They told me that He was the oldest, the first and the foremost blacksmith to ever exist. They told me that He had no contemporaries in the whole land and also they told me that if I wanted a tool He would help me. So one day I went to His workshop. Whao, what an old man He was! Sitting elegantly behind the ancient furnace, His poise spoke of boundless agility that contrasted His age. His hands were on the sticks pumping the bellows, fanning the embers in the forge – heating the pieces of metal. To His right the ancient anvil sat and on the anvil was the ancient hammer.
They had told me that He never took a break from work now I wondered how possible, especially for such an old man! Looking around I realized that in spite of the enormity of his work there was no hurry about Him, He took his time on every single piece giving his best attention to each. Again, I realized that He had so much on his hands yet when I looked around, there were no apprentices, no aides. And so I ventured,
“Baba, what about your helping hands?”
He stopped His work for a moment. For the first time since I’d been here, He looked up and looked at me. His face gleamed with interest that made me think that he considered my suggestion wise, but then He told me,
“Son, every piece here needs my touch”
“Baba, I want a hoe,” I announced my mission.
“Son, you will surely have a hoe,” He told me without a fuss. I believed so much in his words, so I went my way.
The next day I came around, “Where is my hoe?” I asked. To a small piece in the furnace the Blacksmith pointed, “Here,” He said.
“But it doesn’t look much like a hoe,” I argued.
“It is a matter of time,” He assured me.
“And how much longer will it take?” I wanted to know.
“Soonest,” He wasted no words. I believed so much in his words and again I went my way
The third day came and I came to Him, “May I have the hoe now?’ I asked the Blacksmith. To that same formless metal inside the furnace He pointed again and said to me, “Here, Son, I’m still at work,”
“But it doesn’t really look much different from the last time?” I queried.
“It’s a matter of time,” He assured me again.
“At this rate, just tell me frankly, how much longer will it take?” Anyone could feel the edge in my voice.
“Very soon,” He said, and once again I went my way.
As I headed home that day, I met my friends on the way. I saw they all had a hoe, they were ready for work. They asked about my own hoe, I said the blacksmith was still at work. When they asked for how much longer it would take, I had no real answer. So they said they would go on without me. I dreaded being left behind so I pleaded with them. I begged and begged for I feared to lag behind. How my pleas fell on deaf ears and they set out without me anyway. My friends!
I rushed back to the Blacksmith, I told him about my plight. I needed my hoe now! I needed it so badly now! My friends had gone ahead, they had left me behind.
“Don’t worry at all,” That was what He said to me.
He said it with a confident smile; I could not believe it that my situation could not move Him, that He could not feel my pressure! That despite my agitations and anxiety He did not work any faster, He remained ever so meticulous paying attention to every nuance of detail. That day I walked out of his workshop feeling so let down.
Some days later, I visited my friends. True to their words, not only had they begun work, they had gone so far ahead. And when I looked around only my portion stood untouched. I still had no hoe to work. Some laughed at me, some called me a fool, some felt sorry for me, and some recommended other blacksmiths saying the ancient blacksmith had failed me. In fact He was too old and outdated; He knew not the modern techniques. I thought they were right.
In my frustration I rushed back to Him, “Baba, can I have my hoe?” I cried out in pain. He looked up at me and pointed that same formless metal,
“Son, here, I’m still at work,” He said with a smile.
I did not like His smile at all. It was once comforting and reassuring, but not today. I loathed that smile today. Was this old man mocking me now? My mind was full of words, words too venomous and too many to utter. I thought He was a wicked old man; I wanted to call Him a liar. I threatened I would look elsewhere for help. But when I looked at His face, compassion and pure love was what I saw. But if He loved me so much so, why would He delay? Then in a small voice He spoke,
“Don’t you understand? You must be patient,” He said to me.
“But for how long?”
“Not for long,” He said.
I just walked out of his workshop feeling more frustrated than ever before. I felt so sure I would never go back to Him.
Times flew fast, life moved on; my friends were through with their job, they achieved great successes. They had even moved on to other things and yet I still had no hoe and I was certain I could never make it again. Despondency caught up with me; my friends kept me at bay for by now I no longer fit into their league, I had lost them forever. Now I felt so lonely and forgotten, I lost hope in tomorrow. Never before now was I surer that I committed the worst error of my life the day I settled for the ancient blacksmith.
And one day, after so long, He came calling at my door. He was so happy to see me but I did not feel the same. He said He had my hoe and that I could have it now. As I stood there a part of me was enraged, of what use can the hoe be, now that I had lost time, zeal and strength; now that I was grey? Of what use can the hoe be? In silence I thought. But then He brought out the hoe,
“Son, take it,” He said to me.
I thought my eyes deceived me. Was this truly a hoe rendered in solid gold? Whao, what a beautiful hoe He made for me! Far better and bigger than any I had ever seen. Awe consumed me; I fell down at His feet. I cried so much. How dare I spite this old man! But He lifted me up in His unfailing kindness, holding my head to his bosom. I buried my head in shame.
“Come on, Son, take it,” He encouraged. As I stretched my hands outwards I realized I was so shaky and so tremulous.
“Take it, it’s yours,” He said again.
I took it and when I opened my mouth to speak I found my voice lost, so I just stood there bemused like a child, turning the hoe around in my hands. What a beautiful hoe He made for me! Then I found my voice,
“Baba… this … is …really so… so …so beauti… ful, But why… did it…take …so…long?”
He smiled at me awhile; His usual smile and then He said,
“Son, I only make master pieces,”
I did not quite understand, so I looked up to Him. But then He turned around ready to leave. I watched Him as He went and just when I was certain He would say no further He stopped short and turned around. I caught a rare radiance in His face and quietly He said,
“It takes time to make a master piece; they are never made in a hurry.”
I could only shake my head. Now I know better.
“But would I ever catch up with my friends? Will I ever be relevant with them again?” I quickly asked Him.
“My son,” He said and walked back to me where I stood, He put His arm around my shoulders, He looked into my eyes and I looked into His,
“Your life is no competition.” So He said to me.