I met this squirrel a few years ago in Union Square park on 14th Street, New York City.
I remember that I’d given him the peanut that you see in his nimble hands. He had sniffed it before picking it up and strangely, unlike most squirrels, he hadn’t eaten it yet.
Give the picture a closer look – you might believe he’s looking at you.
Normally, I wouldn’t look at a squirrel with hope that it would deliver me a message. That morning, I hoped.
I’d lost my uncle the previous night in India and that morning, I was to perform in a play at Lee Strasberg. It was the last day of our month-long intensive and expensive acting course.
The tragedy in the family hadn’t stopped me from going to Strasberg, because I knew that if I hadn’t gone, I would’ve upset the departed soul. But I was crestfallen, and unsure if I’d remember my lines from the play.
I’d told my acting teacher about the death. His advice: Give it your best, Mahesh. Let it be a tribute to your uncle.
In the park, the more I’d gazed at the squirrel, the more I’d felt he wanted to tell me something. And I remember that he hadn’t – until the last glimpse I had of him on my way to the Strasberg building – eaten the peanut.
I performed in the play thinking only about my character. My fellow students applauded the act, and my teacher praised that it was the best tribute I could give.
A few days later, somebody told me that squirrels do come with a message that one should take life a little less seriously. Perhaps the squirrel that morning wanted me to take it easy, demonstrating it by sacrificing his instant urge to eat the peanut.
An actor friend of mine who hadn’t known about my family tragedy linked the squirrel-behavior to indigestion.