I am sure every one of you knows who I am. Yeah, the guy you read about in your picture book, when you were small, with a weird dressing sense, a conical hat, holding a pipe, playing a tune or the other. I am that guy whom you feared when you were a kid, the guy whose existence you doubted when you were old enough, the guy whom you mocked at when you were a teenager, and the guy whom you used to threaten little kids with, when you finally grew out of me. I do not know what you think of me – mysterious, bad, evil, dangerous, wicked (the use of only negative adjectives is intentional) – I only know that there is hardly anyone in the world who thinks good about me or looks up to me or wants to be friends with me. I do not blame anyone. The way that people have portrayed me over the years, it is but natural for you to assume that I am the villain (in fact, our thinking has become so narrow, that we need to classify people as heroes or villains to either appreciate or reprimand them. We have never ever understood people as individuals, beyond the definition of heroes or villains). The only thing that hurts me is that no one actually tried to understand me; ever. True, I never cared to justify, but I would have liked if anyone had cared to find out my point of view before listening to what everyone else had to say and definitely before judging me.
I never grew up in the city and hence could never learn the various nuances of ‘civilization’ that people in the city were so particular about (sometimes I wonder, who gave the right to a few people to devise ways as to how you should conduct yourself and then boss over the world by passing these self designed rules as manners or etiquettes?). Why cannot some people understand this simple fact that different people grow up in different environments and thus are bound to be different? Why do they have to bulldoze every bit of difference and create zombies that are identical to them in every respect? I had a poor sense of dressing, had old fashioned, multi-colored over-coats and hats and my manners were not very refined by the city standards (which by the way, as per my observation, is hypocrisy at its best) but at least I was true to myself and conducted myself with grace. Now about how many people in your city can you say this? And moreover, as a species, have we not still identified something better to judge people with than their clothing?
I was a simple guy and all I cared for in this world was the music that I made with my pipe. In fact, that was the only thing I was good at and the only thing I cared about. I did not do that for anyone or for any specific reason except that I liked doing it. My music was innocent, my music was beautiful! My music never had a purpose, and yet it had a sense of fulfillment! And then some people from the city figured out that my music was magical. And as the word spread, they started liking it. They convinced me to take my music beyond the confined domains of a mere hobby that had no future (and anything that does not make a profit, does not make sense in the city. Ever heard of something called a brothel?) to something that can be more productive. They gave my music a purpose, they used it to drive their worries away (every rat that jumped of the cliff that day, represented one less worry for the people and one more murder for my music) and in the process they very carefully stole its innocence away, very carefully stripped it of its beauty.
And then, when they had found what they were seeking, when all their worries were gone, they conveniently declared themselves done with me and my music. My music was no more magical. It was then, that I realized, that it was never ever about my music or the magic that it had. It was always about finding a means to reach the destination. Unfortunately, in this case, my music was the one that got them there. And I had foolishly fallen into the trap and traded off the innocence of my music with the blood of hundreds of thousands of rats in lure that my music was magical and it would be wrong to disappoint people who believed that the magic in my music was their only savior. Bloody hypocrites, I tell you, these people who live in the city!
That night, as I sat all alone, going through all the events that had resulted in me having lost all my confidence in what at one time was the most beautiful thing that I knew of, I realized my foolishness at having trusted these people. I tried hard to find a way to redeem myself, to get back to those old days when my music was innocent and my life was simple. But what was done could not be undone. And then it did hit me like a flash – the only path of my redemption, the only way I could do something that would correct all the wrong that I had done so far by misusing the magic in my music.
Why do you think I lured all the children away, the next day? Come to think of it, I could as well have lured all the people in the city and could have made them jump off the cliff. But that would not have erased my guilt – it would have only added to the blood that I already had on my hand.
I lured only the children away, because in them I saw the hope of starting a new world, a world free from all the vices that this city had, a world where they would grow up doing things that they loved to do without justification or a perfect explanation. I did not kill them; instead I gave them a life. At the least, if not anything else, I could teach them how to play the pipe. I shudder to think what the city would have taught them anyways!
I am sorry for the three kids who could not come – one was crippled, the other was a deaf and the third a blind – I pity them. I wonder what kind of men they would have grown up into, in that city. As for the others, they are fine. They have grown into wonderful gentle men and beautiful ladies and it feels really nice to see them so joyful, lively and happy. A few of them, in fact, have turned into amazing pipers. The people of the city should get a chance to hear them once.
They love me! And I love them! And they have been the greatest reward for the magic in my music!
Now the big question that you all want an answer to: “Where did you and the kids mysteriously disappear that day? “ Well, precisely to nowhere. We are right there among you people – in the form of your watchmen, in the form of the old shopkeeper whom you buy ration from and who always has a story no matter what, in the form of the kids that scream as they play cricket in your neighborhood, in the form of the beautiful girl who lives next door and gives you a smile as you pass her everyday – only that you people cannot see us or realize who we are unless you decide to throw that blanket of hypocrisy that the ‘civilized’ city has put on you that has not only blinded you but also has clouded your understanding. All you got to do is wake up one morning; remove those elite spectacles that were gifted to you by the city, and look around. You will find us all, eagerly waiting for you to discover us.
You think that this is a fairy tale? Well then at the next occasion, whether you have previously played an instrument or not, just pick up a pipe and play. Listen carefully to the sounds that you make. Initially they will appear as irritating noise. Do not give up. Keep playing till you can feel the music. (Do not worry. People around you, will still think it is noise. Ignore them.) And when you do, just let it talk to you. It will tell you the same story as I just did!
Take my word for it! Try it once!
Ever since I was a kid, I have always been fascinated by this guy – The Pied Piper! He has something about him; I have always loved and though I have never heard his music, have always been lured by his fictional image.
This post, however, is not about him. It is about all the real life Pied Pipers that I have known. There are many and this one is for all you guys!