The Man With The Beard

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It was a hazy morning at the Madras Consulate. One could see only glimpses of people in a long queue that stretched from the huge wrought iron gate, to the main road, into a cross road, and  all the way into a residential quarters. People of all ages had gathered at 4AM in the morning:  Potential students seeking a post-graduation. Dreamy parents wanting to visit their children with both anxiety and pride. Drowsy children waiting to get a return visa after a ‘forced’ vacation to their ‘homeland.’ Then you had the tea vendors braving the early morning cold (as they have done in several years). With their ‘monkey’ caps on and steel tea containers on the carriage of their bicycles, they were essentially playing a double role. On one hand they were serving hot tea. On the other hand they were peddling queue positions for potential visa seekers for an admirable amount.

As I wiped my eyes, I was startled by one potential visa seeker standing behind me.
‘Did you think of shaving your beard before you came here?’
‘What,’ I asked. ‘And who are you?’
‘They are suspicious about bearded people you know.’ He continued.
‘Excuse me. Do I know you?’ I asked, interrupting him.
‘I don’t think you’ll get your visa. Good luck anyway.’
I didn’t know what to think of him. On one hand he seemed my well wisher. On the other hand my nemesis.

‘Hold it, Mr. Know all.’ I muttered to myself.

‘The choice of growing or trimming this innocent little beard belongs to me, not you.’

Yet, I know you are a good man. You are warning me. You are telling me that what they ‘think’– that the man with the beard flies planes into buildings. They think that the man with the beard is the root of all evil, and one who detests freedom. Are you telling me, what I considered as the ‘graceful’ flow of beard, now appears like thorns of war and hatred.

…a man with the beard who said ‘Peace be with you,’ and what did they ultimately do?…

I agree. The world has changed. But how much has it?  Don’t you know that he had beard too?  The man with the beard — whose country you are planning to visit ? is the one who rose from the log-house to the White House? And didn’t he fight for the freedom when he proclaimed ‘With malice towards none and with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right?’ 

And look at where you are coming from?  The man with the beard fought for your freedom too ?’whose mind was without fear and whose head was held high, who wanted to see the world not broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls.’

The man with the beard stood for freedom. But he also stood for peace. Or why would the man with the beard bid ‘Farewell to Arms’ during the middle of a World War and experience the tenuous nature of love? And why, if he hated war so much, would the man with the beard believe in human existence during the crisis of Napoleonic war and die in a frozen train station penning ‘War and Peace?’  Yes, wasn’t  that a man with the beard who said ‘Peace be with you,’ and what did they ultimately do?  They nailed him to the cross !

The man with the beard not only stands for freedom and peace.  He also stands for joy. Just look at the innocent joy in their eyes, when he brings ribbon packed gifts on Christmas. Although he looks old, he is indeed child-like? Because, when the man with the beard is asked ‘What punishment awaits him who pulls the emperors beard? ? His minister says ‘there are no punishments but only rewards — may be sweets and cookies– for who else but the emperors child had the courage to  do that?’

The man with the beard is not only child-like. But he is also old and wise transcending time and space. Two thousand years ago he explained the other part of the world through Chinese morality when he proclaimed ‘they must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.’ Today, in our part of the world he teaches us the ‘Art of Living.’ In the past, the man with the beard measured the world with ‘trigonometry.’  Today the man with the beard takes us back to ‘the Origin of Species.’

‘And so why do you want to stop me? Let the beard grow. Collecting within it, years of ideology, strength and character. And all the time you waste on pruning and trimming that innocent little beard (just to look more civilized).

The queue at the consulate had moved up by twenty positions. I told the waiting man behind me. ‘I am just another man with the beard (and I may have a lot to offer).’

Author: Newton Dsouza- USA

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