Skip to Content

774. What is Possible?

We have two categories in life, the possible and the impossible. The one we try our luck on and the other we simply disregard. All great events in the lives of great men as well as small men have happened because they attempted the impossible. Even in the impossible, there are grades, the final being inconceivable by one's wildest dream. One such event was reported during World War II in Nazi Germany. The daring of the men was perhaps the subtle prelude to the victory of the Allies. In such great occasions, what matters is the attempt, not the result. In the course of its conception and execution, the RESULTS were fully predicted. The Westerner may not be aware of it. Any perceptive Indian knows.

5000 Allied soldiers and officers under the command of a British officer were in a prisoner of war camp. The camp was fenced by barbed wire, two sentries were watching from tall towers at night with floodlights focussing and rotating. The Nazi troops were on guard all around. The officers, unarmed as they were, planned an escape of 250 of their men. The goons, as they called Hitler's troops, were constantly visiting their rooms to check the events. The officers planned to dig a tunnel 30 feet below their huts and emerge into the adjacent forest. The problem was, how to dispose of the excavated mud? How to dig without the noise alarming the guards? Assuming they were successful outside, they needed identity cards to pass any point. It was not one man but a body of officers. The tunnel was 335 feet long. At such moments, the potential human resourcefulness is seen at its intense height. The signals they developed to warn each other are singular, a wonder. They put the dirt excavated in their socks under their trousers, released it by a string and spread it on the ground while walking and marching. It was ingenious. It worked.

76 of the officers could escape before the tunnel was discovered. Seventy three of the 76 were captured in the next few days and 50 men were shot, according to Hitler's instructions. Finally only three men escaped to freedom. It was remarkable that during this work everyone was cheerful and said, "I have never been happy in my life like this." There were a few hundred innovations in creating tools, singing to prevent the noise of digging from reaching the guards, disposing of the earth, forging 250 identity cards. The effort of these 250 men for this project was worth conquering a nation. What struck me was all these were ordinary men. The infinite ingenuity is there in very ordinary men and emerges if tapped. In the USA when men saw great opportunities, they exhibited this endless labour and continuous resourcefulness. Today in India we witness a teacher teaching at home from 5 am to earn a few lakhs, retailers working until midnight to organise the shop, florists opening their stalls at 4:30 am to be ready for customers at 6 am. Man is capable of endless work when he sees a possibility. It is true in India and everywhere. The future lies in their hands, not in those who look for a salaried job. What is possible? Anything is POSSIBLE for one who has seen the writing on the wall - OPPORTUNITY in abundance, all over the country.

story | by Dr. Radut