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’