Not too long ago, there lived a man called Prasad. He was a rich businessman. But business was not his only passion. He also loved Polly, his pet parrot. But for Prasad, Polly was more than a pet; she was his companion. He took very good care of her, spoiling her with nuts and juicy fruits. On her part Polly entertained Prasad with spot-on imitations of his speech and other sounds.

One day, Polly developed a cough. Her usually shrill sound became punctuated by hacking coughs. Prasad became concerned. He summoned an allopathic bird doctor. After checking her throat and lungs, the doctor said, "I'm afraid I'll have to operate. I can't promise that the surgery will be a success. But it's the best hope Polly has."

Prasad was aghast! Operate on his beloved Polly? What if something went wrong during the surgery? The prospect was more than he could bear. There must be some other way, he decided. Polly squawked hoarsely in seeming agreement.

Prasad called another friend, a homeopathic doctor. After examining Polly, she pronounced, "I have just what Polly needs. But I must warn you. The cough will get worse initially over a period of three months. After that, her situation will start improving, and within a year, the cough should disappear."

One year? Why did it have to take so long? Prasad just couldn't bear the idea of Polly's already nasty-sound squawks getting worse. He rang his Ayurvedic doctor.

The doctor came, checked Polly thoroughly and said, "The cough is only a symptom of a more deep-rooted ailment. We should treat the root cause. I would prescribe a course of herbal concoctions that she must take regularly for the next two years. After 24 months, I promise there won't be a trace of the cough left!"

That was two years, even longer! Wasn't there anyone in the world who could treat Polly more quickly and easily? Prasad called an old friend and trusted business associate. He told him about Polly and her ailment, and what the doctors had said. The friend patiently heard him out, and then said, "Prasad, maybe it's your smoking that's causing this cough. I know it's difficult for you to quit smoking. But why don't you try smoking away from her. Some fresh air will get rid of her cough in no time at all."

Prasad saw a ray of hope. His friend's suggestion sounded so sensible that he wondered why he hadn't thought of it before. Over the next few days, Prasad saw to it that he never smoked in the house. But even after a week, Polly's cough sounded as severe as ever. He was at his wit's end. It seemed to him that he had tried everything, to no avail. In desperation, he started praying. "O Lord, please help me. Polly is my very life. Please save her. Please! "

For the first time in his life, Prasad began to contemplate the prospect of a life without Polly. It was more than he could take. He decided to go for a walk. In the park, he saw a familiar-looking woman. After some time, he realized that she was his teacher from kindergarten! He walked up to her and introduced himself. To his surprise, he found that she could actually remember him, even though they had last seen each other so many years ago. Prasad felt gratified. This teacher looked so motherly and her beam so genuine that he felt some relief in his heart. They sat down on a bench and started talking. Prasad told her about Polly and about how sad he was feeling. "I am a successful businessman. But if something happens to Polly, no money will be able to buy me the joy that Polly gives me."

The teacher listened sympathetically. When Prasad had finished speaking, she said, "Why don't you stop smoking? "

Prasad was taken aback. He didn't expect such a response. Not only that, he didn't see any connection between his smoking and Polly's cough. Hadn't he tried smoking outside the house recently? That hadn't helped Polly at all. Prasad expressed his reservations candidly.

"Do you want Polly to stop coughing?" the teacher asked.

"Of course," Prasad replied.

"Then do as I say. If you really love her, no sacrifice can be too great." The teacher's words struck a chord in Prasad's heart. After noting down her phone number, he bid her farewell and started walking home. Something about what the teacher said had touched his heart. "If you really love her, no sacrifice can be too great"—these words echoed again and again in his mind.

By the time he reached home, he had already decided to quit smoking. To his surprise, he was able to do it. But the greater surprise was that Polly stopped coughing after just a week. Prasad was overjoyed! He was so happy to hear her shrill voice resounding throughout the house. To him, it was the sweetest music! All the same, he felt puzzled. How had his not smoking helped to heal her cough? He called up his teacher.

"You know what?" she said. "Polly never had a cough. She was only imitating your cough. She was parroting your smoker's cough. When you stopped smoking, you stopped coughing. And so did Polly!"

Prasad realized that his teacher, with her years of wisdom, had taught him a profound lesson. We are quick to notice the faults of others, never our own. We try to correct the mistakes of others, but never our own. We don't realize that the mistakes we see in others are often mirrors that reflect our own mistakes. Om

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