with you?”
“Sure, go on.”
“Tell me, ‘What is your cow’s name?’”
“Okay, do you milk the cow?”
“Yes, I do.”
“And how many liters of milk do you get every day?”
“Very good, thank you, Nanu. Have a good day.”
Victor then asked his son Vicky, “Vicky, did you observe how well I asked questions and learned? This is how you have to learn from observations and questions.
In those very old days, the land was ruled by kings. Kings had all the wealth and they bossed over all the people of the land. Nobody would dare to question the king and his family. Everyone was afraid of the king and his family because if anyone displeased them, they would be punished.
In those days there were no automobiles. The kings and their families moved around in horses, horse drawn carriages or in palanquins. Palanquins are chairs carried by men, so they don’t have to walk like common people! If you go to the Trichur zoo, for example, you can see a few of these old palanquins on display even today. And of, course, you can see pictures on line.
So here comes a princess riding in her palanquin. One man walks in front, shouting. He wants to get everyone out of the way. Then there are the palanquin carriers. And finally there is another man at the rear. The men also carry swords to protect the princess from any attackers. These were very old days!
The father, Victor, and his young son, Vicky, are walking in the opposite direction.
“Hey, stop,” the father shouts to the palanquin carriers. They stop.
Now Victor gestures to Vicky to go on and learn something by asking appropriate and polite questions.
Vicky is very excited. He says to them, “Hey! I want to know how many liters of milk you make out of the Princess?”
Now, everyone knows this is a very bad question to ask. Victor pulled Vicky, and they both started running away because the palanquin bearers already drew their swords.
Asking appropriate and polite questions is a skill.
Here is a famous quote.
“I keep six honest serving men (they taught me all i knew); Theirs names are What and Why and When And How And Where and Who.”
My grandfather told me this story when I was very young. I am sure all of you would have heard this story or similar stories of wisdom. If only I had learned to ask the right questions!
Here is dedicating the story to the young readers on this Fathers’ Day.