In medieval India, in present day Tamilnadu, lived a person by name Somu. Somu was the most miserly fellow one could imagine. When he was eating, if he had to shoo away a crow, he would first lick his fingers clean and then only shoo the bird since he did not want the morsels on his finger to fall on the ground and the crow to eat them!!
Because of his miserly nature, he would never attend any weddings as he had to give some gift and he felt that it was a waste. Every night, it was his habit to count the money he had saved and he felt proud that he had saved ten thousand silver coins (rupya) till then.
One day he got an invitation from his cousin Ramu, to attend his daughter’s wedding. Ramu came personally with his wife and invited Somu and his wife in a traditional manner. He presented the invitation along with lot of fruits kept on a silver plate and also gifted them a silk dhoti and silk sari. “Somu Anna” he addressed him, “You being the eldest member of our family should certainly be present for the wedding ceremony. Please do not disappoint us”.
Somu was in a fix as he had accepted the silver plate which was easily quarter kilo in weight and also the silk dresses. If he did not attend the wedding, his relatives would all talk badly about him. So after lot of thought, he finally decided to attend the wedding with his wife and therefore with great effort he searched out an old silk shawl gifted by somebody to him on his wedding and wrapped it up to give it as a gift. He and his wife attended the wedding and gifted the shawl and when they went to eat, Somu told his wife Jamuna, “Arre Jamuna, eat as much as you can as we have gifted a shawl to them, which is a very costly one!” So, he and Jamuna ate till their bellies were bursting. The food was very tasty especially the coconut barfi which had been prepared with ripe coconuts and rich ghee. Somu asked for two more and ate them but before he could ask for more, the batch in which he and his wife were eating finished eating and he had to get up.
Somu could not forget the barfi. It was so….. delicious, that the very thought of the barfi made him drool. Jamuna also liked the barfi very much. So after reaching home, he slowly asked his wife, “Jamuna, how many barfis can you make with a coconut?” Jamuna was shocked that Somu was asking such a question! He generally insisted that only the minimum food should be cooked. “Well”, she said, “with a big coconut, I can make about twenty five pieces and with a small one, I can make ten to fifteen pieces. Why do you ask?” “Well Jamuna… er…… The coconut barfi in the wedding was so good that I wanted to eat some more. I know it will be costly to buy it from the shop. Here at home, you can use the ghee we sell from our cows. I need to buy the coconut and some sugar only. So… I thought if I can buy …..”
Jamuna was pleasantly shocked. She was a good cook and loved making good dishes but had to restrain herself due to the miserly nature of Somu. “Yes, yes,” she said with glee, “please buy a coconut and I shall make the most delicious barfi for you”.
So, with one silver coin (rupya), Somu set out to the shop. He went to a vegetable vendor and asked him the price of a coconut. “one rupya” said the vendor.” How many do you want?” Somu was shocked. He had not bought a coconut for months together and so he said, “One rupya! Atrocious! Can you not give it to me for twelve annas ?” Twelve annas equalled to almost seventy five paise. The coconut vendor looked mockingly at him and said, “Twelve annas? You walk down two miles and you will find the whole sale vendor who will give you for that price”.
“Okay”, said Somu and walked down two miles in the hot sun. He came across the wholesale vendor and went to him and asked him the price. “Twelve annas” said the vendor. “Are you looting?” asked Somu, “you are a whole sale vendor and you are selling at such a high price. Give me at eight annas”
The whole sale vendor looked at him in anger and said, “eight annas eh? Go down the road for another three miles and the coconut farm is there. You will get it there. Hmm!”
“If it will be that cheap” thought Somu, “I do not mind walking that distance” And so he set off to walk the three miles, puffing and panting and soon he reached the farm. There was a small shop outside with only the guard there and Somu told him that he wanted one coconut and asked the price. The guard was shocked as he had not seen anyone coming all this distance walking for the sake of just one coconut. “eight annas” said the guard. “what” said Somu, “I have walked all this distance and you are wanting eight annas? Give it for four annas”. The man looked at Somu wondering if he was mad. The in a fit of anger he said, “Oh, you have walked all this distance for this is it? Then why don’t you walk to the outskirts of this town and you will find coconut trees on the sides of the road. You can yourself climb and take how many ever for free!”
At the mention of the word “free” Somu pricked up his ears and started to walk in that direction immediately. He reached the outskirts and to his delight, found four coconut trees which belonged to no one. He was even more glad to see all of them with ten to fifteen coconuts each. “This is the best decision” he thought to himself.
He did not know how to climb a coconut tree though he had seen persons climbing coconut trees but if he had to ask anyone to climb, he would have to spend money and so he took off his towel from his shoulder and tied it around his legs like a rope and somehow grappled the trunk and after huffing and puffing for an hour, reached the top. He had imagined he could just pluck the coconut easily, but it was so difficult without a knife. He tugged and tugged at the coconut and plucked one. He wanted another one and succeeded in getting another.
Now, with two coconuts in hand, he could not climb down. As he tried to carefully slide down, “chhhharrraak….” his leg slipped. Shocked, Somu hurriedly caught one of the leaves (known as frond) and in the hurry could not save the coconut in that hand. “Chapppaaakk…” It fell in the canal nearby. His leg also slipped and in a second, he was hanging holding his one hand on to the frond . He held the coconut in the other hand.
“Help… help” he yelled at the top of his voice, his body dangling in the air. There was no one nearby. “hello… is not any one nearby? Hello…” he shouted. No use. Nobody was in sight. He cursed himself for wanting to eat a coconut barfi and cursed his cousin for serving the tasty barfi at the wedding prompting him to go on a coconut hunt!!
He hung on to the frond for some time yelling and shouting and after about half an hour, he spotted someone. Yes.. there was a man coming on an elephant. Somu raised his voice and started shouting again. The man noticed Somu and came nearby. “Help me Sir.. please…” Somu was almost in tears. The man looked at Somu and said, “Look here, I am a senior person in the king’s army and am on a job given by the King. What will you give me for the time I waste in helping you huh?” Somu’s plight was such that he would have to give anything the person demanded. “What do you want Sir?” asked Somu hoping that the fellow would not ask much.
“Five hundred rupya” , said the man. Somu almost dropped down in shock. Then, composing himself , he said, “Ok Sir, please bring the elephant below the tree. I shall give what you ask” The man brought the elephant below the tree below the frond onto which Somu was hanging. There was still five feet between the elephant’s back and Somu. The man said, “I will stand up on the back of the elephant and help you get down.” So saying, he stood up reaching Somu’s leg , expecting the elephant to stand still. Alas, at the same time the elephant spotted the coconut lying in the canal nearby and moved ahead to pick it up. The sudden jerk upset the man and in the process, the man caught Somu’s leg and the elephant moved from under his feet!!
What a sight to see it was!! Now, instead of one, two were hanging one after another from the coconut frond and the elephant was wandering somewhere nearby. “Help… help…” Both of them shouted. The man was cursing Somu. “The King had given me an important job and now if it is not done…. What a fool I was to come and help you…”
Just then a man on horse was going by. Luckily he happened to be working in the army under the man on the elephant. “Hey Kumar” shouted the man hanging on to Somu’s leg, “come here and help us to get down”. The man looked up and almost burst out in laughter to see the comical sight but held himself in fear of his boss. As he came near, the elephant rider said, “Come quick, this fellow has made me late for work. I will lose my job” And briefly he told the horseman what had happened. The horseman looked at Somu and said, “Okay I will help you but you will have to pay me two hundred silver coins” Somu almost had a heart attack and in the shock dropped the other coconut. It hit the horseman on his shoulder. The man looked up with anger and said, “How dare you throw the coconut on me? I will not help..” and started moving.
“Wait.. wait.. wait” said Somu, I shall give you three hundred silver coins. Please.. please help” The man waited for few minutes and then decided to help them. Slowly, he brought the horse near and told them to balance and get down on the horse. The elephant rider got down skilfully as he was used to such things, but Somu in his hurry jumped with a thud on the horse’s back that the horse jumped with shock and Pachaaaak…,Somu was thrown to the ground. He got hurt but had no time to fret as the elephant man and horseman were peering down at him demanding his address to come and get their share of money.
After they left, Somu picked up the coconut and trudged home slowly. He reached by evening and Jamuna was shocked to see his state. “Take this coconut and keep it in the almirah safely” said Somu. Jamuna was puzzled. What about the barfi, she thought. “Arre, do not imagine even of the barfi. This coconut is very very costly. It cost me eight hundred silver coins!!
Jamuna fell down with shock not at the price but at the fact that her husband spent so much and was telling it coolly to her!!