In the Indian ocean was a tiny island, no more than a mere speck on the globe. It was called Aranya. Its people were ruled by a wise and brave chief called Parvat. He was 60 years old.

There was a beautiful garden right in the middle of the island. It was dotted with lush green trees bearing delicious fruits and beautiful flowers of every imaginable colour.

Once a year on the first full moon night after the rains, the people of Aranya worshipped their deity, Bhumidev. On that occasion the chief would visit the garden and select the most beautiful flower. This flower was then offered to Bhumidev.

The Survivor
The Survivor [Illustrations by Sudheer Nath]
For the last 11 years the rose had been chosen as an offering to the god. And because of this, the plant, which was called Gulaab, had become arrogant. It would stand with its nose high in the air and look down on the other flowers. It would never allow birds, bees and even butterflies to rest on its petals.

“Hey you! Don’t you know who I am? I am Gulaab – the King of Flowers! For the last 11 years I have been selected as the offering to Bhumidev. How dare you come and put your dirty legs and filthy beaks on my lovely flowers? Get lost!” And so it would shout.

After some time the birds, bees and butterflies and all the other little and not so little creatures of the garden, started avoiding Gulaab.

Just behind the spot where Gulaab stood was a rock that had a crack running right across its middle. From this crack had grown a plant with dark green heart-shaped leaves and bright yellow flowers.

Hardly anyone bothered to even glance at the plant since it had no name or pedigree. The few who did, called it Junglee or the wild one.

However, it was the favourite of the birds, the bees and butterflies. Junglee loved having birds twittering on its slender branches, the butterflies flitting from one petal to the other and bees drinking nectar from its flowers.

“I am not a blessed flower like the rose. I am Junglee that no one has any use for. I’m happy to be of use to the lovely creatures of this beautiful garden. It’s the only way to feel that my life has been worth something,” the wild plant would say to its guests in a welcoming manner.

If one looked carefully, Junglee’s flowers were really very pretty. Each yellow petal was paper thin, translucent, and almost as delicate as a drop of morning dew.

At the base of each petal was a border – bright crimson in colour. And right in the middle of each petal was a pattern in blue, shaped like a diamond. Junglee’s flowers were truly exquisite. But no one ever bothered to appreciate its beauty.

This year on Devaparva, Parvat went as usual to the garden to look at the flowers. The garden looked spectacular with lilies, daisies, chrysanthemums, dahlias, pansies and of course Gulaab.

The head gardener or Maali led the chief to Gulaab.

“Your favourite plant, sir. This year the roses are even more beautiful,” said the gardener pointing to the biggest rose which gorgeous with its crown of petals in every shade of red and pink.

The chief smiled and as he turned to go his eye was caught by a splash of yellow.

“What plant is that?” The gardener looked in the direction where the chief had pointed.

“Oh that! Sir, that is Junglee, a wild plant. It grows just like that,” Maali replied.

Half an hour later the people of Aranya gathered in one corner of the garden next to the rose plant, waiting for the chief to select the flower of his choice as the offering.

“Before I make the announcement, let me tell you a story. Some of you who are older might be familiar with it. It is the story of a young boy who was an orphan – let us call him Jwala.

Jwala was very hardworking and ambitious. He wanted to achieve something in life – he wanted to study and learn new skills.

Because he was an orphan there were no opportunities. In the island where he lived, there was a teacher, Guruji who taught only the boys belonging to the royal family or those whose parents were rich.

One day Jwala went and fell at his feet and made his request.

“Son, I am impressed by your dedication. But how will you pay my fee or gurudakshina?”

“Guruji, I’ll work hard. I’ll help you in your household chores and do whatever you say. But please, please don’t refuse me.”

Guruji agreed and Jwala’s studies started. Guruji was impressed by Jwala’s dedication and determination. He was intelligent as well as hard working. Within no time, he had become an expert.

Then came the time to choose a new chief who according to custom was chosen in a competition. However, only the young men belonging to the royal family could take part in the competition. And the winner was appointed the chief.

When Jwala was 21 years old the competition was announced. Guruji went to the reigning chief and requested him to allow Jwala to compete.

“How is that possible Gurudev? We don’t even know who his parents are!”

“But chief, the very idea of this competition is to look for ability, not parentage or pedigree,” argued Gurudev.

After some thought the chief agreed.

Jwala won every event comfortably. Whether it was swimming, archery, wrestling, chess or even debate, he proved to be the best. No one objected when he was made the chief.

The chief paused and then asked, “Can you guess the real name of the chief?”

“Parvat, Parvat,” the cries rang out.

“Yes, I reached this position through years of struggle and hard work. I call myself a survivor. And the plant whose flower I am going to select today is also like me – a survivor.”

He stopped for a moment, looked at his audience that was listening with rapt attention and continued. “Gulaab, which has won the title of the Flower King for years is a pampered plant. It gets the utmost attention. Whether it is giving it water or manure, or pruning or shaping – everything is done with care and precision.

But the plant I have selected is left to grow on its own. No one gives it water or bothers about where it grows or how. Yet it survives and blooms. It helps others flourish.

Look, no bird or bee ever comes anywhere near the proud and arrogant Gulaab. But this plant attracts dozens of little creatures with affection and selflessness.” So said Parvat.

The Chief got up and pointing to the plant with the exquisite yellow flowers declared, “My dear people I select as this year’s offering Junglee – the survivor.”

The birds, bees and the butterflies leapt in the air flapping their wings in delight as the flower of Junglee was offered to Bhumidev.