There are stories we are told when we are young. Fairy tales, ones that end in “and the moral of the story is…” and ones that make no sense to us at the time. But as you grow older and reminisce about your childhood, you begin to think about the stories you were once told, and how all of a sudden, they now make sense. My parents were rather unconventional in their story telling. While most kids had the boogy man, I had ‘The Glove.’ Though it doesn’t sound scary whatsoever, when that yellow rubber thing came out from behind my father’s back, my bladder would give up on life. Every time. Another one of the amazing stories I was exposed to as a child was the story of the ant that drove a yellow car. And he would drive and drive and drive. And then stop to fill up the petrol. And then drive and drive and drive. To find out the rest of the story, please repeat the last three sentences until falling asleep. No, really. That’s it. This either shows my father’s prowess in story telling, or shows that I was an unbelievably easy to please child. Saying that, I was also convinced until the age of ten that my father could change the channel with his finger. I never figured out quite how he did it, but I did eventually manage to convince myself that there just had to be some sort of logical explanation. Even still, part of me held on to the small hope that my father was really some sort of X-Man. I was 15 when, after watching him convince my young cousin of the same thing, I finally figured out my mother (the one who had seemed almost as amazed as I had with my father’s magical hand) was the ultimate traitor, and would change the channel from under her bottom at his signal. It was almost heartbreaking to discover that my father’s hand wasn’t really magical. In fact, it was the last piece of magic I stopped believing in. But one story that never lost it’s magic and is something I will pass onto my children one day, is the tale of ‘The Man On The White Horse.’ Today, I will pass it on to you.
In a small village in Pakistan, there was a wise man. He was one of the councillors of his village, a role of high status, a government role if you’d like, and he was well respected amongst his peers. People in the streets would tip their hats or shake his hand as he walked by. But it was not often he walked, for he rode on a majestic, white stallion. It was a fine, well bred beast, a symbol of his status. He was extremely fond of it, it was his pride and joy, and he often rode it through the village, whilst the village folk looked on in awe. Some just smiled, humbled by the magnificent animal, others tentatively approached, respectfully asking for permission to stroke the horse. And though his eyes seemed steely, his smile was warm and with it, he welcomed them. The horse, at it’s masters whim, would stand proud and tall, and patiently allow the villagers to get their fill of him. In the mean time, the wise man would discuss matters of the village with his townsmen, or attempt to solve any problems or disputes they were having, before going along on his way to work.
This went on for some time, and man and horse became a symbol of power and importance. For a few years, they were inseparable. Until one day, the man was walking through the village on foot. The next day, he was on foot again. This continued for well over a week, until the villagers gradually realized that the horse had disappeared. Once the villagers realized that the horse showed no sign of reappearing, one man finally gave into curiosity and asked the wise man, “Mr Councillor, excuse my impertinence for asking, but where is that fine beast you rode through the village on? It has been some time since we have seen it.” The wise man simply replied, “Oh yes, I sold him.” The villager could not believe his ears, and asked, “But why, sir, why sell it? We all knew how much you loved it and how important it was to you.”
My great grandfather smiled and replied, “In my life, I have never once looked down upon anyone and thought myself to be better. And I never want to be granted the opportunity to do so either.”
Hearing that story as a child, the moral of the story was that I needed a white horse. And the result of the story was that I would tug my great grandfather’s white beard and ask him why he sold that horse and if it had any horse babies that I could keep. At 22 years old, I am finally beginning to realise what the moral of the story is, and it’s something deeper than just “don’t be materialistic.” In his life, he owned 3 traditional Pakistani suits (two white, one black), one waistcoat, two awesome hats (see below), a Qur’an and a prayer mat. And he was by far one of the most content and happy men I knew. He outlived his wife, his siblings and all of his friends, enough to make any man give up and just wait for his time. But instead, he chose to be thankful for the opportunity to witness his children make families of their own, watch his grandchildren succeed in life beyond even his expectations, and to see his great grandchildren slowly grow into adulthood, though I did admittedly, as his eldest great grandchild, take my sweet time to do so.
Whatever morals you do or don’t gain from this, I hope you enjoyed it. The lesson learned for me however, is that as far as unsung heroes go, he is mine.