All the sheep in Shivani’s flock were black. All, except Shivani, who was green. She had been born green, and raised green, meaning, different from the rest of the herd. She was picked on since birth by her parents, siblings, and everyone else around her, except for Raju, their shepherd, who gave Shivani special attention, which only made the herd hate her that much more.
One day Shivani had had enough. ‘That’s it, I’m getting my wool died. I can’t take this any more. No one will talk to me, no one will go out with me, I’m the black sheep in a society of black sheep, and I’m not even black! I’m green! This is so unfair! I didn’t ask to be green!’
Dyeing her wool was a dream for Shivani, who, knew she’d be green forever. The only one who had the power to dye her wool was the shepherd, and it was pretty obvious to all the flock, including Shivani, that the reason the shepherd gave her extra food, and extra care and caresses, was because she was green.
That was when Shivani decided to learn Hindi. She had never heard anyone from her herd ever say anything in Hindi, but, it didn’t mean that she couldn’t be the first. So, with the focus of Gandhi, Shivani set to work learning Hindi, the language of Raju, her shepherd.
Problem was she had no one to talk to. Raju was the only one around who spoke Hindi. And when he did, Shivani studied every word, every syllable for moods and patterns to see if she could pick up something, anything to help her learn the language.
It took weeks before Shivani even learned her name in Hindi. To the herd, she had always been, Shivani, or, usually, ‘That Green Freak’. It wasn’t til she saw Raju bent over, arms out, curling his fingers to her, calling, “Tara,” when she realized her name was Tara.
‘To him I am, ‘Tara’. In Hindi I’m not Shivani, I am Tara. I get it. I must see everything differently. Ok, I can do this.’
Word spreads fast around a flock of sheep, and pretty soon, they were all laughing at Shivani for trying to learn Hindi.
“Hey, Shivani! After you learn Hindi, maybe you could tell us why people can’t grow their own wool!” They mocked. To Raju, sheep mocking sounded exactly like sheep bleating, and the sarcasm was lost on him.
Shivani ignored them all. She focused solely on Raju’s voice. She was starting to hear speech patterns and vocabulary, until one day she was ready to speak up.
“Hey! Hi! Um, could you please dye my wool black? Hello? Please and thank you!” Shivani could see she had stunned her shepherd speechless. “Hey! It’s ok, it’s just Hindi I’m speaking, not Mongolian.”
“How?” was all Raju could squeeze out.
“Practice. Look, could you help me out with the dye? I’d really love to be black. Hello?”
“You want to be black?” Raju couldn’t believe he was having a conversation with his sheep.
“Green’s making me very unpopular. You probably noticed I’m the only green sheep in the mix, and it’s not good to stand out as sheep. So, could you dye me black?”
“No, of course not! You’re special! You’re the most special!” Raju defended his favorite sheep.
“Special isn’t always good. Special needs, special education, these aren’t good specials. I’m sick of being special.”
“I’m not. You’re beautiful.”
“I think I look like a freak.”
“A freak? You know what else is a freak event? A miracle. So, be a freak.”
Shivani was flattered, but, unconvinced. “I’m not a miracle,” she thought she knew.
“All life is a miracle, how little you respect life and miracles. We are all here to do the work of God, all is a dream of Lord Vishnu.”
“How can I be life and a dream? Is a dream, life?”
“Can I just say, I’m still not completely over the fact that I am talking to a sheep. This must be a dream, but it feels like life, does it not?” Shivani had to admit it did. “Right, there’s your answer. You are green for a reason. God doesn’t make mistakes.”
“I wish I had your blind naivety, I really do. I’m sure it would take away a lot of the stress.”
“What do you have to be stressed for? You have it easy. Don’t I always make sure you eat and sleep well? I’m the shepherd! It’s my responsibility to look after you, you can relax, because I love my job. Now go, be green. I’ll watch you from here, make sure nothing bad happens to you.”
“But you don’t understand all the taunts and things the other sheep say about me.”
“You’re better than that. Go on, I’ll watch out for you.”
The tiger came the only time Raju left the flock on their own.
It was Raju’s favorite holiday, Diwali, and his sister, Didi, had promised to come relieve Raju somewhere around noon, so that Raju could get some of the Diwali treats. The sun was way past its zenith, and Raju was starving. He hadn’t brought anything to eat this day, expecting to pig out at the Diwali feast, but, his sister was no where in sight. Raju raced back to the family house just before the tiger approached his flock.
Shivani, shunned from the group, was laying in the grass one hundred meters from the herd. The tiger, whose nose was clogged up due to a summer cold, walked right past Shivani, camouflaged by the grass. The tiger was right in front of her before Shivani even noticed the predator. She froze and was smart enough to keep dumb.
Through the leaves of grass, Shivani stalked the tiger who was stalking her society.
Fifty meters from the society, Shivani forged a plan, she would start bleating as loud as she could to warn the others of the prowling tiger. Once the herd heard her bleats, they got into formation, a drill they’d practiced for years, in case of this very emergency. Hundreds of black sheep huddled together as tight as they could, snarling, bearing their teeth. The tiger thought there were easier sheep to eat, and left this herd alone.
Raju ran back less than an hour later, relieved to count the same amount of sheep as when he’d left. No one ever gave Shivani credit for saving the flock.