Of Swans and Cranes

नीरक्षीरविवेके हंसालस्यम् त्वमेव तनुषे चेत् | 

विश्र्वस्मिनधुनान्यः कुलव्रतम् पालयिष्यति कः ||

Oh swan, if you are lazy  in doing your duty of recognizing the difference between water and milk, then who else in this world will do this duty instead of you?

Of course the implied answer is that no one else will do it. Indeed, no one else will be able to do it.

It is said that if milk and water are mixed together, the swan is able to separate the two and drink only the milk.  It is only the swan who has the special talent of being able to differentiate between water and milk.

  Not everyone has the special knowledge or abilities needed for special types of work.

We do not all of us have medical knowledge, so we rely on the advice that the doctors give us.

If we are building a house, we depend on architects, builders, engineers and various types of workers.

We cannot all go out and investigate the various events that take place around the world, or even in our city, therefore we rely on the news reports that the daily newspaper or television news channels bring us.

In the public sphere, we rely on the government to formulate and execute policies that are beneficial to us. And we depend on various social organisations and activists to keep a check on these policies.

These are all people who have the knowledge needed to take the proper decisions in their respective fields. They are- so to speak- swans, who have special  knowledge, abilities, or skills.

However, there is one talent which each and every one of us must cultivate. That is the skill to recognize a swan. To be able to differentiate between swans and cranes.

It is impossible for everyone to have the specialized knowledge needed to take decisions in various spheres of life. But it is certainly important to know which specialist to rely on.

 We need to be able to judge who is trustworthy and who is not.

In today’s world not many things really are as they seem to be.  People seem to have qualities that they do not really possess. Those who seem to be ethical turn out to be nothing of the sort. Politicians assure us that they have our best interests at heart when in reality they are just looking out for Number One.

A person who is very popular may prove to be a crook. On the other hand, someone who is not well-known may turn out to be the perfect choice for a post of responsibility.

So every one of us must do some thinking for ourselves and not just blindly ‘go with the flow’.

We must learn to judge people, and if they prove to be unworthy of our trust, we must reject them. And then find others -more suitable ones- in their place.

Chanakya  is said to have stated-

 “For want of discernment the most precious jewels lie in the dust at the feet of men while bits of glass are worn on their heads.

But we should not imagine that the gems have sunk in value, and the bits of glass have risen in importance.

When a person of critical judgement shall appear, each will be given its right position.”

Let us hope the number of persons with such discerning  judgement increases in our society!



  1. We need talent to judge people too and it is not easy to develop, Manju! Very rarely we seem to come across ‘apt people for apt work’, i.e. sincere people.

    It would be nice to have a person like the swan to rule our country. With our brain, if is channelised properly, we might go places.


    1. I agree, Sandhya, it’s not easy.

      But we see so many wrong people in posts of authority nowadays. We have to at least try to recognize who we can trust, and who is suitable to be in positions of power.


  2. very valuable lesson..biggest example is Manmohan singh, everybody praises him, but I would say he is the most enefficient PM, and if he doesnt have any say, he shouldnt hold the post, but if he is holding such an important post, he is doing great injustice to the country by doing nothing, and he is equally responsible for all thatcorruption by his collegues.


    1. Many people think as you do, Renu, about the PM. But still he remains in the post of PM.
      Something is very wrong if we cannot replace him with someone who we think is more capable.


  3. Alas! It is the lack of this discernment that has brought us to this sorry pass in all walks of life. If only we had a Chanakya amongst us who has the spine to call a spade a spade instead of falling in line with the top brass.


    1. Yes, a Chanakya is much needed in India today! But I think it’s an “egg first or chicken first” type of dilemma.

      Unless we make changes in our education system to produce children who grow up to be conscientious citizens, Chanakyas will not appear. And unless there is a visionary such as Chanakya to make such changes, the system will continue as it is currently.

      We have to break this cycle somehow!


    1. Chowla ji, let us hope that it happens!

      I think people are becoming more aware- socially and politically. The internet has given a chance for the common man’s voice to be heard.

      And people such as yourself are certainly doing a much- needed service in spreading awareness and making people think about what is happening around us.


  4. hello,

    I cannot tell u how much i have liked this post of urs. Thats exactly what i feel. We can analyze the character of a person in a much better way when we pay attention to small things, his small activities, his perception and thinking in day to day matters.

    loved ur blog as well!


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