Rikki Tikki Tavi

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I will have reached a pivotal moment in my life by August this year: I will have spent exactly half my life in this, my fine adopted country. This was home; then the ground started to shift from the harsh political rhetoric and the poisonous animosity it created. It made me think about where our differences might lie, and if there was a bridge to be found somewhere in our cultures.

Then the children's story of Rikki Tikki Tavi came to mind. It's the lovely tale of a mongoose, which fights a deadly Cobra to save a child. Anyone in the Western world would know that the mongoose lives a happy life thereafter, growing old alongside his human masters. But in the Indian version, the mongoose does not fare so well. There, the humans suspect that the mongoose, a wild animal that it is, would some day harm their child. So they watch him closely. When the mongoose kills the snake that fateful evening, the child wakes up and screams for his mother. The mother rushes in, sees her child crying, sees the bloody mongoose and assumes that her suspicions had come true. She kills the mongoose in anger. By the time she realizes her mistake it's too late. It's an ominous tale to illustrate that haste makes waste.

The two dramatically different fates of the little animal could explain the differences in our cultures. The Western version is designed to guide that young child who is bubbling with exciting ideas; do good and the world will be a happy place. The Eastern version is like something that a grandmother might narrate- full of advice on the imperfection of humans. Both have good intentions. While one could prepare you for disappointment if things turn out bad, the other gives you a reason. But, when I combine both, the narrative becomes more complete: We all want a better place. Let's do good things along the way and let's deliberate as we get there. I think that's where the bridge lies.

With a Perspective, this is Bhaskar Sompalli.

Bhaskar Sompalli is a scientist-turned-flash-fiction podcaster. He lives in the East Bay.