[FOUNTAIN]Character born of struggles

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[FOUNTAIN]Character born of struggles

An Indian folktale describes how an evil may turn out a blessing in disguise. The folk tale is similar to the Korean proverb saeongjima.

According to the folktale, the king of an ancient kingdom of India cuts off his finger by mistake. The chief counsel, noted for his wisdom, consoles the king by saying that all misfortune happens so good things can follow. The much too optimistic view of the chief counsel must have annoyed the king, because he immediately fired him.

Some time later, the king went hunting and lost his way. He was captured by savages and they tied him in ropes to sacrifice him to their god. The savages found that the king was missing a finger. Since they believed that sacrifices should have no missing parts, the king's life was spared. The king rehired the counsel.

"Your highness has been saved due to a missing finger, and I have been saved as I did not join the hunting," said the chief counsel.

This tale is quoted often by Indian Prime Minister Atal Vihari Vajpayee when he speaks in public. Mr. Vajpayee, who is an optimist, was enjoying his vacation on the beach on the Indian Ocean last week when India's long-time enemy, Pakistan, reported the test-launch of missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. Indians did not criticize their leader, though Mr. Vajpayee's conduct may have been blasted for neglect of duty in other countries.

This type of optimism may be a key to understanding Hinduism and India, which is called the "country of gods." Mr. Vajpayee's life, like India's modern history, has been hard, and would have been difficult to endure without optimism. He was born the son of a poor school teacher during the British colonial period. He was imprisoned when he went to college for participating in the independence movement. He was elected to the Lok Sabha (House of the People) nine times and to the Rajya Sabha (House of the States) twice. This is the third time he has served as prime minister. His strong point is that although he is a member of Bharatiya Janata Party, a hard-line Hindu party, he is leading smoothly a coalition of 24 parties of different religions and political ideologies. He is a single man who has resolved to dedicate his life to his country and lead a devout life. He has never been involved in corruption.

Atal means "big mountain" and "power that is not wanting in ability or lopsided." Vihari means "a good place where the sages preach." It is natural that the world's attention is on this man of faith.

The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Oh Byung-sang

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