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Fact and Fiction
by Ramendra Kumar

Once upon a time, not very long ago, there were two kingdoms - the kingdom of Fact and the kingdom of Fiction. Fact was ruled by a tall, imposing and a solemn looking king called Text Book or TB. He had many able lieutenants named Dictionary, Encyclopedia, Atlas, Thesaurus etc. Fiction was ruled by a pretty little princess called Fairy Tale and her twin brother Fable. They too had several assistants like Poem, Drama, Novel, etc.

Human beings would come to the two kingdoms to shop. They would spend time browsing through books, select their pick and go back contented. The two kingdoms lived in peace and happiness.

Suddenly one day a virus struck the human race. The name of the virus was Ambition. Everyone fell prey to the virus but the ones who were afflicted most were the Parents. They simply went crazy. They not only wanted their kids to do well, they wanted them to do better than their neighbor's kids.

As the virus spread, its fallout was seen on the kingdoms of Fact and Fiction. In the beginning Ambition proved a blessing for Fact and TB was thrilled. The sale of text books, encyclopedias, dictionaries and thesauruses shot up. TB's position as the king of Fact was consolidated even further and he was delighted.

But as Ambition spread further it took on dangerous forms. Ambition gave birth to a charming daughter called Success which succeeded in enamoring people. Now the Parents wanted to woo and entice Success at any cost. And in this pursuit of Success they started getting more and more desperate. Soon in TB's very own kingdom his clone was born. He was called Guide Book or GB. GB became very popular with the Parents as well as the Kids. Very soon GB staged a quiet coup and overthrowing TB, became the King of Fact.

The story of Fiction was even more sorrowful. As people grew ambitious they started reading only to achieve success, not for pure fun and simple learning. No one had the time or the money to spend on reading for pleasure. Fairy tales, fable, poems, dramas, and novels were now a neglected lot. No one wanted them. In the kingdom of Fiction too an upstart started gaining supremacy. His name was Comics and he was a brash young man who seemed perpetually in a hurry to finish his story and run. Comics was not well read and depended on pictures to tell his story. But he was immensely popular with the kids who didn't have the time or patience to read. Soon Fairy Tale and Fable were dethroned and Comics became the Prince of Fiction.

Even as Fiction was reeling under the twin impact of Ambition and Success, it was struck by a far more potent force - an alien called TV. This intruder also known as the Idiot Box or IB attacked the human beings and completely hypnotized them. Slowly but surely it began ruling their minds and hearts and soon captured their most precious possession - Time. The onslaught of IB completely destroyed the Kingdom of Fiction. No one had any time for its citizens anymore. The children's every waking moment was either filled by GB and his cousins or IB. Fairy Tales, fables and the rest were simply gathering dust on the bookshelves.

One day the citizens of Fiction led by Fairy Tale and Fable decided to appeal to Saraswati - the Goddess of Learning. Goddess Saraswati heard their tale of woe and promised to do whatever she could, to help them. That night as the human beings slept Goddess Saraswati appeared in their dreams. Each and every person had an identical dream.

"I am Saraswati - the Goddess of Learning. Please listen to what I have to say. After that you are free to do whatever you want.

I have noticed that of late you have been bitten by the virus - Ambition. Having aspirations by itself is not a bad quality. But in the pursuit of your ambition you should not forget everything else. What is happening to you? Where has all the learning gone? Let us first take the case of the kingdom of Fact. And children what I am about to say is meant mainly for you. Earlier you read text books. You went through the fundamentals and gradually worked your way up till you gathered knowledge. Now you neither have the time nor the energy to do that. You are always looking for shortcuts - the easiest way out. So what do you do? You just pick up the guides, cram and then vomit whatever little you have mugged up in the examination. After that you promptly forget everything till the next examination comes along."

"Moving now to the kingdom of Fiction. While the virus Ambition dealt it a body blow the Idiot Box ravaged it completely. There was a time when you read for fun as well as for learning. Parents can you forget how Pinocchio taught you not to lie? How you learnt about the virtues of courage from Sindbad, the quality of mercy from Shakespeare's Portia, the value of honesty from Raja Harishchandra? The wisdom man has gathered down the ages is all there in the fables of Panchtantra, fairy tales of Grimm brothers, stories of Hans Christian Anderson, dramas of Kalidas and Shakespeare, novels of Charles Dickens and Mark Twain and the epics of Vyasa and Valmiki. These tales not only entertain you but also help you learn about different aspects of life. They teach you the importance of time cherished values like love, truth, courage, kindness and lots more. These classics nourish the mind and enrich the soul."

"Do you know in the western countries what people call IB? The chewing gum for the eyes. And here you people feel TV is the ultimate vitamin invented by Man to deliver mankind from the evil of boredom. I am not saying watching TV is bad. The IB should be a means to expand the frontiers of knowledge, not an end in itself. When you see something interesting on TV you should go back to the books - for it is there where all the learning is. You should remember that IB can give you information not knowledge, it can give you data not true learning. TV doesn't give you time to think. It only bombards you with messages, facts and data. Books make you think, they urge you to grope for knowledge and help you seek wisdom. There is a certain kind of mystery, an allure with books. They don't reveal everything. They stimulate your imagination and then make a quiet exit. TV, on the other hand, leaves nothing to the imagination. It is all there in technicolor - without any mystery or
allure."

"Finally, before I leave, let me request you for your sake and the sake of your children don't abandon books, don't forsake learning. Don't sacrifice wisdom at the altar of cheap entertainment."

The next morning Fairy Tale was sleeping in her castle when she heard someone calling her name. She woke up to find Fable shaking her, " Sis, wake up. Just look out of the window and see what is happening."

Fairy Tale got up and looked out. She could see the citizens of Fiction carrying huge banners and standing outside the castle's gate. 'Long live Princess Fairy Tale, Long live Prince Fable' the banners proclaimed. She turned to Fable, "W..what ..is all this?"

"Sis, last night Comics was dethroned and we are once again the Prince and Princess of Fiction. In the neighboring Fact too, TB has been reinstated and GB thrown out. And not only that if you go to the bookshops all over the world you will see that people have started scrambling for books- those devoted to Fact as well as those catering to Fiction."

"Really?" Fairy Tale said, pinching herself. "Am I dreaming?" she asked Fable.  

3-Sep-2002
 
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