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Vasu Ramanujam

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The Leaves - a fable
By Vasu Ramanujam
Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Rated "G" by the Author.

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A fable on how some leaves govern the destiny of all leaves, for all time to come.

In the beginning, all the leaves on Earth were equal. They all were green, were of the same size, and had the same shape. They lived like a large brotherhood, took care of each other, and looked out for each other – for there were real dangers around. The birds were evolving, and could cause real harm to the leaves. Moreover, lightning, floods and other natural dangers lurked.

This went on for a long time. And by a long time, I mean a really long time. Something like thousands of years. The leaves stayed rooted – as leaves still do – and never deviated from looking the same all the time. They showed respect to their elders, knew that life on Earth is temporary and that one day all leaves died. They swayed with the wind, danced with joy when the rain washed them clean, and enjoyed the silent lights that the fireflies put on merrily in the dark. They shone in the sun’s rays, reflected moon beams, and cast their ever-lengthening shadows on Earth at dawn and dusk to help the birds and the animals keep time. But most important, and the leaves were not even aware of this, they kept the Earth green, kept the soil from being washed off by the torrential rains that showed no mercy when they unleashed themselves on poor Earth.
As time went by, the elders assumed this will go on forever, and started becoming arrogant about their customs and traditions. The result was that they expected the younger leaves to follow these blindly, without any knowledge of why they were doing what they were doing. The younger leaves, on their part, just did what they were told to do, because it was unheard of among the leaves to question the instructions of the elders.
While all this was going on, the birds were evolving, as I mentioned before. One really smart bird decided to break free from the traditions of the birds and talk to the leaves. Thus it was that a bunch of young leaves heard from the bird one fine summer morning. The leaves heard the bird in rapt attention and were amazed to know that there were other types of birds around – they thought that all birds were the same, just as all the leaves were alike. They heard the details of how the other birds were different and how they seemed to have become happier because they could fly higher, and do all the cool things that their traditions would not allow them to do.
The leaves just could not believe what they had heard. Was it really possible? They were not sure. They spoke in hushed tones among their peers across the fields. Soon, all the young ones across the land, and even some in other lands, knew the secret of the leaves. The elders, deeply immersed in their traditions and arrogant belief in their power over the young ones, did not know all this was happening behind their backs.
And so, it was not a coincidence when the rebellion happened simultaneously in many places and in many ways. What was a flat, single, green, oval-shaped, thick leaf transformed itself into many different shapes and sizes – some very small leaves, some leaves that now looked like a neatly arranged set of leaves because they had shed some of the webbing between the veins, some leaves that decided to grow only in the higher altitudes, some that were curled, and most strikingly – some that changed colour to look yellow, red, and other colours.
When this movement spread, the elders were taken aback and most of them refused to acknowledge it at first. Then they tried threatening the leaves with social boycott. Finally, they started ignoring the “different” leaves and created “communities” for themselves so their young ones do not get influenced. They fenced themselves in and built walls around them so that the wind does not bring in leaves of new types (and new ideas) into their communities. They made laws for the leaves inside their communities, and appointed able-bodied leaves to enforce the law on all the leaves.
Since they did realize that some interaction was required for progress, however, they allowed leaves from other communities to come in and interact, but only after obtaining permission by stating the nature of their business in the community.
Some elders, however, were able to see the futility in “suppressing” the young ones, and hence allowed the leaves to roam free both inside their territory and outside of it. The leaves in these places were quite different from each other, and seemed very happy. It is true that sometimes, in their enthusiasm, they misused the freedom they had, and so, the elders in these territories also had to create law enforcement facilities. But the leaves in the territory by and large accepted this as a necessary evil and went about their lives in a very happy way.
In the meanwhile, some of the communities of strictly traditional leaves were going about their rituals in a very religious manner. By and large, the rituals and traditions made sure that the leaves were peaceful and friendly all the time. But some leaves in these communities did not like the fact that there existed some territories on Earth where leaves were free to choose their size, colour, shape and orientation. They felt this could “corrupt” the young leaves in their community and hatched a plot to teach a lesson to these territories.
One fine day in summer not long ago, as the leaves of different shapes, sizes and colours of one liberal territory went about their business in a cheerful and friendly way, a very loud and powerful bomb went off right in the middle of the busy territory, killing many dozens of leaves.
The Earth has never been the same ever since. There are restrictions everywhere – liberal or otherwise. Leaves in strictly regimented communities want to break free and get into the liberal territories, but the leaves in the liberal territories are now very wary of all leaves coming from these communities, so did not allow them easy entry to their territory. Doubts and accusations became the norm, and drove a wedge between the free leaves and those that sought freedom.
Who will “bell the cat”? Who would have thought it would come to this, just because some elder leaves some hundreds of years ago were arrogant about their traditions and rituals, and would not allow the younger leaves to think differently?
The question is: Are any of the elder leaves that exist today thinking differently, so the leaves can have a future on planet Earth?

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Reviewed by A.S. Ziner 8/10/2009
Hello Vasu,

You've written an excellent allegory on dominion (which is the focus of my fictional novel). I enjoyed it and plan to share it with my youngest son (At 11, he still engages in civil conversation with his father). I look forward to reading more of your work.

Best Wishes, Andrew Scott Ziner
Reviewed by Michael Charles Messineo 6/13/2009
Vasu, I read this many times. You are quite the philosopher!!! This is powerful at many levels. One of your best so far.


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