Legends related to Mrs. & Mr. Hoopoe…

According to Middle Eastern legend, Mr. Hoopoe was an explorer, spy & personal messenger of none other than the wise King Solomon himself. The story in brief out of many goes that, Hoopoe was sent on one of the many months long mission to spread the message of King Solomon & to gather intle on his rivals. No wonder though elusive, Mossad is one of the best spy agencies in the world! Somehow Mr. Hoopoe was delayed with his mission & was late to reach King Solomon’s bird consortium. King Solomon said to have reviewed the birds & said: why do I not see the hoopoe, or is he of those absent? I shall surely punish him severely or slay him, or he must come to me with a clear excuse.

Mr. Hoopoe was not long in coming & it said, I have found out what you have not apprehended & I come to you from Sheba with tidings. The bird reported that Sheba was ruled by a powerful & wealthy queen Bilquis/Makeda who had a magnificent throne. But they worshipped the Sun, which disturbed King Solomon. (Queen of Sheba’s tale appears in Jewish, Islamic & Ethiopian legends with slight variations). King Solomon sent the hoopoe back to the Queen with a letter, inviting her & her people to the worship of the one true God he believed in.

Queen sent him all the ships of the sea loaded with precious gifts & 6000 youths of equal size, all born at the same hour & clothed in purple garments. They carried a letter declaring that she could arrive in Jerusalem within three years although the journey normally took seven year (wonder where was she traveling from? Probably from China or India? distance from Jerusalem to Egypt around 800 kilometers & to Ethiopia around 4,200 kms).

Finally Queen of Sheba visits him at Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, very much gold & precious stones to test his wisdom with array of riddles. When she arrived to Solomon’s palace, thinking that the glass floor was a pool of water, she lifted the hem of her dress, uncovering her legs. Solomon informed her of her mistake & reprimanded her for her hairy legs. {This as well as stealing the throne and his treatment of birds sounds really odd considering the belief that King Solomon was very wise, rich and was close to none other than his God thyself.}

She asked him her riddles & he answered them wisely. Meantime Solomon had managed to steal her beautiful throne with the help of a wise man & tells her it’s a replica when he shows it to her.

Later Queen of Sheba also gives birth to a baby boy. The boy Menelik I (meaning son of the wise) is the first Solomonic Emperor of Ethiopia, who ruled 950 BC). Ultimately, Queen of Sheba renounced idolatry & joined Solomon in worshiping God.

Further the story of Hoopoe earning of crown goes… once King Solomon was travelling in the heat of the sun and called upon the vultures to shield him from its fierce rays. But the vultures were too busy to come to his rescue. Angered by this King Solomon cursed them & as the result God removed their feathers baring their neck. As King Solomon moved further, the sun got fiercer & sighting a flock of hoopoes along with their king, he called on them to shield him. Which they obliged & escorted the king & his entourage till the sunset. Pleased Solomon offered a reward which the King Hoopoe declined at first as they were merely doing their duty. But upon King Solomon’s insistence, went to consult the queen Hoopoe and as per her wish asked for the crown so that they could look very beautiful.

As a result they were gifted with pure gold crowns with an option to take it back if they did not like it. Though looked magnificent, it came with a price as bird catchers started catching them for their valuable gold. With the heavy gold on their head slowing them down, they were easy prey too.. So King Hoopoe went to King Solomon requesting him to remove it. Wise king Solomon realizing that the bird catchers (humans) were after only gold, he made it into feathers. Anyways the beautiful Hoopoe finally succeeded in its mission & carries the crown forward, still hiding it most of the times.

Anyways… Considered wise & beautiful, yet a ceremonially unclean bird & scrappy, but the pro & cons of its hygiene & repulsive foul-smell creating habits particularly during the breeding season has baffled the scientists. In Leviticus 11:13-19, the hoopoe is among several creatures described as detestable, abhorrent and not to be eaten. Some consider it as a positive cultural symbol, while some consider it to symbolize murder and death and some consider it stupid. Interestingly this biblical bird, part of the Middle Eastern, Egyptian, Ethiopian, Greek, etc., folklores had been a friend/emissary/messenger for none other than wise King Solomon himself to Queen of Sheba!

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Face of Iraqi Wars & Fable from my childhood.. Two Cats & a Monkey

This is a fable for the young generation..

Indian culture is full of fables & we grew up listening to oodles of them from parents, grandparents, relatives & even exchanges with friends. Those were the most beautiful moments & we never got tired of it… Basically unlike the present day gadgets, it was one of the most important entertainments for us. That’s how we were mentally groomed to grow up as balanced human beings. Keeping the values & growth of mankind, as the Vedas & Puranas have done thousands of years ago, fables were woven & passed on in a simpler fashion known as Ajji-Kategalu (Grandmother’s stories).

I am certain that Indian fables are a rich source of bonding & grooming to children. I was really surprised when I narrated my own modified version of the story of “King with the Donkey’s ears’ to Arya, my 3.5 years old granddaughter, she was so excited & made me tell her the story several times. I let her name the King & she would religiously repeat “King Cockle has Donkey’s ears” three times too. One day she also asked me Nana can you write & give it to Mama/Dada so they can read it for me!!

An Ajji would have said: A Door is smaller than a house, a lock is smaller than the door & a Key is smallest of them all. Like how we can enter the house with that little key, a good moral solution can fix big problems & vice versa!!

When the Iran-Iraq war happened (22.09.1980 to Aug 1988), we lived just a ~500 kilometers away & when Iraq annexed Kuwait (02.08.1990 to 26.02.1991) we lived there for 2 months before starting the arduous journey home. In a WAR there is no such thing as winners or losers; everyone is a loser in different context. I always wonder who really benefitted & ate the cake. Coming back to the headlines, you can read the story & interpret the way you want.

Many moons ago there lived two Cats in an old woman’s house. They were good friends, born together & while basking in the Sun spent their time playing & purring whole day in the garden. Old woman was very fond of the Cats & pampered them like her own children. There was plenty of food & milk, & they did not have to toil it. One day the old woman was suddenly taken ill & had to be rushed to the hospital. There was no food or milk kept out for them to eat or drink.

Middle of the day both were very hungry & could not find any food or drink. So both decided to search for the food & wondered all over the village but could not find any food. Finally the aroma of freshly baked bread & cake gave them some hope. When the baker was busy they managed to sneak in & while the baker was trying to chase one, the other ran away with a piece of cake. Finally, they stopped under a bush & decided to share the cake. It was a team effort & both wanted equal share. One of them divided the cake into two pieces & the pieces did not look equal.  Obviously they had no knife to cut it & had to use their paws. The tantalizing smell of cake made them greedy & both began to quarrel claiming the bigger piece.

On a nearby tree a small troop (incidentally it is also called a barrel!!!) of Monkeys were watching the commotion under the canopy. The smart leader decided to mediate between the Cats. Well that’s what it told them… it came down from the tree & asked them why they were quarreling with each other?

When the Cats complained to the Monkey about the difference in the portion, the Monkey said oh don’t worry, I can solve this problem in no time. The leader went to nearby vegetable vendor & borrowed a balance to weigh.

The Monkey said, well keep both the pieces in the balance & let us see if it is different & I will be the judge. Impressed by the size & smartness of the Monkey, the Cats agreed & kept the pieces in the balance. Indeed it was different & the Monkey said it will fix the problem, & cut a piece of the heavier cake & ate it. Then weighed the pieces again & the other piece was heavier this time. Saying it will fix the pieces equally, the Monkey took a bite & ate it. To make the pieces equal, biting & eating from the heavier pieces continued until such time that there was nothing left. Right in front of their eyes the entire cake piece vanished into Monkey’s stomach as both the Cats stood helpless & aghast for the right measurement.

Finally the Monkey smiled & said now my dear friends; I have solved your problem & you won’t have to quarrel over the bigger piece of the cake anymore & climbed back the tree.

Still hungry & sad, the Cats learnt the lesson of their life, not to involve a stranger in their personal affair. They had no choice but to wait for the old lady to return home…

World is still filled with Cats & all kinds of monkeys white, brown, black, etc.