Good day! My name is Nasruddin. I was born in Amritsar in the Punjab, in India. Or…it was so long ago… it may have been in Cairo, in Egypt. In fact, I think it was Newark, New Jersey, though my uncle claims it was Turkey, and my birth certificate says Balkh, in what is now Afghanistan.
Anyway, I was born, and I stand here as proof. I would like to tell you about the time I went to see my friend Tekka. I met Tekka when he was a young man, but that is another story altogether. So I was here, and Tekka was in his home village, and all that lay between us was a desert and a jungle.
The desert was easy. Twelve days under the burning sun…no sweat. Well, not exactly, but to return to the story, I came to the jungle. If you have ever seen a jungle, you know that it is big, and dark, and very green. The trees are tall, the bushes are thick, and there are lots of little animals moving about, making you think they are big animals!
Well, the path was narrow, and the jungle on either side was thick and noisy, and closed over the path in a way that made me a little nervous. But I love my friend Tekka, so I said to myself, “Nasruddin, you are a stalwart soul, and you must go through this jungle in order to see Tekka. Just think of it as taking a walk through the jungle!” I tried to argue with myself, but it was no use. I had to go.
So I started off through the jungle, and the path was not so bad when my eyes got used to the gloom. I was walking happily along, when I heard a noise behind me: “hhahh… hhahh… hhahh.” I looked over my shoulder, and saw, to my surprise, a tiger was also taking a walk through the jungle!
“Ah,” I said to myself, which was the best I could do in the circumstances. Then I had a thought, which was fortunate. “It is never too late to begin an exercise regimen. Why not start with jogging, for your health, that is.” I agreed, and began at once. There I was, jogging through the jungle, enjoying what remained to me of my health, when I heard a sound behind me: “hhahh…hhahh…hhahh.” I looked over my shoulder, and – what do you know!– the tiger had also taken up jogging! Although I think the tiger was less interested in excersise, and more interested in nutrition!
Due to the beneficial effects of exercise, my brain was functioning more efficiently. “If you can jog, surely you can run,” I told myself. “Why not try for a world record?” It’s amazing how quickly you can come to an agreement with yourself. I began immediately to see if I could set a new world record for land speed running. I tore through that jungle as if the path were a highway.
I am certain a world record was within my grasp, if only a judge with a stopwatch had been there. And when I heard a familiar sound behind me, which I probably don’t have to explain sounded like “hhahh-hhahh-hhahh,” I didn’t even have to stop and look to know the tiger was also bent on setting a world record.
So there we were, the two athletes running like the wind through the jungle! It was thrilling! It was exciting! It was terrifying! Suddenly, there was no jungle!
There was no path either, only the blue sky, and a cliff, and me, Nasruddin, falling down it. I said to myself, “Aaauughh!!” but it did no good. So I grabbed onto a bush.
(Did you ever notice, every single time you fall down a cliff, there’s a bush to grab onto. Check it out for yourself!)
So I grabbed this bush, and held on for dear life. I clung to it with all my strength, which I needed, because there was the tiger looking down at me, saying “hhahh…hhahh…hhahh.” “Don’t you know any other words?” I said. Apparently not, because the tiger continued to say the same thing over and over. I looked desperately about me for a way out, and could find none. Then I noticed the roots of the bush begin to pull out of the cliff, one by one.
“Nasruddin,” I said, and I have a little song I sing to myself when I am in trouble, which seems to be more and more often these days, “Nasruddin, you have been/ in better sit-u-a-tions.” It’s a nice little song, very comforting. It certainly helped at that moment.
Then I heard a sound behind and below me that sounded strangely familiar: “hhahh…hhahh…hhahh.”
“Wait!” I said to myself, “I thought I left that sound safely up above!” I looked down, and saw that the bad always comes with the good. Why is that, do you think? The good was that the cliff was not very high, and I would not be hurt if I fell. The bad was the other tiger standing below me, looking up!
There I was, hanging on the face of a cliff from a bush whose roots were pulling out, with a tiger above me and a tiger below me. I thought it was a good moment for my little song, so I sang again, “Nasruddin, you have been/ in better sit-u-a-tions.” It had its effect – my head was clear, and I cast about desperately for a way out of my predicament. I assure you I didn’t think of the word predicament at the time.
I looked on both sides, and suddenly spied a little green bush, with a single red berry. It was a wild strawberry! Now, my philosophy is always to enjoy yourself to the fullest, wherever you are. So I got a good grip with my toes, which are considerable, and held the bush with one hand, and reached out, risking all, and picked that strawberry.
And did I eat it? Oh, yes, my beloveds, I did. And I am here to tell you that if you are hanging on a cliff from a bush that is pulling out by the roots, and there is a tiger above you and a tiger below you, and you find a strawberry and you eat it, that will be the sweetest strawberry the world has ever known!
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But wait…what about the tigers, and the cliff? How am I here to tell the tale? Well, here it is: they were nearsighted tigers, and when they got a close look at me, they lost their appetites.