Lucknow , a city in eastern India , is known for the opulence of its cuisine . One of its specialties is the galouti kabab. ” Galouti ” or ” “galawati ” means ” melt-in-your -mouth” and these kababs of minced goat meat are extraordinarily tender. Legend has it that they were created for Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, one-time ruler of Lucknow and a noted gourmet . In his old age , when Wajid Ali had lost all his teeth, he still retained his love of food and , because these succulent kababs were so soft and tender, he was able to enjoy them to his dying day.
This reminded of a story from the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata. It is the story of Yayati , an illustrious king who was cursed by the sage Shukracharya , because of the wrong he had done to his wife ,the queen. The sage’s curse turned Yayati into an old man . In the words of the poet ” Yayati attained that old age which destroys beauty and brings on miseries.” The repentant Yayati besought the sage to reverse the curse but that the sage could not do. However , he told the king that he could become young again if he could find someone willing to give up his youth and take on the king’s old age.
Yayati had five stalwart sons and he was sure that one of them would make the sacrifice . Accordingly , he summoned them and appealed piteously to them , saying ” ” This curse has made me prematurely old . I have not had my fill of the joys of life . Not knowing that this would be my fate , I lived a life of restraint , denying myself even lawful pleasures . One of you should bear the burden of my old age and give me his youth in return. Whosoever agrees to this will be the ruler of my kingdom .”
In turn , he asked each of his sons to make this sacrifice . The first four refused their father’s request but the youngest , Puru, agreed . Overjoyed , Yayati embraced him and in an instant regained his youth . Puru , who accepted the old age of his father , ruled the kingdom and acquired great renown .
Yayati , his youth restored , enjoyed worldly pleasures for many , many years even dallying with an apsara (heavenly maiden) but found his desires were not diminished. Finally , the truth dawned on him . Returning to his kingdom , he said to Puru ” Dear son ,sensual desire is never quenched , any more than fire is when ghee is poured on it . I had heard and read this , but till now I had not realized this truth. Nothing can satisfy the desires of man.Take back your youth and rule the kingdom wisely.” With these words , Yayati embraced his son and took back his old age.He retired to the forest , spent his time in austerities and , in the fullness of time , attained heaven.
The moral of this story is something we know instinctively but, as Yayati found , accepting it does not come easy.
I have this friend , ” Tom ” , who loves food and is on the heavy side . When I met him after a lapse of some months I found he had lost fifteen pounds . Impressed , I asked him how he’d done it . ” It wasn’t difficult , ” he replied ” I was eating a hamburger one day and I thought to myself ‘ I know what this hamburger tastes like . I have eaten hundreds of them before and it won’t give me any new taste sensations .’ Each time after that , when I was about to eat , I asked myself if there was any new taste to be experienced. The answer , usually , was ‘No’ and I found myself eating much less , eating only what I needed . That’s all I had to do .”
I was very impressed and tried to emulate his example , but without success. Tom , himself , when I met him again a few months later had regained all the pounds he’d lost.
Yesterday , I spoke to a friend who had just returned from a trip to Thailand. He said he had a great time particularly in the night clubs in Pattaya . He didn’t give any details , and I didn’t ask , but he mentioned that he had blown almost a thousand dollars one night . This tells me that he was not merely a spectator . The old boy is past 74 , so it looks like the sap is still running strong !
Desires persist well into old age and it is only a few , like King Yayati, who realize the truth.