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BOOK TALK: RIP VAN WINKLE by Washington Irving

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KHIDKI (WINDOWS)

–Read India Read Initiative—

This is an attempt to create interest in reading books. We may not get time to read all the books. But such reviews and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

‘RIP VAN WINKLE’

WASHINGTON IRVING

    It is an old American short story that takes you back in times. Luckily, I got an opportunity to read it once again after many years in a book titled, ‘Great American Short Stories’ published by Barnes & Noble that has around thirty four short stories. Where, I would like to introduce the publication, through this evergreen fable, titled—RIP VAN WINKLE. Maybe, some other time I’ll take you through some other stories too, out of the book. The volume is illustriously introduced by Jane Smiley who happens to be an American novelist. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1992 for her novel ‘A Thousand Acres.’

    The setting of the story is in and around the Kaatskill mountains above the Hudson river. At the foot of these fairy mountains there is this antique little village founded by some Dutch colonists. The country side was then still a province of Great Britian. Where, a simple good natured fellow, of the name of Rip Van Winkle lived. He was a descendant of the Van Winkles who figured so gallantly in the chivalrous days of Stuyvesant of New Netherland now in the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennysylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, and Delaware. But he inherited little of the martial character of his ancestors.

    He was a simple good-natured man. A kind neighbour, and an obedient hen-pecked husband. He had a termagant wife by the name of Dame Van Winkle. The children of the village too, would shout with joy whenever he approached. He assisted at their sports, made their playthings, taught them to fly kites and shoot marbles. He also told them long stories of ghosts, witches and Indians. Whenever he went dodging about the village, he was often surrounded by a troop of them, hanging on to his skirts.

    The minus point in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of money making labour. He avoided work but spent time in helping others and gallivanting here and there for frivolous things.

    Rip Van Winkle was one of those happy-go-lucky types, of well oiled dispositions. Who took the world to be easy, ate white bread or brown, whichever could be got with least thought or trouble. He would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound. And his wife kept continually dining in his ears about his idleness, his carelessness, and the ruin he was bringing on his family.

    Rip’s sole domestic adherent was his dog Wolf. Who was as much hen-pecked as his master. For Dame Van Winkle regarded them as companions in idleness. For a long while he consoled himself, when driven from home, by frequenting a kind of perpetual club of the sages, philosophers, and other idle persons of the village, which helped its sessions on a bench before a small inn, designated by a rubicund portrait of His Majesty George the Third. They often gossiped when some old newspaper fell in their hands from some passing traveller. And how solemnly, they would listen to Derrick Van Bummel the school master. The opinion of this junto were, completely controlled by Nicholas Vedder, a patriarch of the village, and landlord of the inn, at the door of which he took his seat from morning till night.

    Gradually, poor Rip was reduced to despair. His only alternative, to escape from the labour of the farm and clamour of his wife, was to take his gun in hand and saunter away into the woods. Here he would sometimes seat himself at the foot of a tree, and share the contents of his wallet with wolf, with whom he sympatised as a fellow-sufferer in persecution. “Poor Wolf,” he would say, “thy mistress leads thee a dog’s life of it; but never mind, my lad, whilst I live thou shalt never want a friend to stand by thee!”

    One day while Rip was on a long ramble on a fine autumnal day. He had unconsciously scrambled to one of the highest parts of the Kaatskill mountains. Where, he was at his favourite sport of squirrel shooting in the desolate solitudes that echoed and re-echoed with the reports of his gun. Panting and fatigued, he threw himself, late in the afternoon on a green knoll covered with mountain herbage from where he saw the brimming Hudson below him. Slowly the mountains began to throw their long blue shadows over the valleys. So he lay there musing on this scene. He visualized it would be dark before he reaches the village. So he heaved a long sigh when he thought of encountering the terrors of Dame Van Winkle.

    And as he was about to, commence his descent, to the village. He heard a voice from a distance, hallooing, “Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle!” He looked round, but could see nothing but for a crow winging its solitary flight across the mountain. He thought his fancy must have deceived him, and turned to descend, when he again heard the same cry ring through the still evening air; “Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle!” He turned around and was surprised to see any human being in this lonely and unfrequented place. He thought it was some neighbour asking for assistance. Is when Van Winkle saw a man wearing antiquated Dutch clothing; he was carrying a keg up the mountain and required help. Together, the men and Wolf proceed to a hollow in which Rip discovered the source of thunderous noises: a group of ornately dressed, silent, bearded men who were playing nine-pins.

    Rip Van Winkle did not ask who they are or how they knew his name. Instead, he began to drink some of their jenever (liquor) and soon fell asleep. When, he awoke on the mountain. He discovered shocking changes: His musket was rotting and had become rusty, his beard was a foot long, and his dog was nowhere to be found. He returned to his village, where he recognized no one.

    Rip had returned just after an election, and people were asking how he had voted. Never having cast a ballot in his life, he proclaimed himself as a faithful subject of King George III. Unaware, that the American Revolution had taken place. He nearly got himself into trouble with the townspeople. Until one elderly woman recognized him as the long forgotten and the long-lost Rip Van Winkle.

    King George’s portrait on the inn’s sign had been replaced with one of George Washington. Rip learnt that most of his friends were killed while fighting in the American Revolution. He was also perplexed and disturbed when he found another man by the name of Rip Van Winkle. But surprisingly he turned out to be his own son, now grown up. Rip also discovered that his wife had died some time ago but was not saddened, by the sad news.

    He learnt that the men he met in the mountains are rumoured to be the ghosts of Hendrick (Henry) Hudson’s crew. Which had vanished long ago, and that he had been away from the village for at least 20 years. His grown up daughter finally takes him home. He resumes his usual idleness. His strange tale is solemnly taken to heart by the Dutch settlers. Particularly by the children who say that whenever thunder is heard, the men in the mountains must be playing nine-pins. The henpecked husbands in the area often wish they could have had a sip of Van Winkle’s elixir to sleep through their own wives’ nagging.

    In the ultimate analysis Rip Van Winkle suffered because of his laziness. His punishment was to remain asleep for 20 years, because a person asleep, naturally misses the advent of the setting change. So, he missed the change: Both the pre-revolutionary and post revolutionary America. And that happens to be the central theme of the short story.

    *****

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

*

Share it if you like it

*

Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases. Should you wish to donate for the cause the bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

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Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

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PHILOSOPHER AND THE MERCHANT’S DOG

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    Once, a rich merchant was crossing a turbulent river in a boat along with his dog.  With him there were some other passengers too, including a philosopher. It appeared the unruly dog of the merchant had never sailed earlier and therefore, it was not feeling at home in the changing surroundings. It was running helter-skelter, and in the process, it was brushing and pushing the passengers all over. The dog obviously was scared and in the process it was not allowing anyone to even sit peacefully.

    So much so, even the oarsmen, were feeling shaky about his movements that had unsettled all the passengers and everyone was somewhat panicky. The, boatman was now beginning to fear about the dog’s rowdy acrobats, that was swaying the boat excessively, where, it could have just overturned. In the process, everyone could have drowned including the mischievous dog.

   But the dog was unfazed and remained in a state of caper and romp. The merchant therefore, was regretting having brought him and was in a state of helplessness. But, he was unable to tame him. In the meantime the passenger who happened to be the philosopher in the boat couldn’t resist.

    He walked up to the merchant and said—‘Sir, if you permit me. In a minute or so I could set your dog right. Upon, hearing this, the merchant was greatly relieved and he gave him the permission forthwith.

    The philosopher with the help of two daring passengers lifted the dog and threw him in the river. Frightened, the dog started squealing on top of his voice and started swimming towards the boat. Soon, it even started pawing the boat fearing his life. The philosopher was watching the dog intently and after a little while he pulled him back. But the dog was now frightened. So he waddled to a corner of the boat and just sat there. The passengers and even the merchant were surprised at this docile behavior of his.

    Merchant too was surprised. He asked the philosopher—‘my dog was earlier caper romping all over the boat. But now he stands tamed, and is just sitting in one corner like a domesticated goat. How come?

     Philosopher said-

    ‘Sir, without experiencing pain, no one can imagine the agony of others. It was only when I threw him in the river. He could understand the might of the river, the utility of the boat and the struggle of the oarsmen.

     This story goes out to those ungrateful Indians. Who stay in India but keep abusing her all the time. They too should be thrown into Pakistan so that they realise the beauty of India.

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Posted by Kamlesh Tripathi

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Share if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases. Should you wish to donate for the cause the bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(CAN BE BOUGHT FROM ON LINE BOOK STORES OR WRITE TO US FOR COPIES)

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SHORT STORY: MONKEY’S ADVICE

Copyright@shravancharitymission

By Kamlesh Tripathi

 

    Pained by human atrocities, some like minded animals who even happened to be old friends, prominent among them being cat, cow, dog, donkey, horse and monkey decided to meet somewhere, to discuss the burning issue and chalk out a way forward. As human lunacy was troubling animals big time. The king of the jungle however excused himself as his species was already under threat from human beings and he didn’t want to take an adverse position against them any further.

    Scheming cat who happened to be a relative of the king of the jungle started the conversation by saying, ‘to us, all human beings look the same but they are divided by something called the religion, and unlike us, who don’t follow any religion but only follow our heart, human beings are guided by their religion. And if we could only exploit their religion we could divert their attention from us to save ourselves.’

    ‘But what is religion? Asked, the donkey.

    ‘Arrey yaar! You don’t know religion? No wonder you’re called a donkey. You must have often seen human beings going to differently looking buildings to pray. That is called religion.’ Clarified the cat.

    ‘But what is religion suppose to do?’ Enquired donkey again, exposing his ignorance further.

    ‘Well, it is supposed to divide human beings. And it is doing that quite efficiently.  For human beings fight tooth and nail for anything and everything. And since I keep gallivanting most of the times. I see that with my own eyes. They might be our enemies but they are the biggest enemies of themselves’ Said the relaxing horse.

    Thereafter, they decided to go for a long walk just to graze and relax since they were old friends and had met after a long-long time, to have a heart-to-heart conversation with each other. And they all were leisurely walking side by side, along the river, while the monkey was happily sitting atop on the donkey’s back is when the donkey asked the horse,

    ‘Boss the government is planning a lot for the employment of human beings but what about us? In the present scenario I neither have a job nor a peaceful place to stand nor even for an assured morsel of food. Every day I need to walk quite a distance and that too across the road to feed myself where you only get some dry grass and pesticides laden dry leaves to munch. About two years back I used to get the same food, in fact better, here only, where we are walking, but today because of these multi-storeyed buildings there is nothing left for us. The horse felt sad for the donkey, and while maintaining his pace he softly said,

    ‘I know it’s very sad, but yaar, you’re a donkey, at least you know the art of survival and no one expects wonders from you. But look at my plight. A bright talented horse that used to participate in derbies and equestrian shows. But with age catching up I was thrown out of my job. I was then bought by a tangewalla and he used me mercilessly in Chandini Chowk for some time, but as and when tongas went out of circulation, he kept me for a month thinking he’ll be able to sell me off, but when he couldn’t he just left me here one day and never came back. And today a skilled guy like me is not only unemployed but even harassed on the roads by moving vehicles and the traffic police.

    ‘My dear horse, that’s indeed sad. Such a skilled personality like you; meeting up with such a fate.’ Donkey consoled the horse.

    ‘My dear dog, how are things with you?’ asked the cow.

    ‘Not too good. These Indians could never get out of their colonial mindset. They still keep foreign breeds as their pets, and that leaves we—the Indian mongrels on the lurch, and it really takes some humongous efforts to fend for ourselves. And how about you?’ the dog asked the cat. The cat stretched itself while walking and said,

    ‘Well … well, somehow surviving, only because we cats are of no use to a man. Neither, they require our skin, nor bones, nor our flesh. And that makes things somewhat easier for us; otherwise you can see how they have massacred the tigers from our family. But I guess in today’s time cows are the real VIPs’

    ‘But why do you say so?’ asked the cow meekly.

    ‘Boss because, you are hitting the headlines every day.’ Replied the cat.

    ‘But for religious reasons,’ was the doleful moo of the cow.

    ‘So then, what should we do to survive, and improve our lives? Let’s ask the monkey who is very quiet.’ Suggested the dog.

    Monkey, who was sitting merrily on donkey’s back, with his eyes closed, enjoying the winter sun was a bit amused at the melancholic conversation that was going around. He preferred to remain quiet even when the dog had asked a pertinent question. After a few moments when the monkey didn’t answer, cow repeated the question and requested monkey for an answer.

    Clever monkey kept quiet for a while and then blinked his eyes and said,

   ‘Stop being useful to the man like cat and me.’

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SHORT STORY: RELYING ON OTHERS IS TRICKY

Copyright@shravancharitymission

 

 

    Once, a farmer had a cow and a horse. They used to graze in the nearby jungle together. In the neighbourhood of the farmer there lived a Dhobi (washerman). He had a donkey and a goat. The Dhobi too left his animals in the same jungle for grazing. Gradually, all four started grazing together and soon became friends. They started coming to the jungle together and in the evenings they all used to go back together.

    In the same jungle there lived a clever hare. Upon seeing the inseparable friendship of these four he started thinking—‘if only I could befriend all four, my life will become easy. If you have tall and mighty friends such as these, no dog will ever have the courage to trouble you.’

    Hare decided to get close to all the four. He started playing with them every day by jumping and doing various kinds of acrobats. He also started grazing with them. Slowly, he became friends with all the four, and was very happy now. And he thought the scare of dogs is over for life.

    But sadly one day a dog came into the jungle and started chasing the hare. The hare confidently ran towards the cow and yelled—‘Sister Cow! This dog is very wicked. He has come to kill me. So, you please kill him with your horns.’

            The cow replied—‘Brother Rabbit! You’ve come to me very late. It’s time for me to return home. My kid is hungry and must be crying for me. I’m in a great hurry to go home, so you go to the horse for help.’

    The rabbit ran towards the horse and said—‘brother horse! I’m your friend. We graze here together each day. Today, this devious dog is after me. Kindly help me sit on your back and take me away from this danger.’

    Horse replied—‘Dear Hare! What you’re saying is correct, but I don’t know how to sit. I even sleep while standing. So how will climb on to my back? And these days I’m also injured. I can neither run fast nor can trot properly.’

    Dejected by the horse the hare approached the donkey and requested—‘Friend Donkey! Please attack this mischievous dog with a kick as that will save my life.’

    Donkey replied—‘As a routine, I return daily with the cow and the horse. Those two are leaving. And if I am unable to leave with them, and happen to stay back, my master—the dhobi will come and whack me badly with his cane and turn me to pulp. So, I just can’t stay back anymore.’

    In the end the hare approached the goat. But the moment the goat saw him he said—‘Buddy Rabbit! For heaven’s sake don’t come to this side. Otherwise, behind you that dog will also come running. And I’m very scared of that dog.’

    Finally, dejected from all sides the hare ran from there. After running some distance he went and hid himself behind the bushes. The dog searched a lot but couldn’t find him. And, when the dog retreated, the rabbit came out of the bushes, tired. He looked on all sides and heaved a sigh of relief, and then said—‘It’s tricky to rely on others. One should help oneself.’

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