A collection of Indian tales of wit, wisdom, humour, bravery, devotion and lots more...

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Elephant is equal to Pot

elephant_and_pot_final

This is a folk tale from Tamil Nadu based on which there is a proverb “Aanaikkum Paanaikkum sari” meaning Elephant and Pot are equal.

Long long ago, in a village in Tamil Nadu, there lived a wealthy oil merchant by name Ramu. In addition to his oil business, he owned an elephant which he lent for marriage processions and melas and earned extra money from that.

In the same village there lived a poor potter by name Somu. Somu was a hard worker and earned his living by selling pots. Somu had one son. Though Somu could hardly make his ends meet with the money he earned, he cut down on his needs and gave very good education for his boy. The boy also studied very well and got a job in the King’s palace. Somu was extremely happy for the boy and in due course fixed up his wedding.

Somu had seen weddings of the rich landlords in his village where the bridegroom came on an elephant and wanted to do the same for his loving son.

“I will hire the elephant from Ramu” he told his wife. “Our son should come on the elephant like a King.” The wife was also equally fond of her boy and agreed with Somu’s idea.

Somu approached Ramu and asked him for the elephant to be lent for the wedding procession of his son.

“Hiring my elephant for your son’s wedding?” asked Ramu scornfully, as he was very arrogant of his riches. “Well, ten gold coins for an evening. I hope you will be able to pay it .Nothing less and no favour for anyone” he said with contempt, closing any chance for bargaining.

Ten gold coins were a very high amount in those days but nevertheless Somu wanted to have the elephant procession for his dear son and agreed for the price.

“The elephant should be returned on that night itself” , Ramu said in a very gruff voice.

Somu agreed for the condition and came home. On the day of the wedding, after the wedding rituals were over the procession started with Somu’s son and his bride sitting atop the elephant and the procession went on in a grand manner. All the guests and Somu’s family and the bride’s family were very happy and just as Somu and his bride dismounted from the elephant and as it was going back to Ramu’s house, it trumpeted loudly and fell down dead with a ‘THUD’. Luckily no one was hurt but everyone was shell shocked.

Early next morning Somu hurried to Ramu’s house. Ramu had already been told of the elephant’s death and he was in an angry mood.

“I am really sorry Sir!” said Somu feeling bad for having not been able to keep up his word of returning the elephant. “I really do not know why this happened”, he said with heartfelt sorrow. “I will give you the price of the elephant or buy a similar elephant and give it in a few days”

“I do not want any other elephant or money” growled Ramu. “This elephant was a lucky elephant and I want the very same elephant. I do not care what you will do. My elephant should be back by this evening or else I will go to court”. Ramu’s voice echoed his wealthy arrogance and attitude of disregarding poor. “Go and get my elephant back!” he grunted once again.

Somu was in a fix. He was wondering whether Ramu was joking or really meant what he said. “How can a dead being come to life” he wondered and felt even more sad and depressed as he did not know how to proceed.

Not being able to come to any conclusion, Somu went home and he did not have any time to think about it as the guests and relatives who had stayed over were taking leave and he had to settle the bills for the expenses of the wedding.

The next day morning as Somu was about to sit for his meal, there was a knock on the front door. When he opened the door, there was this man from the court asking Somu to come along immediately with him to the court. The judge had called for him since Ramu had filed a complaint against him.

A dejected Somu and his wife went to the judge. The judge informed Somu about Ramu’s complaint on his elephant.

“I will give the price of the elephant or get him one Sire” said Somu humbly to the judge, “even though I cannot afford one”. His eyes were full of tears.

“I cannot accept anything other than my own elephant” came the rude reply from Ramu. “Tell him Sire, to produce my elephant alive to me”.

The judge looked at both of them. “I cannot decide this case in haste” he said. “Both of you come after two days at the same time and I will deliver the judgement”.

Ramu glared at Somu and left the court in a huff . The judge (then) called Somu and told him something in a low voice. On hearing it Somu’s face looked a wee bit relieved.

On the appointed day, Ramu was in the court and his eyes were searching for Somu. There was no sign of Somu. The judge waited very patiently whereas Ramu was getting terribly impatient.

“I knew he would not come” said Ramu. “I will go and drag him from his house” he got up angrily. The judge signalled to him to be seated but he paced up and down like a hungry tiger, with his eyes red with anger.

After a while, he could control himself no more. “I will go and bring him Sire! Please grant me permission to do so” he told the judge.

“Ok, you can go and bring him. But take my officer with you” said the judge and the next moment Ramu stomped out of the court and in a few minutes, was at the entrance of Somu’s house followed by a junior officer of the judge. As he had expected, the door was closed.

“Somu! O Somu!” yelled Ramu at the top of his voice. “Where is my elephant? Where are you, you cheat? You had promised to come to the court and did not turn up. Open the door!”

With no response, Ramu furiously banged the door with his fists. There was no response still, but it appeared that the door was not securely locked from the inside. He kept banging and shouting but it was of no avail and finally, to the shock of the junior officer who came with him, he took ten steps back and came running furiously with his fists clenched as if going to box someone and the next moment there was a loud CRASH and the door slammed open. Behind the door were scattered pieces of broken pots and Somu came running from somewhere inside. The pots had been arranged against the locked door, it appeared.

Seeing Ramu he cried, “Oh! My God! My ancestral pots! Who broke them? Oh! What do I do, my pots are gone…..” He was wailing loudly enough for his neighbours to hear and in a minute, the neighbouring houses were dotted with people outside staring at Ramu as if he had committed a crime. Ramu felt very uncomfortable in the glare and tried to pacify Somu.

“I am sorry” he said trying to feign remorse. “I am sorry for what happened, I shall pay the cost of the ancestral pots, please. Kindly ask your neighbours to go”. He looked at Somu pleadingly.

“But my ancestral pots cannot be replaced Sir! I do not want your money. I want the same pots that you broke. They have been handed over to me from the past seven generations and you are saying a simple sorry. Not only I have lost the pots, I will also earn the wrath of my great great grandfathers. What do I do now?” He closed his face with his palms for a few minutes and then looked at Ramu and boldly said, “Come on, we will go to the judge. I want justice!”

And to the shock and horror of Ramu, Somu walked furiously to the court followed by the bewildered Ramu.

As soon as he reached the court, he poured out his story to the judge and said he needed the very pots that had been broken and nothing else. He made so much noise that all the people in the court were looking at Ramu as if he were a criminal.

Finally Ramu could take it no more. He looked at the judge and said, “Sire, I withdraw my case. I do not want the elephant or money. Please tell Somu to withdraw his case too”

The judge pretended to be reluctant. “Well Ramu, you know….” he started.

Ramu looked at Somu hurriedly and said, “Somu, I am withdrawing my case. You do not need to pay me money or give me an elephant. Kindly withdraw your case”

Somu thought for a while and shook his head half-heartedly. Ramu left the place hurriedly placing a salute to the judge who was amused and laughing to himself that his idea had worked so well.

Poor Ramu, his arrogance caused him to lose both the elephant and the money he would have got otherwise…

Thus came into being the proverb ‘Aanaikkum Paanaikkum Sari’

From the Panchatantra – The Monkey and the Crocodile

This is the story from the chapter Loss of Gains of the Panchatantra. Readers may refer to the background guide for more info on this.

“One who remains cool in the face of adversity, like the monkey in the water (in this story) overcomes all his problems” – is the saying with which the story starts. The story is that of ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’
On the banks of the Ganges was a rose apple tree (Rose apple is called Jambuphalam in Sanskrit and Naaval Pazham in Tamil). On the tree, lived a monkey by name Rakthamukha. True to his name Rakthamukha was a red faced monkey. The tree was full of rose apples which were as sweet as nectar and Rakthamukha was living happily on the tree since he got lots of juicy fruits to eat.

One day, a crocodile by name Karalamukha, who lived with his wife on the opposite bank, came swimming near the rose apple tree and seeing Rakthamukha, started conversing with him.

After mutual introduction, in the course of the conversation, Karalamukha asked Rakthamukha, “Do you find enough food here?”

Rakthamukha said “Why not? These juicy fruits are more than enough! Would you like to try some?”
Without waiting for an answer, Rakthamukha plucked a few fruits and threw them into Karalamukha’s open mouth.
The crocodile chewed them and found that they were sweet and nice. “Hmmm…” he said to the monkey, “they are quite nice, better than I thought, give me some more”.

This practice of Karalamukha meeting Rakthamukha continued every single day from then onwards, with Karalamukha resting on the bank and Rakthamukha safely on the branches of the tree. Everyday Rakthamukha gave fruits to his friend Karalamukha and they both chit chatted for a while on the happenings in the world. Their friendship grew stronger by the day.

One day, it occurred to Karalamukha to carry some fruits to his wife. So he took few extra fruits in his mouth and carried them to his place on the opposite bank.

Karalamukha’s wife was fascinated by the sweetness of the fruit.

“Oh husband, where did you get such fine fruit?” she asked.

Karalamukha told her of his friendship with Rakthamukha and his eating fruits daily with him.

Karalamukha’s wife, with a cunning smile said “Why don’t you bring him home one day huh?”

As Karalamukha was wondering when his wife had become so hospitable, she said, “I am dying to eat his heart.”

To a shocked Karalamukha who was thinking whether heard her right, she continued, “These fruits are so juicy and tasty and you say that your monkey friend eats them every day for all his meals. Did you not even imagine how sweet his heart would be … Ssssss…. How juicy and sweet his heart would be … I can’t wait to eat his heart. Bring him tomorrow, will you?”

Karalamukha was flabbergasted. Never once in all these days did he ever think of eating up Rakthamukha and in fact he liked his company and looked forward to meeting up with him every day and chatting and eating some fruits. And now, his dear wife wanted his friend for dinner, literally for dinner.

Karalamukha hesitantly looked at his wife. “It is true dear, that Rakthamukha’s heart would be sweet, but… but he is my friend and…”

“And what?” shouted Mrs.Karalamukha. “Your friendship is more important to you than your wife’s desire. That means you do not love me at all!”

“No, it’s not like that…” started Karalamukha.

“Now, if you do not bring that monkey for me, I shall stop eating and starve myself to death” she said.
Karalamukha was worried. Neither could he deceive his friend nor could he displease his wife. He thought for a long time and finally decided that he would obey his wife.

Off he went the next day to the tree but he did not chat as usual with Rakthamukha and was looking downcast.

“What happened dear friend?” asked Rakthamukha. “You seem to be upset about something. What is it?”

“Hmmm… well, my wife was very angry with me” said Karalamukha. “She ate the fruit I took for her yesterday and scolded me for not having taken you home even once when every day you are giving me such delicious fruits. She scolded me for being so selfish and told me not to come home without taking you with me” He put up a sad tone in his voice.

“How nice of her to think that way” said Rakthamukha. “But you could have told her that I cannot swim and therefore cannot go under water to you home”

“Well, actually, my house in on the opposite bank near some rocks and you will not need to go under the water. I thought that you could sit on my back and I could swim across and take you home, you see? And if I do not take you home today, I will not be allowed and also she will starve” he said in the same sad tone.

“Oh, okay then” said Rakthamukha. “I can come with you right now. Let there be no misunderstanding between you two on account of me. Are you ready to take me?”

“Yes” said a happy Karalamukha for he thought he was achieving his evil goal. “Jump on to my back.”

Rakthamukha jumped on to Karalamukha’s back and the crocodile started swimming. Ganges is a huge river with lot of currents and Karalamukha started going slowly.

After Karalamukha had completed half the distance, he thought Rakthamukha would not be able to escape even if he wanted to and started swimming faster and faster and the water splashed on Rakthamukha who found it very difficult to keep his balance on the crocodile’s back.

“Slow down my friend” shouted Rakthamukha. “Do not be in such a hurry. I am not so hungry”

With and evil grin, Karalamukha replied, “You are not hungry, but my wife is.” He then went on to tell the monkey the plan of his wife and how he was going to be killed and his heart to be devoured by her. Rakthamukha was shell shocked, but remained calm. He thought very quickly and pretending to be angry, he said, “Oh Karalamukha! What a fool you have been! Why did you not tell me this before I jumped on to your back huh? Had I known that your wife wanted my heart, I would have gladly brought it along!”

It was the crocodile’s turn to be shocked now. He was very confused. What was the use of the monkey without its heart?

As Karalamukha was thinking, Rakthamukha went on. “I usually store my heart in the hollow of the tree only since it is very sweet and precious. I can take it if you go back to the tree and we can come again” He sounded very convincing that Karalamukha believed every word of his. Rakthamukha also kept his calm while the crocodile made a ‘U’ turn and headed back to the tree.

The moment they neared the tree, Rakthamukha, with a giant leap got on to the highest branch of the tree. Karalamukha waited and waited. After a few minutes, he shouted, “Are you ready yet? Take your heart and come. My dear wife will be hungry and waiting”

“Humph” Rakthamukha gave a snort of disgust. “You fool of a crocodile, did you not know that one cannot survive without a heart and no one has two hearts? Would I be foolish enough to come with you again? Go away from here. I do not want to see your face again!”

Saying thus, Rakthamukha disappeared into the bushy branches of the tree which had been his saviour.

Kumati and Sumati – A Folktale

kum and sum story

Long long ago, in a village in Northern India, there was an old lady by name Kumati. Kumati had a daughter-in-law by name Sumati.

Sumati was a very nice girl. She was very soft spoken, humble, courteous, well trained in all household work, caring and possessed all other attributes a mother-in-law would look for in a daughter-in-law. Now, Kumati was a tyrannical mother-in-law and would on no account be satisfied with anything Sumati did. She found fault with everything Sumati did, be it cooking, sweeping, tending to the cattle, or any job for that matter.
“Your parents have not trained you well” she would shout at times.

“Are your hands made of butter huh? Can you not scrub the vessels harder you dud?” she would yell.

“You have not come here to eat and sleep. Do all the work before you sit to eat”, she would rave at Sumati just as the girl sat to eat her meal which already would have been very cold.

Sumati was trained by her parents not to talk back at elders and also Sumati did not like quarrelling and so used to keep quiet when Kumati shouted at her. Sumati’s husband Ramu was afraid of his mother and would not open his mouth at all when she shouted. More often than not he would slip out from the house the moment she started shouting.

Sumati, though she would not talk back would hold back her tears and cry alone at night.

One day Kumati had to visit one of her relatives who was very ill.

“Sumati”, she ordered in her pompous tone, “Make ghiya sabzi (bottle gourd vegetable) and rotis for lunch and make only as much as is needed. Do not make more. There is no food to waste here hmm…. I am going to my aunt’s house with Ramu and I will come by one o’ clock”.

She went off and Sumati, after doing the other chores, started making lunch as her mother-in-law had ordered.
When Sumati was almost done there was a knock on the door. Sumati went and opened the door to see a sadhu (mendicant) looking tired and weary standing at the doorstep. He looked at Sumati and asked, “Daughter, may I have some water to drink? I am so thirsty” The sun was blazing outside.

Sumati, courteous as she was, immediately called the visitor in. “Sure, please come in Swami!” she said. “You look very tired. Please be seated”.

She went in and brought a jug of cold sweet smelling water. In those days people used to keep water in earthen pots covered with a wet cloth which kept the water cold. They also put certain herbs in the water which gave the water a very pleasant fragrance. The man seemed glad to be getting a jug of cold water and drank it eagerly.
Sumati was very happy and asked him, “Swami, it looks you are on some pilgrimage. Have you had anything to eat?”
The man looked hesitant and said, “Well…. I will eat on my way… I am on a pilgrimage and I left my village early in the morning”. Saying so, he got up to go.

“Wait Swamiji!” said Sumati. “You must be hungry and there are no proper chavadis for the next many miles. Please wash your hands and feet and sit down. Please eat lunch and go!” (Chavadis were free public guest houses for travellers. In those days, many villages had chavadis as people cared for poor travellers. Food was also available at the chavadi).

The sadhu was happy and sat down. Sumati served the portion of rotis and subzi meant for herself and gave him some thick buttermilk to drink. The man was very happy and blessed Sumati with all his heart. “May God bless you with all good things!” said he and left the house. Just as he was stepping out, guess who were coming? Kumati was coming with her son Ramu. Kumati’s eyes bulged with anger to see a mendicant leaving happily from their house.

Unfortunately, just as the man passed by Kumati, he let out a big burp. Kumati’s suspicions were coming true. The daughter-in-law had wantonly disobeyed her.

Kumati barged into the house and started yelling at Sumati. “How dare you disobey me, you impertinent dunce? I told you specifically that there is no food to waste and you are happily feeding who so ever comes? Did you think this house is a chavadi huh? Will you father give money for all that you are wasting?”

Saying so, she rushed at a bewildered Sumati, pulled her by the shoulder and stopped short of slapping her.
“Out you go!” She shoved her out of the house. “Go to your father’s place you dud. Go and waste your father’s money”.

Sumati fell down and Kumati slammed the door on her. Sumati was sobbing and got up. Fortunately she did not get hurt much. She was very sad at this treatment meted out to her by her mother-in-law but sadder that her husband had kept mum.

Not knowing what to do with herself, she decided to go to her father’s house. But her father’s village was quite far away and it would be late night when she reached. But there was a shorter route through the forest nearby. It was a bit scary, but Sumati thought she would reach by evening if she went through this route.

Wiping away the tears streaming down her cheeks and sobbing, she started to trudge along the forest path. She walked for about an hour when suddenly, cold breeze started to blow. There were dark clouds and there was the roar of thunder. It became very dark and big rain drops started falling plop… plop… and in a matter of minutes, the shower became heavy rain. With nothing to shelter herself from the rain, Sumati ran hither and thither to protect herself from the rain and suddenly, she saw a hollow on the trunk a big tree. Without a thought, she ran to it scrambled up and jumped into the hollow. Fortunately, it was not at a height.

Frightened and cold, she was shivering and huddled inside. The rain was pounding outside. Very tired, Sumati fell asleep.

Suddenly she was rudely awakened by the sound of screeching laughter, on the tree top. Holding her breath, she gingerly peeped outside. It was night and the rain had stopped. The crickets and frogs were singing. The sky was clear and moon was out. In the dim light, she saw two monstrous forms sitting on a branch. She could make out they were rakshasis (demonesses).

“Hee hee hee…” screeched one. “I want to go to Swarna Dweep (Gold Island) and enjoy. Come on, let’s go!” she said to the other.

The other one was not very enthusiastic. “I am very tired” said she. “Today I had to run a lot on the mountains to catch some sheep to eat. I am not coming”

“Don’t worry sis!” said the first one. “I will make the tree carry us. You don’t need to put in any effort! We will fly back on the tree tomorrow.”

“Fine” said the other. “Then come, let’s go”

Suddenly Sumati was shaken by a jerk that she fell down inside the hollow and before she could realise, she felt the tree shake and felt as if it was moving. Slowly, with difficulty she got up holding the sides of the hollow and peeped out and the tree was rising like an aeroplane!

Shocked and surprised, Sumati sank to a corner of the hollow praying fervently to god. The tree kept moving for many hours and suddenly she realised that it was dawn and the sun was coming up fast. The roar of the ocean was heard and she knew it must be some beach. Suddenly there was a bright reflection of what appeared like sand and the tree landed with a “THUD”.

“Come on let’s go…..” cackled one rakshasi and soon Sumati saw both of them running on the golden sand and after a while they disappeared. Sumati waited for some time but felt very sick, holed in the hollow for so long.

She slowly got out of the hollow carefully looking out for the rakshasis but they were nowhere to be seen.
She looked down and found the sand to be strangely bright. She picked up a little in her hand and WOW! It was gold. Surprised as she had never seen anything like that before, she hurriedly filled up the front portion of her pallu (loose end of the saree) with the gold sand as much as she could. She knotted the pallu carefully and looked around with awe at the sparkling sand and the roaring sea and there were no human beings around.

After a while she got into the hollow once again waiting for the rakshasis to come and fly back. It looked like ages and at last after nightfall, the rakshasis came back. They had no reason to suspect Sumati’s presence and the tree flew back as it had come. It landed in the same place in the woods from where it had been taken. Sumati waited for day break patiently. Just as it was dawning, she saw the two rakshasis flying in another direction. Then after the sun had come up and the forest was bright, Sumati slowly got out of the hollow and walked back home.

Her mother-in-law was outside quarrelling with some vegetable vendor. The moment she saw Sumati, her face became crimson with fury. “You fool, did I not tell you to get lost to your father’s place huh?” She yelled.

Sumati did not reply but quietly entered the house. Ramu was sitting there finishing his breakfast.
Kumati hurried behind her, raising her hand and yelling. Sumati suddenly turned around and quickly went to the door and slammed it shut.

“Shhhhh….” Said Sumati to her puzzled mother-in-law. “Speak softly, Amma! I’ve brought something for us. Nobody should know.”

Calming down a little, Kumati asked, “What is it? You must have brought some stale sweetmeat from your father’s house! Did I ask you to come back, you dud!!!”

Sumati said, “No Amma! It is not sweetmeat but gold!!” Saying so, she opened the knot of her pallu and the room was lit up with the brightness of the golden sand!

Kumati’s jaws fell open in surprise and she looked at Sumati unbelievingly. “Where did you get that all from?” she demanded running her hand through the pile of the golden sand.

Sumati told her story to her unbelieving mother-in-law and husband.

Kumati, though happy inside, did not want to show her appreciation of Sumati. Instead she asked her “Why did you bring so little you silly girl? Had I gone, I would have brought enough to last seven generations. Where is that tree? I will go with the rakshasis and show you how to do things smartly. If a dumb one like you can bring this much, let me show you how much a smart woman like me can bring. Come on, show me the tree. I want to go!”

Sumati protested. “This is enough for us Amma” she said. “This will last us for generations! Those rakshasis are dangerous, and it is very tiring to travel in the tree Amma. You are old also.”

The moment Sumati uttered the word “old”, Kumati was doubly furious.

“You are calling me old, you good for nothing goose? How dare you call me so? Will you show me the tree in the jungle or shall I pack you to your father’s place once again?”

Sumati knew it was futile to talk to her mother-in-law anymore.

“Ok Amma. I will take you to the tree in the afternoon”, she said.

“Afternoon? What afternoon?” shouted Kumati. “I am telling you I want to go NOW. Come on.”

Knowing that there was no other solution, Sumati took Kumati to the jungle to the tree, accompanied by Ramu.
As soon as Sumati pointed out to the tree, Kumati hastened and almost ran and climbed into the hollow with great difficulty, since she was plump unlike Sumati, who was slim.

“Do not make any noise Amma” said a concerned Sumati. She was worried that her mother-in-law’s loud mouth would cost her dearly. “And be careful to climb out of the hollow only after the rakshasis have gone very far okay?”

“I know, you stupid girl. You think you know everything huh? Remember that I am twice your age, now go home both of you, and do not forget to keep what you brought in the steel almirah and lock it” said Kumati.

Sumati and Ramu went home worrying for her safety.

Kumati waited impatiently till night peeping in and out of the hole every now and then. With her big figure, it was very uncomfortable inside but it was her doing and so she could not complain.

At last she heard a ‘swoosh’ sound and the tree jerked as the rakshasis sat on their favourite branch. Kumati was frightened at the sight of them but sat silently.

For a long time, they were talking and talking, with screeching laughter in between and Kumati was getting impatient. “When will they go to Swarna Dweep?” she wondered.

Suddenly she heard the word “Dweep” and sharpened her ears. The rakshasis were planning the trip.

“It’s a long time since I had Hilsa fish, I feel like having a feast of Hilsa now” said one rakshasi.

“Why not sis?” said the other. “We will go to ‘Matsya Dweep’ (fish island) now and have it. We can ride on the tree like yesterday” said the other.

Kumati was horrified. To fly all the way to pick fish! What would her son and Sumati think of her? She imagined her son Ramu and Sumati making fun of her when she returned and laughing aloud. She imagined the other villagers joining with them and laughing at Kumati.

The tree shook and took off. Kumati came back from her imagination but it was a bit too late. The tree had risen.
“Go to Swarna Dweep, go to Swarna Dweep!” Kumati yelled.

The shocked rakshasis looked down to see from where the sound was coming and were surprised to find a human being peering at them from the hollow.

“Who are you? And what business do you have to take shelter in our home?” roared one of them as she hung down from the branch upside down and brought her face near the hollow of the tree. The tree was flying at a slow pace.
A terrified Kumati started crying and put her hands on her eyes not able to face the gory rakshasi.

“Drop her down sis!” said the other rakshasi. “We will go as scheduled”.

“Yes! With pleasure!!” said the other and she jumped from the branch and held the tree like a rattle, turned it horizontally and shook it, shrieking loudly. The tree was passing Kumati’s house then.

Kumati fell down from the hollow and in few moments, she fell in the pond behind her house with a big ‘pachaak!’ Water splashed out of the pond. The pond was not so deep and it had clayey soil and so Kumati was not injured, but with great difficulty, she gathered herself and with clay and mud splashed on her she looked so comical.

Sumati was worried about her mother-in-law and could not sleep. Just as she heard the ‘pachaak’ sound at their backyard, she woke Ramu up.

“Husband, I heard a big sound at our back yard. Please wake up and see, please” she said. Ramu woke up groggily and with the help of a fire torch went to the back yard only to see a plump figure wet and smeared with clay pulling herself towards the house.

Sumati ran to her, opening the backyard gate. “Amma, what happened Amma? Are you okay? Did the rakshasis harm you Amma? Are you hurt anywhere?” she asked her and put her hand comfortingly on Kumati’s shoulder. Ramu was also shocked at her appearance and chided her for not listening to them.

Kumati was surprised that instead of making fun of her, they both were genuinely concerned about her. She realised her folly and also realised that her loud mouth had landed her in trouble.

She realised that “Silence is Golden”

From that day onwards, Kumati was completely a transformed woman and they lived happily ever after.

When Providence Smiles At You – A folktale from Ancient India

In a village, in ancient India, lived a lad by name Boppanna.

Boppanna was very good at heart and wanted to be smart and good at studies like his classmates, but somehow, studies eluded him. He simply did not have the capacity to grasp even something that his classmates found damn easy.

His father was always worried about this. He tried all methods to make him study, but as I already said, studies simply eluded him. His father used to get very angry and shout at him. “Mandooka Mandooka”, he would yell at him.  “If you don’t study you will remain a like a Mandooka in the well” he would always say.

Mandooka means frog in Sanskrit and somehow the word has become synonymous with stupidity. Being like a Mandooka meant being like a frog in a well, not aware of anything happening in the outside world, and the stupid stare of Boppanna reminded his father of a frog’s eyes. So, Boppanna was more often called Mandooka, than by his own name.

Boppanna grew up and became a young man. He did odd jobs here and there as he did not get any good job for he did not possess good qualification. He could read and write though and that was all that he had acquired in all the years of his studies.

In due course of time, Boppanna’s parents got him married to a naïve girl from another village nearby. Now, that he was married, his income was not enough to support them.

One day, his wife had an idea. “Listen, my husband”, she said, “I hear that the King rewards people who write good poems. Why don’t you go and meet the King and write a poem for him? “

Boppanna was in a dilemma. He did not want to spoil his wife’s image of him, but he barely knew to write, leave alone write poems!!

Not able to refuse his wife’s idea, he set out with a palm leaf and quill to the palace. He had to pass a wooded area on the way and he wanted to rest for a while. As he sat down by the shade of a banyan tree, he saw a big boar near a tree on the other side of the pathway. The boar was rubbing its body against the rough bark of the tree to relieve itself of its itching. Boppanna was wondering what would happen if the tree got uprooted due to the force and fell on the boar.

He looked at the boar, and said pitifully, “Do not rub too much. Your life is in danger…”

Unable to think of anything else to write as sunset was fast approaching, he took out the palm leaf and scribbled the words he had told the boar, “Do not rub too much. Your life is in danger…”

Boppanna reached the city late in the night. Early in the morning, Boppanna went to the palace and met the security guard outside. “Here is an important document for the King. Please give it to him immediately” said he.

The guard immediately took the leaf and went into the chamber where the King was sleeping. The King was just then waking up. The King’s barber was already present in the chamber making preparations for the King to shave. The guard handed over the palm leaf to the King. “It seems this is an important document for Your Highness!!” he said and left.

The King read the message, “Do not rub too much. Your life is in danger” over and over again but could not make any sense out of it. Wondering what it meant, the King said aloud, “Do not rub too much. Your life is in danger”. The very next moment, the barber dropped his knife and the stone on which he was rubbing it and fell at the King’s feet.

“Forgive me Your Highness!” he cried, “I have been driven by greed and lust for money, as otherwise, I would have never dreamt of doing this heinous crime. Forgive me… please…” He was sobbing uncontrollably.

On enquiry, it came to be known that the barber had colluded with a minister to kill the King with the sharp knife used for shaving, that day. The palm leaf had saved the life of the King !!. The King got his security men to find out Boppanna and rewarded him with lot of gold and silver and gave him a house to live and made him his official astrologer !. The minister and barber were punished severely and banished from the kingdom.

Life was going on when one day, the diamond necklace of the queen got stolen. The queen was very upset since it was gifted by the King for their wedding and it was her favourite necklace. She could not rest in peace till it was found and she was looking so gloomy and sad all the time.

The King sent word for Boppanna. “Boppanna, please use your skills and find out who has stolen the necklace, for I cannot bear to see my dear queen grieving for her necklace.” Boppanna was at his wits end. How on earth was he going to find out who stole the necklace?

Anyway, he pretended to be calm and cool and told in a very calm voice, “Your Highness, please do not worry. I shall surely find the culprit but I need a secluded room and I will need a few days’ time too. There should be no guards or anyone in the room. I will have to do some meditation to pin point the culprit”

“Done!” said the King. He granted Boppanna a  room in a secluded part of the palace.

Boppanna went in and shut the door. He was lamenting at his fate. He decided that his wife was to blame for all that was happening. “Oh woman!” he cried out aloud, “See the fruit of your action. You will become a widow shortly. Already your husband has escaped once but now there is no chance to escape. I can see death coming. Alas!”

Suddenly he heard the door banging. Alarmed, he went to the door and opened it with great hesitation. The next moment, a lady barged in and fell at his feet and caught hold of his feet. She was a maid in the queen’s palace.

To a shocked Boppanna she said, “Sir, I heard that you had been asked to find out the thief and so I was following you and was hiding near the window. Sir, how did you know that it was me and my husband who have robbed the necklace and how on earth did you know that earlier we had robbed a gold ring which went unnoticed?”  She continued sobbing and said, “Sir, we will give the necklace and ring back, please tell the King to forgive us.” She was crying loudly.

Boppanna was amazed at the turn of events. He could not believe his luck.Here he was blaming his wife for his ill luck and the words had exactly matched the thief’s action!

Regaining his composure, he said, “Hush, hush woman.. Do not cry. I will try to speak to the King. He then went to the King and said, “I have found out the culprit, but I request you not to award them death sentence. You may punish them otherwise”.  The King agreed and the necklace and ring were returned and a heavy fine was imposed on the lady and her husband.

Boppanna was given a bigger bungalow and more gold coins and his fame spread far and wide.

One day, a messenger from the neighbouring Emperor’s Kingdom came to the palace. The King welcomed him with the usual protocol as his Kingdom was under the domain of the Emperor. On enquiry about his visit, the messenger said, “Our Highness, the Emperor has heard of your new astrologer and so has given me a task. I have brought this locked box with something inside. Will your astrologer be able to find out what is in it?”

“Why not?” said the King. “I will ask him to come to the court just now. He will surely predict precisely what is in this locked box!”

So, word was sent to Boppanna who was alarmed to the core. With his heart beating at top speed he came to the palace where in the Durbar there was a seat for him and on the opposite side the man with the locked box was sitting.

The King explained to Boppanna what was expected of him and Boppanna closed his eyes in fear. On the one side, he dreaded the punishment which he would receive if he did not predict correctly and on the other, he remembered images of his childhood and his father’s figure yelling “Mandooka” at him.

Repenting for not remaining in his village and for coming to the King in the first place at the insistence of his wife, Boppanna, in a quivering voice, hitting himself on his forehead said, “Oh! Mandooka… You should have remained in the well… Why at all did you come here? Ho…Ho…” He was crying aloud, when suddenly his opponent got up and hugged Boppanna with a great look of surprise. He immediately opened the box and PLOP! , there jumped out a frog. The box was containing a frog and the people thought Boppanna was crying at the fate of the frog and so there was rejoicing over his accurate ‘prediction’.

There was loud cheering from the crowds and Boppanna could not comprehend what was going on!!

“Boppanna, Boppanna… Long live Boppanna….” the crowds shouted. The King came up to the platform where the two were seated and handed Boppanna a big bag of coins.

Taking the coins Boppanna did the most sensible thing then. He bowed to the King and said, “Your Highness, when I was born, it was predicted that I would become a famous astrologer but would give only three correct predictions. Now that I have delivered all the three, kindly, allow me to proceed to my village where I will pursue the occupation of agriculture. I do not want to continue here as I will not be able to give correct predictions anymore!”

The King was shocked but nevertheless happy that Boppanna had told him the ‘truth’ and was not greedy to enjoy a royal life. So the King also let Boppanna go but not before he loaded his cart with gold coins and jewellery!!!

Boppanna thanked the Goddess of luck and returned home, a happy, rich and wiser man!!

He had realised that Providence may not keep smiling at him forever.

 

Birbal Helps Again !!

akbarbirbal-1-ConvertImageBirbal was one of  the gems of Emperor Akbar’s court. He was one of those persons who could give a solution to any sort of problem which is why Emperor Akbar liked him so much.

We have heard of many instances where Birbal came to the rescue when justice had to be delivered. People preferred to go to Birbal rather than going to the court when they had a problem or case against somebody. This is yet another story of Birbal’s intelligence.

Once there was a person by name Shaam in a village near Agra. He had purchased a piece of land from his neighbour Mangat Ram. The piece of land had a well on it and Shaam had paid the purchase price in full and also registered the land in his name mentioning the presence of the well in the document. He had fenced the land and put a small gate with a lock.

The day after the purchase was over, Shaam heard a knock on his door. On opening the door, he found Mangat Ram standing outside with many drums of varied sizes. To the puzzled Shaam, Mangat Ram said, “I have come to take my water from the well and from tomorrow, give me a duplicate key to the lock you have put for the land, so that I do not have to disturb you to take my water”.

Shocked, Shaam asked, “But Sir, I have purchased the well from you by paying cash. So where is the question of your water? If you want, take water today, but I cannot allow you to take water from the well everyday as a matter of right!”

Mangat Ram, furious at Shaam’s reply said, “How dare you say that I cannot take water huh? I have sold only the well to you not the water okay? Show me where in the document is it written that I have sold you the water in the well? Don’t try to act smart!”

“Act smart?” thought Shaam. Who was acting smart? He did not feel like arguing with Mangat Ram as he knew that it would lead to nowhere. Gathering his wits Shaam said, “Mangat Ramji, it is okay if you take water today, but I want to take this matter to Birbalji for a solution. Of course, you have not mentioned the water in the well in the sale agreement, but then maybe it has to be included and I wish to meet Birbalji in this regard”.

Mangat Ram thought for a moment and said, “Theek hai, we will meet Birbalji tomorrow and I am sure he will agree that I am right! I will come to his house at 5 in the evening.” Birbal used to meet people in the evenings if his help was required by them to solve such issues. Mangat Ram was very sure that Birbal could not ‘dispute’ his version of the ‘ownership’ of the water in the well.

Shaam was worried the whole night, though he knew that he would get a just decision from Birbal. Anyhow, he thought he should apprise Birbal of the case beforehand and went to meet him in the morning.

Birbal gave Shaam a patient hearing and said, “Do not worry. I will see you in the evening. Go and take rest”

The anxious Shaam, left the place a wee bit relieved.

It was evening and both Shaam and Mangat Ram were present in the courtyard of Birbal’s mansion. Shaam was tensed up, while Mangat Ram had a cunning smile on his face.

Birbal came and signalled to them to sit on the benches there. Looking at Mangat Ram he said, “Yes, Sir, tell me what brings you here”.

Happy that he was given the chance to speak first, Mangat Ram told Birbal of how he had sold the patch of land with the well to Shaam, but had not sold the water in the well and therefore, he was entitled to take any amount of water at any time of the day from the well.

“Am I not correct Huzoor?” he asked with arrogance. “I never promised to sell the water to Shaam. Ask him if you want!”

Birbal looked at Shaam and asked him, “Is it true that Mangat Ram did not sell you the water?”

Almost in tears Shaam said, “Huzoor, I never imagined that a person would sell only the well without the water in it. I bought the land with the well only because there was copious water in the well and I could irrigate the land with that. I have paid lot of money for the purchase by mortgaging my wife’s jewels. Now what is the use of the well without the water? I feel Mangat Ram is being unjust. I plead that you may deliver justice”

Birbal said, “Mangat Ramji, I agree that you have not sold the water from your well to Shaam and that you have sold only the well. But do you agree that the well belongs to Shaam now?”

Happy, thinking that the case was moving in his favour, Mangat Ram, with a wide grin said, “Ha ji Huzoor, the well belongs to Shaam only. The water alone belongs to me!”

After a moment’s silence, Birbal, clearing his throat said, “Well, I understand that the well belongs to Shaam but the water belongs to Mangat Ram and the water can be kept only in the well. So…, Mangat Ramji, it is only fair that you should pay rent to Shaam on a daily basis for him to let you keep your water in his well. The rent can also be fixed right away. Is it not Shaamji? How much rent do you expect?”

Mangat Ram was in for a shock. He did not in the least expect that the issue would boomerang in this manner on him.

Hurriedly he said, “Huzoor, Shaam and I are very good friends and we will fix the rent mutually. I have to leave now as I have to meet a friend. Namaste!” He walked out of the place without turning back!!

Shaam had no words for Birbal. Overwhelmed by the simple, yet the best solution that had sent his foe running, all Shaam could do was to hold the hands of Birbal with tears of gratitude streaming down his cheeks.

“Thank you so much Huzoor, thank you …thank you… “was all that he could say as Birbal looked at him with the satisfaction of having saved yet another naive citizen from the clutches of a greedy fellow.

The Foolish Miser – A Folktale

Once upon a time, in ancient India, there lived in a village a rich landlord. He was extremely wealthy but was a miser to the core. He never gave any food or shelter to anyone in need and also did not give any charity whatsoever. He would openly shoo away anyone who came seeking help from him. Soon his ‘fame’ spread throughout the village.

The landlord had a neighbour who was a poor farmer. The farmer had a small patch of land and grew some vegetables on it and earned a living out of selling those vegetables. Though he had a small patch of land and a small hut for his dwelling, he had a large heart. Many a time, when the landlord shooed away people, the farmer would be ready to feed them or give them shelter.

One day, a weary traveller came to the village and went to the landlord’s house. “Is there anybody in?” he shouted from outside. The landlord peered through the window and got angry. “Here is another nuisance who has come asking for food” he thought. It was late in the evening. “Most likely, the person will ask for shelter also. I should drive him away”, he muttered to himself as he rushed out.

Without even asking a question, he started yelling, “Go away from here. What do you think this is? A public inn or something eh? There is no food or shelter. Go away right now!” And turning his back on the traveller, he came inside the house and shut the door with a thud.

The farmer was watching this episode from his hut. He came out and called out to the traveller, “Sir, please come to my hut. You are looking very tired. Please come and relax yourself on this cot” The farmer had a cot made of rope which was put outside the hut. The traveller looked grateful and came to the farmer’s hut.

“Please make yourself comfortable. I will arrange for your food” said the farmer. He went inside the hut and the traveller could hear the conversation between the farmer and his wife which was in a low tone.

“What is there to offer this weary traveller?” asked the farmer.

“Nothing much. There was very little rice and I made gruel. Some buttermilk is available and a ladle of greens leftover from the noon is there” said the wife. The traveller could make out from their voices that there they both were concerned that there was not much good food to feed him.

“Give away my portion of the gruel to the man” said the farmer.

“I shall give my portion too” said the wife. “Giving your portion alone will be too little and the traveller should not remain hungry through the night”

The farmer came in and called the traveller. “Sir, we have some rice gruel, buttermilk and greens for you. Please take it”, said he.

“What about you people?” asked the traveller.

“We had our dinner just a while back” lied the farmer.

The traveller knew that the farmer was lying, but accepted the food however. The farmer gave his rope cot to the farmer and slept on the bare ground beside the cot. It was a full moon and the cool light of the moon and the salubrious breeze put them to sleep.

At the wake of dawn, the farmer felt a pat on his shoulder and got up to see the traveller glowing in a strange light. Surprised, the farmer stood up as the traveller with a smile said, “Dear friend. I am a messenger from God. I am so happy with your selfless service and hospitality and I want to grant you a wish. Come on, tell me what you want!!”

The farmer, unable to comprehend what was happening, was wondering whether this was a dream or reality, but said, “All I wish is that I should be able to continue this hospitality and give selfless service to needy people throughout my life!”

“So be it” said the traveller and walked out of the place. The farmer again fell into deep slumber as if he was under a spell. When he got up an hour later, he found himself on a soft mattress in a nice room. He got up wonderstruck and found that his hut had been converted into a mansion and the open space outside had become a beautiful garden! He could not believe his eyes. His wife was also unable to believe their luck. Both of them just looked up and thanked the Gods for the blessings.

Meanwhile, the landlord, whose wood carved windows which usually filtered the sunlight on to his room were not getting any sunlight today. “Unusual”, he muttered to himself, “What is obstructing the light?”

To his great shock and surprise, he saw a huge mansion on the adjacent plot on which the farmer’s hut used to stand.

“Heh? What is this? Who has built a building overnight?” he said as he hurriedly scrambled down from his bed. Not even waiting to brush his teeth, he rushed out, only to find the farmer and his wife sitting in their new lawn and drinking cups of hot tea.

On seeing the landlord, the farmer got up and invited him. “Come Sir, please have a cup of tea with us” said they. The landlord was infuriated all the more as the farmer was always submissive and now he was inviting him as if he was an equal.

“How did you build this overnight?” the landlord asked angrily.

“Sir, please cool down, I shall tell you” said the farmer and went on to narrate the happenings.

“What a fool I have been”, thought the landlord to himself.

“Do not worry Sir” said the farmer as if guessing the landlord’s thoughts. “The traveller may be around in the village only as I remember him leaving my hut early in the morning”.

“Okay, I will go then” said the landlord, mentally making up his mind to catch hold of the traveller wherever he was and get himself a wish!

After finishing his duties quickly, he went on a round to find the traveller. At about noon, he found the traveller under a banyan tree.

Immediately, tying his upper garment around his waist as a mark of respect, the landlord, with a sheepish smile, looking at the traveller said, “Hmm.. I am very very sorry, hee…. Hee…. I did not recognize you Sir. Please come to my house and stay for a night or more. Please, please do come”

The traveller threw a nonchalant look at the landlord and said, “I am too busy to come to you house. However I am happy that you are repenting your action of yesterday. As a reward, I will grant you three wishes. Go on, ask what you wish for!”

The landlord did not expect this at all. Three wishes against one given to the farmer! But he was very careful and did not ask anything immediately.

Sensing the landlord’s thoughts the traveller said, “Okay, take time if you want and go home, but the next three wishes of yours which you utter will come true!”

This was even better. “No need to waste food on this traveller and I can choose the wishes carefully” thought the landlord, proud at his achievement.

He thanked the traveller and walked home slowly thinking of what his wishes should be. After reaching home also he kept on thinking, much to the surprise of his wife who was not aware of anything that had happened. He was unusually quiet and after dinner went to retire very early. But he could not catch a wink of sleep and kept on thinking through the night as to what wishes he should wish for.

At daybreak, there was this sudden shrill crowing of the cock near his window. “Cokra co co……”. It startled the landlord who was in a dreamland thinking of what to wish for. He got up with a start and immediately shouted, “I wish that cock was dead.  Useless thing! So disturbing it is. I cannot think in peace!” The next moment he heard a ‘thud’ outside his window and he looked out to see the cock fallen dead, from its perch!

Only then he realised that he had wasted one of the three wishes. “What a fool I am” he thought to himself “I have wasted one precious wish! I will go to the garden and sit there alone and think”. Thinking thus, he walked to the bench under a neem tree in his garden and was soon engrossed in deep thought.

After a while, one of his servants came and said “Master, some guests have come and Madam (landlord’s wife) is calling you in to meet them”

“Is there no peace in this house huh?” he shouted at the servant. “I wish to be stuck to this bench here and will not come. Tell Madam”.

“OK Master”. The man went back.

The next moment the landlord realised that he was actually stuck to the bench and could not move! What a waste of the second wish! The landlord banged his head on the neem tree dismayed at his foolishness, but it was all that he could do. He was stuck to the bench like a statue and he could do nothing about it. He cursed his luck and was abusing his own self when his wife came out to see why he had refused to come and meet his guests. She was wondering what was wrong as her husband was kind of doing some circus with the bench! She had no idea about what had happened.

“What are you doing?” she asked, “and why are you sweating profusely?” She got worried also at the state of her husband.

The landlord told her what had happened and asked her “Tell me how to get out of this mess”

“The only way my dear husband” she said, “is to utter your third wish to get detached from this bench!” She was equally sad that the third wish also had to be ‘wasted’ like this, but there was no other way.

Sad and almost in tears the landlord said, “I wish to be free from this bench!” and the next moment he could get up from the bench. Not looking back, he ran into his house!

From that day, the landlord’s house became a resting place for all travellers and he was the first to give charity for any cause.

The reason for this change however has not been known to anybody except the landlord, his wife, me and of course you!!!

 

Mind Your Business!!

This is a story from Hitopadesha.

In ancient India, there lived a washerman, in a village. In those times, people used to give their clothes to  washermen, who used to take the clothes to the river, wash and dry them and give it back to their customers and earn their livelihood. This washerman, had a nice sturdy donkey to carry his load of clothes to the river and back and he loved his donkey very much. He also had a dog in his house to guard his house.

The dog also did his duty well by escorting his master whenever he went to the river and also keeping an eye for any thief during night. Somehow, the washerman loved the donkey more than the dog. After some time, the dog realised that his master was partial to the donkey. The donkey was being fed well and on some days the dog starved. The dog was very dejected.

One night, a thief came in the dark of the night and was trying to enter the house of the washerman. He was trying to remove the bars from the window of the front room of the washerman’s house. The dog saw this, but kept quiet and did not bark. The donkey, who was also in the stable saw this and was surprised that the dog did not bark.

“My friend,” he said. “Can you not see the thief trying to enter our master’s house? Why are you pretending not to see? Is it not your duty to bark and alert the master? Is it not your duty to protect the master’s house? Get up and go!”

The dog gave a stare at the donkey and said, “Look, the master has not been treating me properly lately. What to talk of a loving glance, he does not even feed me properly and I go hungry often. Let the thief come and rob the house. Only will he realise the importance of treating me well.”

The donkey, still not believing the dog’s words said “But… but.. is it not your duty eh? Atleast frighten the thief, go!”

“Mind your business” said the dog. “Do not talk to me about my duty. I know what to do when”.

The donkey was upset and angry at the dog’s attitude. “Well”, he said, “if you are not going to bark and alert the master, I shall bray and alert him” So saying he started braying in a loud voice, “hee haw…hee haw… hee haw….” he went on and on.

The thief was startled by the unexpected braying of the donkey and fled the scene. The washerman got irritated as his sleep was disturbed and thought that somebody might have harmed the donkey and ran out to the stable but he saw that the donkey was braying away merrily with no one in sight. He got really angry with the donkey for disturbing his sleep. He took a stick lying nearby and thrashed the poor donkey black and blue.

The donkey took a long time to recover from the pain but very quickly understood that it is always good to mind one’s business and never give advice unless sought!!

 

 

 

 

From The Panchatantra – The Frog And The Cobra

This is a story from the Panchatantra from the chapter Labdhapranasam or Loss of Gains – where one loses due to improper planning.

Once there lived the King of frogs in a huge well in a forest. His name was Gangadutta. He had a host of relatives in the well and more often than not he was being harassed by them. At a point of time, he got so fed up that he decided that he should get rid of them. But he did not know how to go about it.

Constantly thinking of what could be done to get rid of his relatives, he came out of the well one day and went into the jungle. There, he saw a huge anthill and suddenly noticed a snake sliding very slowly into it.

“Aha” he thought to himself, “here is my born enemy, a snake. I think it is best to set up an enemy to crush other enemies which will bring happiness at the end.”

Quickly, hopping over to the snake, he called out, “Hello Sir, please look here, I am Gangadutta, the King of frogs. I have come to seek your help”

The snake noticed him and said, “Oh is it so? Do you not know that we are born enemies? Thank your stars that I have just finished my meal and am not hungry now. Go away from here!”

Gangadutta said, “Please do not say that O Sir! If we join together for this cause both will be benefited. Just listen to my plan Sir, and…May I know your name?”

“Priyadarsana.  That is my name. Now, tell me what you want me to do and I will tell you whether I can or cannot do it.”

Gangadutta, relieved that Priyadarsana was at least ready to listen to his plan continued. He told Priyadarsana about how his relatives were harassing him continuously in the well and how he needed help to  get rid of them. “You can only help me”, he said. “I will take you to the well and you will not need to hunt for food daily, you see, and I will get rid of them who harass me and both of us will be happy”

Priyadarsana thought for a while. He was also becoming older by the day and hunting for food was not as easy as it used to be some years back. The thought of abundant food and ensured continuous supply was enticing enough. But how would he reach the well? He asked the same to Gangadutta.

“No problem” said Gangadutta, happy that Priyadarsana was coming around. “There is a long crevice adjacent to the well and it leads to a landing inside the well. I will show you the way. But you have to promise me that you will eat only those whom I show you okay?”

“Okay, done” said Priyadarsana, ready to follow Gangadutta. Gangadutta led Priyadarsana into the well through the crevice. Priyadarsana was overjoyed to see so many frogs. The frogs on the other hand became panicky.

Every day, Gangadutta would show Priyadarsana whom to devour  and Priyadarsana would do his bidding and when Gangadutta was not looking, he would gobble up a few more!

Gangadutta was happy at last. His enemies were diminishing  day by day and all the frogs were afraid of him now. They were ready to do his bidding. Gangadutta started to relax. But his happiness was short-lived.

One fine day there were no more frogs left other than his wife and son Jamnadutta.

“Where is my food?” asked Priyadarsana lunging forward to grab Jamnadutta who dived in the water to escape.

When the reality struck on Gangadutta, he was aghast. “My enemies have all been destroyed Priyadarsana, thanks to you. You may now go up the same way you came in as my task is over” said he.

“Where will I go?” asked the angry Priyadarsana. “I cannot go to the same anthill as some other snake  would have occupied it. Besides , you never talked of my going back after few days, did you? I  am very hungry now and cannot wait” So saying, he went under the water and had Jamnadutta in a mouthful much to the grief of Gangadutta and his wife.

Gangadutta  repented a lot that he had made friends with a natural enemy and remembered the old saying that “He who befriends a stronger enemy invites certain death!”. He thought and thought but could not find any solution and before he could realise what was happening, the Queen of frogs became the prey of Priyadarsana, the next day.

Gangadutta  realised that the next day he would not be alive if he continued staying here. He said to Priyadarsana, “Friend, I am very unhappy that I brought you here as a guest but not have been able to provide enough for you!. What a disgrace! I will just now go and bring my friends from another well around here so that you do not starve!”

Gangadutta sounded so sincere that Priyadarsana was fooled. “Okay”, said he. “ I cannot kill you as you are like a brother to me. But if you will bring me food  I will respect you as my father. But come back soon”.

The next moment Gangadutta was up through the crevice to the ground. “Thank god, that Priyadarsana  believed my story”, he thought to himself. He felt extremely sad that his plan had boomeranged and went about to seek another living place.

Meanwhile Priyadarsana, who truly believed that Gangadutta would come back waited and waited in vain. One day, he saw a chameleon on the side of the wall of the well and called out to him. “Hey, he said, when you go out please tell Gangadutta that I am waiting for food”.

The chameleon went out of the well and saw Gangadutta at a distance. Rushing to him, the chameleon called out, “Hey Gangadutta, your friend is waiting with hunger inside the well. Come back soon.” Gangadutta , hurrying away said, “Who can trust a hungry man? I am off “ and he sped away into the wilderness of the jungle, full of remorse at his act of befriending a born enemy!!

 

 

Birbal Again!

Birbal, as we all know was a master in the art of using the right words/ sentences at the right time. This combined with his sharp intelligence and brilliant wit earned him the adulation of the Emperor and all others and of course he also got what he wanted. We shall see two such instances.

Emperor Akbar, on an occasion when Birbal had pleased him announced that he would give him a piece of land in a posh area of the city. However it was never granted. The Emperor had not forgotten about it, but every time when Birbal broached the subject, he pretended not to hear and turned his neck as if to observe what was going on, on the other side. After a few months Birbal stopped talking about the plot of land, but was waiting for the right moment when he could get it from the Emperor.

Now, one day, the Emperor was going for a stroll in disguise, along with Birbal. Both were walking through the country side. They spotted a group of camels there as camels were very much used in carrying goods and passengers in those days. One of the camels in the group had a crooked neck and appeared to be turning its neck and looking away.

Akbar was curious. “Birbal”, said he, “look at that camel. Why is it turning its neck and looking on the other side?”
Pat came the reply from Birbal. “Huzoor”, he said in a very polite voice, “May be the camel has also promised land to somebody and does not want to give it now”

Akbar was amused and also surprised at the clever way in which Birbal had got his point through. The very next day, Birbal got his piece of land!

On another instance, the Emperor got a talking parrot as a gift from another king. The parrot was an intelligent bird, for not only it could repeat what anyone said, but it could give replies to questions too. It was very charming and beautiful too and the Emperor instantly took a liking to it.

“Arrange a golden cage for the parrot!” he ordered his men. “He should be fed with the best fruits and food and taken care of extremely well”

“Yes, your highness!” said the courtiers to whom the order was given. “We will do everything as you wish”

“And” said Akbar, “once again I am telling you, he should be given the best care and…If any one of you comes and tells me that the parrot is dead, I will not hesitate to execute you!”

When Akbar was angry, he would really do what he said and the courtiers knew it and so off they went and arranged a beautiful big golden cage for the bird They fed it with exotic fruits and food and gave it sweet water and were always guarding it.

Despite all the good care given to it, unfortunately, the parrot died one night. The courtiers panicked. Not because the parrot died but one of them had to go and report it to Akbar! And their head would go next!!

The courtiers discussed among themselves and instead of going to Akbar, ran to Birbal. Birbal was surprised on seeing two courtiers coming puffing and panting at such a late time in the night.

He asked them in and told them to have a seat. “Now, may I know what brought you here at this time of the night?” he asked.

“Sire…. Sire…” they hesitated.

“Tell me. Fear nobody. What is the matter?”

Both the courtiers fell at his feet pleading. “Save our lives Sire” they said. “You can only grant us the gift of life”
Birbal knew that these were the two who were in charge of the parrot. “What happened” he asked. “Is all well?”

“The parrot died Sire…..” the first man broke down.

“In spite of taking so much care, the parrot is gone” continued the other, “but Sire if we go and tell the Emperor that the parrot has died, we will be hanged”. He started sobbing and narrated what the Emperor had told them.

Birbal knew that the King loved the parrot so much and may do what he had said. “I will take care” he said. “Both of you go home and rest. Go… Go and do as I say. I will take care”

The men left hesitantly.

The next morning, Birbal, with a pensive look went to the Emperor. Akbar looked at him and asked, “What happened Birbal? Why is the worried look on your face?”

“Nothing, your majesty. A strange thing happened. Your parrot is neither eating anything, nor drinking anything. It is neither moving its wings nor moving its beak. It is neither sitting up nor seeing anything…”

“The parrot died?” asked a shocked Akbar.

“You said it your majesty. I did not say it with my mouth” said Birbal.

The Emperor was so amused at the clever way in which Birbal broke the news and forgave the courtiers and rewarded Birbal!

The Talking Cave

This is again, a story from the Panchatantra. This is one of the stories told by the character Rakthaksha to his friends in the story Crows and owls.

Long long ago in the forests of Central India there lived a lion by name Kharanakara. He was very old and lately had not been able to hunt swiftly due to his old age and therefore remained hungry often. One day, as usual, he did not get any prey and he was angrily prowling about in the forests when he saw a cave.

“Ha, there is a cave. There should certainly be some animal in it. I shall go in and kill and eat the animal” Kharanakara thought to himself as he went into the cave.

Alas! There was no animal inside. It disappointed Kharanakara that there was no prey inside. However, he said to himself, “This cave must be the resting place of some animal and that animal will certainly come back at sunset. So, I shall wait here and kill it when it comes!” So thinking, he went to a dark corner and sat there waiting for the owner of the cave to return.

The cave was actually being occupied by a jackal by name Dadhipuchcha. Dadipuchcha had gone out in the day time and usually returned during sunset. That day also he was returning home by sunset when he suddenly noticed the pug marks of a lion leading to his cave. “Wait wait! What are these marks? Surely they are the marks made by the huge paws of a lion” he muttered to himself and walked towards the cave. Suddenly, he noticed that the marks were leading into the cave and no marks were coming out of the cave. He realised then, that the lion should be waiting inside and that he would be minced to pieces once he went in. He was in a fix and did not know what to do.

Suddenly, a brilliant idea struck him. He called out to the cave in a loud voice. “Hello Cave! Hope your day was fine. Can I come in please?”

Kharanakara who was inside was hearing the voice of Dadhipuchcha and was puzzled. “Strange! How can a cave talk?” he thought to himself.

Dadhipuchcha called out again, “Are you angry with me, cave? Why are you not replying to me?”

Kharanakara now started believing that the cave would answer. He waited. Dadhipuchcha again called out “O Cave! Do you not remember our agreement made on the day I moved in? Did I not tell you that the day you did not talk to me, I will move to another cave. Every day you have been answering me endearingly. What happened today my dear cave? Okay, if you will not answer now also, I will go away in search of another cave, Bye bye”

Kharanakara believed earnestly that the cave was not answering because he was inside and he being the King of the forest, the cave was also naturally frightened. Unwilling to let off his prey, Kharanakara decided to answer on behalf of the cave. “Come in dear!” he said in the sweetest voice he could put on. “Come in. I am waiting for you! How can I be angry with such a sweet being like you? Come in fast!”

The moment Dadhipuchcha heard the voice, his fears were confirmed that the lion was indeed inside waiting for him to go in and get killed. He took a last look at the cave and ran away as fast as he could and thus saved himself.

Therefore, one who anticipates a danger and acts to avert it survives and one who does not comes to grief.

 

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