Cheetah was afraid of losing his edge; he had worked very hard for it.
The thought of losing his speed to nothing but apathy made him very anxious. He saw himself getting rusty and crumbling to dust. How he missed his old buddies! If only he could meet some of them; especially Tiger! He’d tell him what to do, he was sure.
For many days, the idea of meeting Tiger grew in him until it became a gnawing hunger. He knew Tiger had moved with Leopard to a forest at a few days’ distance from his jungle. He wondered what he should do. He didn’t want to set out for the forest and get lost on the way. For all he knew, those two might have moved to some other place.
A week passed by in this agony of indecision, then two. Meanwhile, Cheetah got more and more depressed.
Then one day, Tiger suddenly appeared, out of the blue, as large as life. Cheetah was astounded. He embraced Tiger eagerly and they rolled on the ground, playing as they always did. Over dinner, Tiger told Cheetah why he had come over.
Apparently, Leopard was no more. He had had an altercation with a herd of elephants. Both Tiger and Leopard had stood up to the herd. But one day when Leopard had gone hunting alone, he had been gored by one of the herd. Tiger didn’t want to stay on the forest all by himself. The elephant herd was sure to kill him too. So he had thought it prudent to move away and take a chance at finding Cheetah. The rigors and uncertainly of the long journey were far better than living in constant suspense.
Cheetah told Tiger of his struggles. His voice trembling with remembered pain, he described every effort he had made in the many months past. Tiger heard him out in silence. When Cheetah finished, all Tiger did was pat Cheetah’s back and say, “Don’t worry anymore champion. I’m here to stay now. We’ll work together. These cats here won’t have a chance!”
They grinned conspiratorially and the die was cast.
Over the next few days they discussed strategies. Meanwhile, Tiger attended a meeting of the association. He got to meet the other cats first hand and to listen to the discussions during the meeting. The discussions went on and on. Cheetah got horribly bored and began to fidget restlessly. They left midway. Today, they were on their way to Tiger’s second meeting.
Last night they had discussed strategies. They had decided to be aggressive and put their point across. Since Tiger was the more persuasive of the two, he was chosen to be the spokesman. Tiger was also new to the association so would have a better chance of being heard. They’d worked out their sales pitch and their approach minutely. They were ready for the cats.
While Cheetah sat sullenly through the discussions and made his impatience clear, Tiger sat quietly, listening, learning, absorbing. Once or twice, Cheetah rolled his eyes at the discussion. He expected Tiger to support him and quietly hijack the discussion to take over the floor. Instead, Tiger sat dumb, neither saying nor doing anything. He just looked attentive and absorbed. Cheetah was not very pleased.
Consequently, when the meeting was over and they were both walking back to Cheetah’s range, Cheetah was sulking.
“Look”, began Tiger. “I know you are peeved with me. The truth is, initially I too was bored. I know you waited to see me take the floor but I kept silent because I realized something. Shall I tell you what?”
“Yeah sure”, said Cheetah, still sullen.
“Look Cheetah, though it will not seem so to you now, I am your friend. I won’t say a word until you promise to listen to me with an open mind. I know we agreed on a specific course of action which I did not follow. I can understand your anger but please, wont you let me clarify?”
At this, Cheetah’s anger burst its dams.
“These cats are silly, you KNOW it! When you came, you too agreed that they needed to be shown a few things. Are we going to abandon our plan because you have decided to be a traitor to me and to suck up to them?! I am very angry with you. What the hell is the matter with you?! You really made me look stupid!!”
“I am sorry buddy. To make you look stupid was the last thing on my mind. You are a childhood friend; we have shared many triumphs and tribulations. I have not forgotten any of it. When Leopard died, I had to come and find you. I missed you Cheetah..!”
“Then what the hell are you playing at? You can’t suck up to these cats like this! They’ll lose respect for us and we’d have no influence over them at all. How will we make them listen to us then!? We have to show them the upper hand here, can’t you see that?”
“Until I walked into that meeting, I too thought what you are saying now. I know I got bored in my first meeting. That’s why we left early.
“I was prepared to be supercilious and condescending to them before taking over the floor and putting our point across forcefully. Once the meeting began, I noticed things that genuinely changed my thought process. I realized a few things that I really want to share with you. Our success will be a lot deeper and satisfying if you would only let me say what I want to say. Will you please listen to me without bias?”
Tiger’s soothing words had their desired effect. Cheetah cooled down somewhat and nodded.
Tiger began. “It is true that these cats seem dull and boring to us. We come from a different place; we had different ways. Their ways are different. To us, they seem dull because they have no excitement going. While we had loads of fireworks in our jungle, we had none of the deeper bonding these cats have. Did you notice, when any one of them shared a challenge they were facing, in training their cubs, dealing with needless aggression or being safe from predators, all of them got completely involved in the challenge and shared their own ways of finding solutions? They did not just throw suggestions out in a thoughtless, detached way. They were all so supportive, encouraging and involved!
“In the first meeting, I noticed that many of them kept quiet. I thought it was because they didn’t want to share or were shy. Today I realized that it was because they hadn’t faced the challenge themselves and so it wasn’t appropriate for them to offer a solution. They keyword here is sharing not solving. Sharing happens only when you have had a similar experience. Solving on the other hand comes from an un-involved detached place. I was very impressed when I saw that. Then I realized that these cats aren’t about performance, they are about sharing and supporting each other. We didn’t have that. I am sure if we had that as well as a competitive drive to help each other become better, we’d have been a lot happier. What do you think?”
Cheetah was silent. Tiger waited.
To be continued…
Pic from the Internet