Chapter 1: The Hilly Path

Hu had just turned ten. It was the month of July and the monsoons had struck the hilly region of
Eastern India with a vengeance. Hu lived near the top of a hill, and was returning home one day
from school which lay in the valley below. It was a good one kilometer walk, uphill, and Hu was
eager to return home before the clouds broke again. Hu was a boy with a slight build, and a
subsequent predisposition to getting sick if he got wet in the rain.

It was a particularly narrow section of the road, and a set of steps, barely wide enough for two
people to pass, had been hewn into the rough hillside. Hu found his path blocked by two boys, both
about his age, also on their way back from school. Hu knew them to be brothers, living in his
neighborhood. Their pace was slow and ambling, and they did not seem particularly concerned about
the weather.

Hu asked the brothers to please let him pass as he was in a hurry to get home. The brothers refused.
Hu began to get impatient. Up front, the path appeared to get just a little wider. Hu picked up speed,
thinking that he could safely pass by the brothers on the downhill side. He was almost by them when
the brothers realized what was happening and moved to block his route. The ensuing contact was
enough to send Hu tumbling down the slippery hillside. The last Hu could remember of the brothers
was their raucous laughter at having foiled his ill-conceived attempt at passing them by.

When Hu came to, there was an older woman standing over him, helping him back on to the trail.
Hu did not remember having met this lady before, yet the empathy that he felt from her was
overwhelming. She introduced herself as Uni, which Hu thought was a rather unusual name.

Uni: I saw those boys push you down. What a shame!

Hu: I was just trying to pass…

Uni: Are you OK? Can you walk?

Hu: Just a little winded, I’ll be fine.

Uni:  I’m going the same way, mind if I walk along with you?

Hu: No, not at all. Thanks for helping me up.

Looking around to see if any of his school books had tumbled out of the bag, and also to buy time so
that he would not run into the brothers again, Hu took a few moments to get ready. Soon they were
on their way. After a minute or so, Uni broke the silence.

Uni: Why do you think the brothers behaved like that?

Hu: They had decided that they wouldn’t let me pass. But they really aren’t bad kids.

Uni:  Then why did they not help you when you had fallen?

It was unusual for Hu to be putting himself in the shoes of his antagonists so soon after an
altercation. Hu had always been good at puzzling out why people behaved the way they did, and the
answer revealed a wisdom that was beyond his 10 years of age.

Hu: I guess, my fall showed them that they had won, and they were busy celebrating…

Uni: Would you do the same if you were them?

Hu (after a moment of thought): I couldn’t.

Uni: You couldn’t, or wouldn’t?

Hu (after another short pause): I couldn’t, at least not for long. Maybe I am different – but a
big part of me would feel the pain of the other person. Like, there was some part of me in

Hu (thoughtfully): Most boys I know would behave just like the brothers.

Uni: So you have a deeper sense of self, more than the surface emotion that you feel at the

Hu: I guess so…

Uni: Do you think the other boys also had that deeper sense of self when they were
younger? Did they lose it?

Hu: Maybe. I know when I am with my schoolmates I feel pressured to behave that way. It’s
a game for them to gang up and humiliate others… I usually don’t participate.

Uni: So you get picked on?

Hu: How did you know?

Uni: One day I will tell you.

This struck Hu as odd - this was the first time he was meeting Uni, yet she seemed to know a lot
about him. Or maybe the feelings he was going through were quite normal, and Uni was just a very
wise person. His curiosity piqued, he decided to ask a few more questions.

Hu: I don’t want to lose my ability to feel for others. Is there something that can help me?

Uni: Discover your inner self.

Hu (surprised): My inner self?

Uni: You know, everybody goes through changes in life. Yet, we are born with a certain set
of capabilities - which if we do not use, we lose… It is important to know who we are inside.

Hu: A part of me doesn’t want to be different from everybody else…

Uni: I know, yet it is our differences that make us individual. Which is more important to you
– your unique talents, or the approval of others?

Hu (smiling knowingly): I think you already know the answer. But it is lonely sometimes…

Uni: Yes, I know. Find your inner self, it will keep you company.

Hu was almost home. It was time to say goodbye. With these somewhat cryptic words, Uni went on
her way. It would be many years before Hu would meet up with her again, yet he was able to find a
profound peace when he was just by himself. His ideal pastime was to go into the pine forested hills
beyond where he lived. He loved to feel the cool breeze upon his face, and the soft crunch of the
pine needles underfoot. The babble of the birds singing and the swooshing noise of the wind as it
blew through the pine trees were like music to his ears. The time spent alone allowed Hu to
contemplate more of what was important to him – and his love for nature grew and grew; until he
felt more at home in the forest than anywhere else.


Know your Inner Self:

It will help you determine your own path in life - without being too distracted by what others

If the lack of approval from others makes us feel lonely - the well-developed inner self will
keep us company.

A great place to mediate and contemplate our inner self is when we are surrounded by

Go to: Chapter 2
The Riddle
 The Sphinx
Chapter 1