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The Power of Truth

Dear Readers,

It’s a long time since my last story…

Now, I bring to you, a folk tale from my own state, Tamilnadu.

Long long ago in the present state of Tamilnadu, there lived a young man by name Perumal. Perumal was extremely intelligent but very lazy and had fallen into bad company in his childhood. As a result he was an expert thief whose every word was a lie. He drank a lot and gambled and had all the bad habits of which he was not a wee bit ashamed.

Perumal’s parents had died when he was only three years old and he had been brought up by his paternal grandmother, the only person who was very fond of him and the only person whom he was very fond of. She loved her grandson so much that in spite of his having all the bad habits, she never reprimanded him.

On the back of her mind though, she was much worried about Perumal’s future especially with the recent taking over of the prince as the new king of their kingdom. The prince was known for his honesty, bravery and intelligence.

“What if my Perumal gets caught red handed one day?” the old lady used to worry. “What if he is given capital punishment by this new king?” The very thought sent chills down her spine. She had no one to look after her and could not imagine a life alone. She shuddered to think of her grandson spending his whole life behind bars or being banished to some distant land where he would have no one. In those days banishing one to some far off land or island was a common punishment.

“I will have to start reforming this boy” she thought to herself, knowing that this was not going to be an easy task at all. She pondered on this thought for a few days and one day after Perumal had come back to his house after way-laying and robbing some tourists, she slowly broached the topic. She talked of how important it was to give up all the bad habits and seek a proper job and live a normal life. She went on and on, while Perumal was listening half-heartedly. He knew that she was speaking with genuine love and concern for him and he could not bring himself to say a flat “No” to what she was saying.

As he was fighting a mental dilemma of what to counter her with, as if striking a deal, she said, “Well, my grandson, let us do things one at a time, okay? As a first step, you stop telling lies. You will speak only the truth from tomorrow, okay?”

Perumal was sort of relieved that she was ending her sermon, and with no other option, agreed to her condition.

Over the next few days, Perumal went about stealing and robbing as usual. The next day was a new moon day and the new king who was known for his bravery, decided to go for rounds in the city at night.

New moon nights were days of bonanza for Perumal as he could rob more due to the absence of moonlight. In those days electricity was unknown, and street lamps would be lit with oil and would go off once the oil was exhausted. So Perumal had started late at night and was roaming around deciding where to strike.

The king sporting a beard and a cloth covering his whole face except his eyes was coming on his horse and at the same time Perumal was also coming out of a bush nearby. The quick eye of the king caught Perumal and Perumal also saw him and hesitated for a moment as he was on a horse.

“Hey you!” shouted the king, dismounting from his horse, “who are you, where are you from and what are you doing in this late hour of the night huh?”

Perumal remembered his Grandma’s instruction on speaking the truth and said, “My name is Perumal and I am a robber. I live in the outskirts of this city and I am out for doing my work”.

The king was amused by this straightforward answer and decided to entertain himself. He said, “Well young man, if you want some real wealth, I can tell you where it is inside the palace and I can also show you the way in avoiding the security guards. Are you interested?” Perumal jumped at the idea. “Yes, yes, tell me” he said enthusiastically. The king took him behind the palace where there was a small trap door on the compound wall about which only the king knew.

“Go in through this door” he said pointing to the door. “Go around alongside the wall so that you will not be spotted by any one. When you reach the other side, there is a long rope hanging from a balcony. Climb up with the help of the rope and you will reach the window of the king’s chamber. Next to the King’s chamber there is a room with an almirah. You can take anything you want from there. Now go! I shall wait for you here”

Perumal also followed the instruction of the king and an expert robber he was, reached the room with ease. He opened the almirah and found some expensive clothes and pairs of sandals. He rummaged under them and found a box with three diamonds, nice and big, shining and sparkling. “Oh my luck! These would be worth so much of money” he thought. As he was going to take all the three, he stopped for a moment. “Will I need all the three? No, I think even one will fetch a large sum of money”.

With such thoughts crossing his mind, he finally kept one diamond back in the box and took the two diamonds. “I will give one to the fellow who helped me” he decided. He left the box open in the top shelf of the cupboard. The clothes and sandals which had also fallen down while he was rummaging the shelves, lay on the floor. The door of the almirah was left wide open.

He successfully came out unnoticed by the guards through the secret door and true to his word, the king was waiting in the same spot.

“Thank you my friend” said Perumal smiling at the king. “I found these… in a box in the almirah. Here, keep one for helping me” The king was pleasantly surprised at his magnanimity and asked him, “Were there only two diamonds in the box?”

Perumal, remembering his grandma’s instruction to speak truth and said “No, there were three of them. I thought of taking them all but then, thought that one was enough for me, but took another one for you and left one in the box”

The king took the diamond, thanked Perumal and said he had some urgent work and rode away. Perumal did not suspect anything and thanking his stars, went home.

The king, on reaching his chamber went to the room and checked the box and true, there was one diamond left. He left the things as they were.

Early in the morning, the maid who came to clean the room, saw the almirah open and many clothes and sandals fallen down. Shocked,she raised an alarm. She went and told the king who was in the next room that she suspected a theft.

The king acted surprised and called for his minister.

“Go and see what has been stolen from the almirah!” he ordered the minister as the minister went to check. He saw the open box kept on the top shelf with one diamond in it. He was aware of the three diamonds which had been gifted by another visiting king. He thought to himself, “What a fool the thief is! He has left one of the valuable diamonds behind!”

Now, this minister was not a man of integrity and another thought crossed his mind. “The King does not know what is stolen and so if I take this diamond and accuse the thief of stealing this diamond also, the king will not know. And if and when the thief is caught, the king will not believe him even if he tells the truth also, for the king will never believe a thief”.

Thinking so, he slowly looked around and there was no one to be seen. He quickly took the diamond and hid it in his belt.

He came rushing back to the king and said, “Your Highness! Nothing other than the three diamonds which were gifted to you, have been stolen. The thief should be flogged in public and banished from the country! Such audacity to rob from the king’s almirah! Hmph… The security guards should also be dismissed.”

“Did you see properly?” the king asked.”Is anything else missing?”

“Yes I did” lied the minister, ignorant of the king’s knowledge of the happening.

The king was seething with anger at the minister’s dishonesty knowing that it was he who had taken the third diamond. He called out to the guards.

“Go to the outskirts of the city and ask for a young man by name Perumal and bring him here right now!” he ordered.

The minister stood there not able to figure out what was happening.

In a short while, Perumal was brought in front of the king. He was terrified and stood before the king with his hands folded.

“Come on, narrate what happened yesterday night” commanded the king.

Perumal narrated the whole story truthfully without any hesitation.

The people around were surprised and the courtiers and minister had by now understood that the ‘man’ who Perumal told about was none other than the king.

The king loosened his cummerbund (a large cloth tied around the waist) and took out something and there it was, the second shining diamond!

“Search this minister!” the king ordered the guards. The minister was taken by surprise and the guards found the third diamond hidden between the cloth belt and the fold of his dhoti. The minister was shivering in fear.

“Well,” said the king, his eyes red with anger, “You had told me what punishment is to be given to the thief and the same shall be given to you! From today Perumal shall be my minister… till such time he speaks only the truth”

Perumal looked on with surprise and was overwhelmed at the luck which had come to him following his decision to speak the truth. With tears of joy, he thanked the king and promised to be truthful till he lived.

“Now, I want to tell another truth your highness!” he said to the king. “The truth is, everyone makes mistakes, just as I was living the life of a thief. Therefore everyone deserves a second chance. Hence it is my sincere advice that the punishment to the minister should be restricted to banishment for a few years. Let him be spared of the flogging. If he repents and changes, he can come back and it is for you to accept him or not”

The king agreed and Perumal became his able minister and lived a happy, truthful life thereafter.

How Rama became Maryada Rama

In ancient Andhra Pradesh, there lived a young boy Rama. This boy was extremely smart, intelligent and shrewd and could analyse any situation and judge people accurately.

In those days, whenever there was any matter in dispute judgement was given by the judge in the court of the King or by the King himself. In the kingdom where Rama lived, there was no judge in the king’s court and so the King used to deliver justice.

One day while Rama was sitting at the mandap near the temple pond, and chatting, he saw an old lady pass by sobbing and she looked as if she was in great grief.

Rama called her and asked her, “Amma, what is the matter? Why are you crying?”

The lady started crying profusely and said, “Beta, where will I go and tell this injustice? The King has ordered me to give a potful of gold coins as a punishment. Where will I go for the gold coins?”

Rama was puzzled and asked her to tell him her story.

“I am an old woman living here and I am earning a living by selling milk. One day four young men came to my house and gave me a pot for safekeeping. The pot was sealed and they told me that I should give it back to them only when all the four asked for it together”

“Then what happened?” asked Rama.

“Well, one day I was milking my cow in the backyard when one of the men came and asked me for the pot. I told him that I would give him the pot only when all of them asked for it, for which he showed me the gate of my house and told me to ask the other three who were there. I shouted from the backdoor which is very far away to the three men out there and asked them what they wanted. “Pot” they shouted back. “Give it to him.”  So, I gave the sealed pot to him and he went away. After some time the other three came to the backyard searching for their friend and asked for ‘a’ pot.

I got worried and told them that I had already given the sealed pot to their friend. I had committed a blunder. They were asking for a pot to buy buttermilk and drink whereas the fourth fellow tricked me into giving the sealed pot to him and ran away with it. The other three men got very angry that their money had gone due to my mistake. They complained to the king who has now ordered me to pay them a pot full of gold coins. In fact I did not even see the coins as the pot was sealed. What will I do now? My fate is sealed”.

Saying this, the lady started sobbing loudly.

“What sort of a judgement is this? I cannot understand!” exclaimed Rama. “If I were the judge, I would have delivered real justice.   Hmm. I do not know what the poor old woman will do…”

So saying, he left the place.

Unknown to Rama, one of the senior ministers of the king had observed the whole episode hearing every word Rama uttered. He went back to the king and told him what he had seen.

The king was angered that a common man should comment upon the judgement he had made.

The next day, Rama was sent for by the King. Not knowing why he was called for a puzzled Rama went to the King’s court.

He was surprised to find the old lady and three young men in two separate enclosures facing each other. The King looked at Rama and said in a stern voice, “Oh, you are Rama, are you? Under whom did you study law Sir? I heard that you were criticising my judgement in the case of this lady and the three men there”, he said, pointing to the lady and the three men.

Rama was not frightened. Keeping a cool face, he replied, “Who am I to criticise your judgement Your Highness? I just said that I could not understand your judgement.”

“Then, in that case,” said the King, “you can give your judgement in this case right now, here!”

“I am ready your Highness” said Rama, “but for the sake of understanding of the people here, I would like to recapitulate the case”. He went on to repeat the story he had heard from the woman about how four men had given her a pot and told her that she should give it back only when all of them demanded it together, how she was duped by one of them even though she thought all of them were asking for the same pot.

“Now,” said he, “Our King has told this woman to give the three men the pot of gold as she did not follow their instruction and in the process, the pot has been taken away by one of the men”. He continued, “There is nothing wrong with the King’s judgement, but….”

“But what?” thundered the King.

“I am just going to slightly modify your judgement your majesty” said Rama with a smile. “The lady has to give back the pot to them…”

As he paused, the three men who were in the enclosure were surprised and puzzled and the old woman was worried. The King was also wondering what different judgement was this going to be, when Rama continued, “Provided all the four of them come together and ask for the pot. That was the agreement wasn’t it?”

There was a thunderous applause from the audience and the King was pleased at the sharp mind and prudent judgement delivered by Rama. The old woman had tears of joy in her eyes and the three men looked disappointed that their joy was short-lived.

“I am very happy at your judgement Rama” said the King, “I need a person like you to assist me in my judgements. You shall be known as Maryada Rama henceforth and all cases shall come to you first for judgement”.

Rama was extremely happy that he had saved the old lady from trouble as he knew that the fourth person who took the pot and ran away would never come back to join this gang again.

Maryada Rama was famous for all the judgements he gave. There is also the story of the lost diamond where Rama, with his shrewdness delivered an excellent judgement.

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.

 

The Magic Grove


In ancient India, there lived in a village, a girl by name Prabha. She lived with her father as she had lost her mother at a young age. Her father had married again. The step mother Rambadevi,  did not like Prabha . She had also a daughter a little younger than Prabha. Even though she did not like Prabha, she could do nothing about it as her husband loved Prabha  more than his life and would not tolerate any nonsense towards his loving daughter.

Prabha was a very kind girl and used to tend to the cattle of her house very dutifully. She used to take them out for grazing and stay out for most of the day and thereby escaped Rambadevi’s  anger and hatred.

One day, Prabha had taken out the cattle as usual for grazing and had settled down under a shady banyan tree . She used to amuse herself by playing a  game with some shells. Just as she had sat down and taken the shells out, to her horror, she saw a snake crawling towards her very fast. Aghast and afraid, as she hurried to get up and run, the snake spoke.

“Young Girl, please protect me!” it said in a human voice, much to her surprise. It continued, “A man is coming to kill me. Please sit down and hide me under your leg. Pleeeease… please save my life”

The snake sounded so pitiful that Prabha gave up her fear and said, “OK dear snake, I will hide you, but please do not harm me”

“Never will I harm you” said the snake, “but please sit down so that I may hide under your legs”. The snake sounded really pathetic.

Prabha obeyed the snake and took her place again under the tree where she was sitting originally. She was wearing a flowing skirt and the snake immediately slid under her legs.

The next moment, a man came running with a fat stick . He stopped for a moment on seeing the little girl.

“Hey Girl”, he called out, “did you see a snake go by?”

Prabha kept a cool expression and nodded her head in the negative.

The man did not suspect Prabha and ran away further down.

Prabha lifted her leg and said, “Come out, snake. The man has gone”. But to her utter surprise, there was no snake there and the next moment she saw a divine figure suddenly appear and come beside her. Shocked and tongue tied, all that the girl could do was to stare at him in awe.

“Do not be afraid dear girl, I am a Naga from Sarpaloka” said the man. “You have saved my life and I want to reward you. What do you want? Tell me!”

The surprised Prabha fumbled for words for a few minutes, but then told the Naga that her wish was that fodder and shade should be available for her cattle always.

It was the turn of the Naga to get surprised. He was so happy with her selfless attitude and said, “Well, little girl, you are so selfless. I grant you the wish that there will be a grove around wherever you are . The grove will move with you when you move and stop when you stop. And, whenever you need my help, just call out to me and I will come and help you”  So saying the Naga vanished. Immediately lot of trees appeared around Prabha and the place became very cool. Prabha was very excited and extremely happy.

She wanted to tell her father at once and  got up and headed for her home. The trees followed her. It was indeed a Magic Grove. When she reached home and told her father what had happened, he was extremely happy while Rambadevi, was extremely jealous. However, there was nothing she could do.

Years passed and Prabha was a beautiful young maiden now. But her inner personality had not changed a bit. She was the same loving and kind girl.

One day, she was sitting under a tree as usual playing with shells, when the king of the country came on a hunting expedition. Seeing the nice trees, the king’s retinue thought that it was a part of the jungle ahead and expected wild animals there. To frighten the wild animals, they started to beat drums aloud. Prabha’s cows were startled and started running here and there. Prabha , not aware of why the cows were running ran after them and lo and behold, the trees also started moving much to the horror of the King who was suddenly left in the hot sun!! He was so shocked and kept staring at Prabha , with wonder.

After some time, he regained his composure and after some enquiries with the villagers, he found his way to Prabha’s house. Her father was so happy that the king had come and welcomed him to the best of his ability. After the customary welcome, the king came to know the story behind the magic grove. He was so impressed by the girl’s kindness and she was equally beautiful too that he wanted to make her his queen. Prabha’s father was overjoyed and immediately gave his consent and the wedding took place with great pomp and show.

Now Prabha had to shift to the palace and the trees went with her. The king did not mind it though. Rambadevi  was fuming at the good luck of Prabha. She was waiting for an opportunity to harm her.

A few years later, the king sent a messenger with loads of gifts to Prabha’ s house to convey the good news that they were expecting their first child. Prabha’s father wanted to see his daughter and sent word through the messenger that he would come soon. Rambadevi , surprisingly supported this wish of his and urged him to go soon and see Prabha.

“Whatever royal food she may have, she will miss home food at this time and you should carry a big laddoo for her”, she told her husband. Still surprised, he thought that her attitude had changed at the thought of her going to become a grandmother.

Rambadevi  then proceeded to make a big laddoo but mixed some deadly poison in it. She then packed it and gave it to the husband asking him to give it to Prabha. The old man took it and went on his way . It was a hot day and it was noon. He sat down under a big banyan tree and was soon  dozing off under the cool shade.

Now, this tree happened to be the home of a Yaksha ( celestial being) and this yaksha had supernatural powers and could sense that the man was carrying something bad. The yaksha got down and with his magical power took the laddoo being carried by Prabha’s father and replaced it with a laddoo he created with his powers. After a short while, Prabha’s father, got up, unaware of what had happened, continued his journey and went to the palace and saw Prabha and gave the laddoo. He stayed with her for a few days and came back to the village.

Rambadevi  was surprised  to see him come home happily for she thought he would come bringing the news of her ‘sudden death’.  She could not figure out what had happened as Prabha’s father said that Prabha enjoyed the laddoo.

After a few months, news came from the palace that a handsome baby prince was born to Prabha. Rambadevi  was burning with jealousy. However, she did not show her feelings and told her husband,  “We may be not so rich , but is it not our duty to bring our daughter home with her child? After all, she must be also yearning for parental support now. Go and bring her home. Tell the king that we shall send her back after three months. Hurry up, Go now! And, do not return immediately. The king may feel insulted. Stay there for a few days and then bring her!”

The father was really impressed at what he felt was a ‘sea change ‘ in her attitude. He happily agreed and  went to the palace to place this request before the king.

Rambadevi, in the meanwhile called  some expert well diggers secretly and asked them to dig the deepest well in the middle of their garden. “The mouth of the well should not be too wide” she told them, “but see that the well is as deep as all the wells put together in this village. If the job is done well, you shall have a bag of gold coins!”

The well was dug in a matter of days by the experts and she called her trusted servant and told him to cover the mouth of the well with some coconut palm leaves and then carefully made some floral pattern with grass and some rare flowers on top of that. Nobody could suspect that it was the opening of a deep well.

After a few days, Prabha came home with her baby and her father in a royal palanquin with lots of gifts and gold.  The Grove also accompanied her and once more her house was surrounded by the cool shade of the grove. Her  stepmother welcomed her with fake affection and cuddled the baby with great love. She treated Prabha to lots of goodies and spent time nicely with her.

After few days Prabha herself started believing that her step mother’s attitude had changed. One day, when the father had gone out, the stepmother called out endearingly, “Prabha… O Prabha dear, come out in the garden. You should get some fresh air.” Prabha went out leaving the baby in the care of her step sister. As expected, the new patch in the garden caught Prabha’s attention and she asked her step mother about it.

“Well Prabha, those are very special flowers. I got them specially for you.  They are as soft as silk and the scent of them will linger for months together in your hands. Go, see and touch them” said Rambadevi.

Prabha who was still a naive girl unwittingly stepped on the pattern when the grass beneath gave way and she fell in. “Aaaah……. I am falling!!  Save me….” she cried, and then remembering the Naga, she called out aloud, “O Naga! Save me… please…”

The next moment  the Naga appeared beneath her in the well and she landed in his arms.  Prabha was so relieved and told the Naga to take her back. “My child is alone there” she said. “Take me back to my house and I will go back to my husband”.

“Wait” said the Naga. “I will see that your step mother gets what she deserves and so do not hurry. You can stay in my palace in the nether world. Close your eyes”

Unable to disobey the Naga, Prabha closed her eyes and the next moment on the Naga’s command, she opened her eyes to see that she was in a beautiful palace with many attendants to take care of her needs.

In the meanwhile, Prabha’s father had returned and asked about his daughter for which his wife feigned ignorance. She said she found Prabha ‘missing’ and was herself in a state of shock. “I am afraid what the King will say!” she said and started sobbing. Then later on, she told her husband that she would manage when the King came. As expected the King came in a few days.  The step mother presented her own daughter with the child to the king.

Puzzled, the king asked, “Where is Prabha?”

“This is Prabha, your Highness!” said the stepmother. “Soon after she came here, she contracted a rare disease that has left her features changed. Please take her to the palace and get her treated by your doctors”

“But where is the grove?” asked the king who was not convinced by her answer.

The question was unexpected and the step mother said hurriedly “Hmmm… That  grove.. Hmm.. It has gone to water itself… It will come back..”

The king was even more puzzled as never had this grove gone to ‘water’ itself, but he could not find the grove or Prabha’s trace anywhere in the house. Reluctant as he was, he could not believe the version of Prabha’s step mother , but he could not do anything about it either. So half heartedly he took Prabha’s sister with his child back.  He was still suspicious about the whole affair and therefore  appointed an elderly nurse to be with the baby all the time. He had also shared with the nurse his suspicion about Prabha’s ‘disease’ and changed features  and asked her to be extra vigilant and tell him if she noticed anything strange.

In the meanwhile, Prabha could not bear the separation from her baby. She pleaded with the Naga to let her go and see the child.

“OK “ said the Naga. “You may go if you wish. But I will take you there every night and you have to come back to me by midnight after seeing your child. I am telling this for your good only and you will realise soon. If you do not return as promised, I will never hereafter answer to your calls” he said.

Prabha was very excited and happy and every day, she went after the palace had slept. She sneaked in through the balcony , saw her child , cuddled and fed him and put him to sleep in his cradle while her sister was happily sleeping in her bed. Prabha also saw to it that she always returned before midnight to the Naga.

Now, one day, in the morning, the nurse noticed stains of milk flowing from the lips of the baby and was surprised for it was she who cleaned his face before he went to sleep every day. This happened  successively in the next few days and the nurse reported the matter to the king who told her to be awake and find out. The following night, the nurse was in for a shock when she saw Prabha coming like a fairy and feeding her child. She pretended to be asleep and reported the matter to the king the next morning.

The surprised king also hid in the darkness near the balcony that night and as Prabha was slipping away caught her in an iron grip. “Leave me”, she shouted. “I have to go back to the Naga! Please leave me….” The next moment there were guards with lights and the bright lights shone on the face of Prabha and the king and the king sternly asked her what the matter was and why she was hiding. Prabha, told the king what happened, sobbing in grief. Her stained cheeks showed how much sorrow she was in.

The king immediately called Prabha’s sister and asked her . She was also afraid and confessed that she was also a part of the conspiracy. The enraged king immediately ordered capital punishment for mother and daughter but Prabha intervened. “Your Highness”, she said, “Please do not be so harsh on them. After all,  my step mother brought me up as my mother was not there and I should always be grateful for that. Please forgive them”.

“I appreciate your kindness Prabha “ said the king, “but the wrong doers must be punished. And so I am banishing them from this kingdom forever. You father can come and stay with us in the palace” .

The king’s orders were carried out and the grove had appeared and Prabha lived a peaceful and happy life with no need to call the Naga any more.

This is a story I have read in my childhood in Amar Chitra Katha. I have read it so many times and also narrated it to my children many many times that even today as I write,  the pictures of the story are vivid and evergreen in my memory. Of course there are tiny figments of my own imagination added here and there.

Seven Jars Of Gold

Once upon a time, there lived a barber in a city in central India. He was working at the king’s palace. He was a happy go lucky fellow and so even though he did not earn much he was always happy and cheerful. The king liked him for his cheerful attitude as he liked to see cheerful faces in the morning.

The barber’s house was quite far away in a village and he had to pass through a forest every day while going for work and coming home. He used to pass by a huge banyan tree in the jungle every day.

One day, when he was passing by the tree, he heard a booming voice. “Halt”, said the voice. The barber, though not frightened, was startled a bit by the voice.”Who are you?” he asked, looking around, as he could find no human being nearby.

“I am a Yaksha living in this tree”, the voice said. “I see you going past this tree everyday and I think you work in the city. Where do you work and how much do you earn?”

“I work in the palace and I earn just enough to make ends meet”, said the barber. “Why do you ask?”

“Well”, said the voice, “I am the guardian of seven jars of gold in the hollow of this tree. I like you and I want to gift them to you. You can take them to your house and if ever you do not need them, you can bring them back to me.”

The barber could not believe his luck. “I shall take them”, said he and eagerly peeped into the hollow of the tree trunk. To his utter surprise, he found that there were indeed seven closed jars. Without opening them, he took them back home and told his wife about his luck. The wife was indeed happy and eagerly opened the jars. To their surprise the barber and his wife found six jars full of shining gold coins, but the seventh jar however was only half full. They were disappointed at this discovery.

“I shall ask the Yaksha tomorrow. Maybe the balance of gold coins is in the hollow of the trunk itself!” said the barber to his wife. Already his mind was full of curiosity as to why the seventh jar was only half full. He could not stop thinking about the jars and his luck and could not sleep at all.

Early in the morning he left to meet the Yaksha. As he neared the tree he heard the Yaksha call out,”Hello friend, what is it that brings you here so early? It is not your usual time yet” “Er…well,l want to ask you something… One jar out of the seven is only half full. Why is that?”

The Yaksha replied,”It is like that only. You can fill up the jar with your earnings. And if ever you do not need the jars bring them back as they are, okay?” The barber nodded his head though he was puzzled and went home.he told his wife what the Yaksha told him.The husband and wife picked up a few coins from the seventh jar and the level reduced and they hurriedly put back the coins in the jar. The wife said,” Do not worry my dear! From now on we shall save whatever we earn and put it in this jar and fill it up fast.”

The barber went for work with a confused mind. He didn’t talk much, to the surprise of the king.He was also not smiling as usual. The king had never seen him this way but anyhow thought that he must be having some domestic problem and therefore did not ask him anything. The barber took his day’s wages and went home. His wage was a gold coin.

As soon as he went home, he dropped the coin in the half full jar. He told his wife,”For the next few days, we shall eat with whatever provisions are available, for, I want to fill the seventh jar.” “Okay”, said the wife. “The provisions at home will last for three days. But there are no vegetables for tomorrow.” “Never mind”, said the barber. Pluck the greens from the garden and cook them.” The wife agreed as she also wanted to see the seventh jar full.

Over the next two weeks the barber’s earnings went straight into the jar. The jar however seemed to be absorbing all that was put into it. The level of gold coins did not rise by even a millimeter. The barber and his wife were puzzled and worried. Why the jar was not getting full was the only topic they discussed amongst themselves late in the nights. The barber decided to do extra work and went to the market in the evenings to help another barber and thereby earned extra money. The wife took up a job as domestic help and earned some money.

However they spent a miniscule portion of what they earned towards their needs and put the major portion in the seventh jar. The coins in the jar however remained at the same level as it was on the first day. Due to their extra occupation, the couple hardly talked to each other these days. The barber had lost his cheer and wore a very worried look. He hardly joked or laughed when he heard anything funny.

The king was noticing the behavior of the barber. Initially he had ignored it but as days went by it was difficult for him to ignore the barber as the barber’s sullen face was affecting the king too. He did not feel good to see a constantly worried face with lot of mental burden every day in the morning.

One day the king decided that enough was enough. He asked the barber what the matter was. Though initially reluctant, the barber blurted out the cause of his worry. The king was quiet for some time. He was a wise man and could empathize with others and so felt sorry for the barber. “Do you want to be happy once again?”, he asked the barber. “Yes. Your majesty”, said the barber, his eyes filled with tears. “Will you do as I say?”said the king. “Yes Sire” said the barber willing to do anything for getting relieved from this mental torture. “Well then”said the king.”Go and. give back the jars of gold from wherever you got them from”

The barber knew that that was the right solution and he had also contemplated this. He had realized that the jars were the primary reason for his change in attitude and lifestyles and lack of cheer from his life. Almost instantly, he agreed to do what the king said and went home straight. “Bring the jars”, he told his wife, “let us give them back to the Yaksha.” The wife also had realized their folly and willingly brought the jars out.

The barber took the jars and hurried to the banyan tree. He placed them in the hollow and addressed the Yaksha in a cold voice, “Here! Take your gold coins back! I was a fool to have accepted them. They have robbed me of my happiness and have given me only sorrow”

The Yaksha replied, “You were a fool to have added all your earnings in the jar! And you cannot have them now as I already told you that I want the jars as I gave them to you.” The barber angrily turned to go back when he heard the Yaksha’s booming voice again.

“But you have to thank me , friend, for now you are wise to know that it is always better to enjoy what you have rather than going after what you do not have”. The barber went back, finally relieved and wiser and remained so for the rest of his life.

Somu And The Coconut

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!!

Gopal, The Jester, Again!!

Gopal was the jester at Raja Krishnachandra’s court. He was a barber by profession but entertained the king a lot with his sharp wit, that the king made him his jester.

The Raja had a peculiar habit that he believed that his day being good or bad depended on who he saw first in the morning.  So if his day was extremely good, the person whom he saw first on the morning would be rewarded and similarly, if he had any mishap, the poor guy who he saw first in the morning would be punished. This was a regular practice. Gopal, however, never approved of this. But he could never convince the king to change this bad habit.

One day, it so happened that the king saw his own brother-in-law, Virendhra first in the morning. Things went on smoothly until the king sat down for a shave. The barber came and started his work. Now, Gopal also happened to be there and was talking in his usual jovial manner, cracking jokes. For a particular joke, the king started laughing aloud and his whole body shook. In spite of the barber’s caution, he accidently caused a cut in the king’s face. Blood started oozing out of his chubby cheeks and the king cried out in pain and anger.

“That wretched Virendra should be punished!” he roared. “Today I saw him first in the morning and because of that, I have suffered this cut. Bring him to the court this evening and I shall give him a hundred lashes. Gopal tried to intervene and said,” Your Highness, it is not Virendhra’s fault….” “Shut up and tell the Commander to bring Virendhra to the court in the evening. “ Gopal decided that it would be best to keep his mouth shut and obey the king.

After a while, when the wound was dressed up, the king calmed down. He also got to listen to a nice musical programme in his court and by noon, he was in a happy frame of mind. Gopal came to see him in the afternoon. “Your Highness,” said he, softly, “I met the most unfortunate man a while ago. Poor fellow, just like you, he saw an unlucky face in the morning and as a result, has to suffer great pain. Krishnachandra was curious. “Who is that unlucky person, Gopal? Tell me and I shall banish him from the kingdom. Come on, who is he?”

Gopal hummed and hawed. “Er…. Er….  He cannot be banished from your kingdom, Your Highness. It is very difficult,” said he. “Why? Why?” said the King. “Is he so royal that he cannot be punished eh? “

“Exactly” said Gopal to the surprised king. “Now do not get angry Your Highness. The person is indeed a royal” As the king looked on more and more surprised, Gopal continued, “It is you, your Majesty!” “Me? “ thundered the King . “How dare you…” Gopal calmly said, “Your highness, you suffered only a cut in your cheek which has almost healed now. But look at poor Virendra. He saw your face first in the morning and he has to bear a hundred lashes on his back. For him, is your face not unlucky?  OK, I will go and ask the Commander to bring Virendhra, he has to suffer his fate hmm…”  Saying so, he got up and pretended to go when Krishnachandra said, “Gopal, thank you for enlightening me. What a fool I have been, for practicing such a superstition! Do not call the Commander; instead send an invitation to Virendra to have dinner with me! “

Gopal was indeed happy that this stupid practice had come to an end and he went away smiling to himself that his plan had worked!!

Blind Luck

This is a folk tale from the North of India.

Long long ago, there lived an old man near the city of Varanasi. His wife had died young and he had two sons. The elder one, Sonu, was blind at birth and the younger one Monu was a happy go lucky fellow hardly caring to educate himself or do any work.  Sonu, though blind had been bestowed with a rare power and that was to understand the language of the birds and animals. He would listen to their language and come to know of the happenings around him.

The old man had some wealth and so they were living peacefully. However, the man fell ill after some time and was lying in his death bed.

He called both his sons near him and said to Monu, “Monu, please do not leave the side of your elder brother ever. Even if you have to beg and eat, please take your brother with you and share the food. Please promise me this…” Monu kept his palm on his father’s palm and promised and the old man fell dead. After the rituals for the man had been performed, both the brothers sustained on the little wealth that had been saved by their father. After some time, the wealth was over and Monu started selling the assets one by one and finally sold the house also and spent the money.

Finally, they had to resort to begging. As his father had told him, he did not leave his blind brother and took him along wherever he went. The people of the city pitied the brothers in the beginning but slowly started to think that Monu being a healthy fellow could go for a job but had resorted to begging and they refused to give them food. Monu started feeling that his brother was a burden as he could not find food for himself and kept on thinking on why he should stick to the promise made by him to his father. So, one day, he decided that he would leave his blind brother in the forest. He told his brother that they were going for a walk and took him deep inside the forest and told him to stay there till he brought him fruits. He also bound one hand of his brother to a tree saying that since it was a new place, it would be difficult to locate him when he came back with fruits, if he went astray.

Sonu, being a simpleton, believed in what his brother said and waited under the tree, his one hand bound to the trunk of the tree. He kept on expecting his brother to come and he was feeling very hungry. Time passed but there was no sign of Monu. Slowly, it dawned on Sonu that his brother had betrayed him. He could sense that it was nearing evening. He could hear the shrill calls of the birds returning to their nests and could also hear the far off growls of the wild animals.

As he thought of his fate in the dark unknown forest, he was terrified. Further, he could not even run away because his hand was bound to the tree. After a few moments, he remembered that he had a small knife in his cummerbund. With the free hand, he pulled out the knife and cut off the ropes. Suddenly, he could hear the growls of the animals nearer and in sheer desperation, climbed up the tree to a safe height and sat on a branch.

As the sun set, many animals converged under the tree on which he was sitting. Amongst them were a lion, a cheetah and a bear. Though Sonu could not see them, being able to understand the language of the animals and birds, it was interesting for him to hear their conversation. Soon it was pitch dark.

“Hey cheetah!” said the lion, “Tell us some new secret you know!”

“Hmmm…… Well, do you know that this very tree under which we are standing is a magical tree?”

Sonu now pricked up his ears as the conversation continued.

The cheetah continued, “Do any one of you know that the pulp from the bark of this tree, if put into the eyes, can cure a blind man?” “Oh, is it?” asked the lion. Sonu, astonished at what he had heard just then, scratched the bark of the branch on which he was sitting with the knife he had and found that a pulpy substance oozed out. He applied the substance in his eyes and lo and behold! He could see even in the pitch dark of the night. He looked down to see a cheetah, a bear, a lion and various other animals and was amazed at his newfound sense.

The bear now spoke, “Hey, I know a secret too!” “What?” asked the others. “Did you know that the princess of this kingdom is always ill? And nobody knows why. But I know…” The animals looked amused as the bear continued. “There is a small black cat curled up underneath the princess’s bed and not even the princess or her maids or security guards know about it. The cat carries the evil spell of a witch. If the cat is removed from underneath her bed, the princess will be okay immediately. But the poor king not knowing this is asking doctors from all over the country to treat her…Ha ha ha…., now Lion, you tell us the secret you know”. Sonu listened with awe.

The Lion gave a growl and started his secret. “Hey buddies, do you know, there is a village by name Soonapur at the end of this forest and true to its name, the village has become very scarcely populated due to a strange happening there” Sonu and the animals listened with great interest. The lion continued, lowering his voice. Sonu had to strain to listen to what the lion was saying. “All the children in Soonapur die as soon as they are born and all the elders in the city are suffering from a strange illness for the past two months. Their spinal cords have become twisted all of a sudden and they are becoming hunchbacks. None of them know why this is happening and they are at a loss to know what to do to stop this happening.” The lion stopped and all the animals stared at him, expecting him to continue. The Lion continued, “There is an old Peepul tree near an abandoned temple in the village and there lives a black cobra in a hole in the tree. If anyone feeds milk to the cobra in a black pot early exactly at mid day, it will drink it and leave the tree. Then the spell of the village will be lifted”

Sonu had listened with total concentration and was extremely excited. Soon the voices were lowered and the animals slept under the tree. At day break, the animals got up and went their ways. Sonu enjoyed the brightness of the light which he was seeing for the first time in his life. He savoured the beauty of the forest, its trees, waterholes and all and slowly walked in some direction. Luckily he spotted the village Soonapur soon. He was surprised that what the lion had said was true. He enquired with the people about the tragedy and was pained to hear their story. He consoled them and promised that he would put an end to their tragedy by that evening. He got a black pot from one of the villagers and some milk and went in search of the abandoned temple. He found the tree and the hole before midday and placed the pot with milk in front and prayed with folded hands. After a while, a black cobra slid down from the hole and drank the milk and glided into the thick vegetation swiftly.

The next minute the people of Soonapur felt a tingle in their spines and were surprised to find their backs becoming straight. Sonu was returning from the temple, when all the people rushed out and showered him with lot of money and gifts. Sonu told them to wait until he went on another mission and promised that he would be back soon.

He walked on and on and by the night, reached the capital city. Though it was very late, he reached the palace and asked for an audience with the king. The gatekeepers refused but seeing his insistence, they went and reported the matter to the king. The king called and asked Sonu about his mission and Sonu claimed that he could cure the illness of the Princess. The King was furious as he thought Sonu was a joker and said, “Look here, I have tried the services of the best doctors in this country and it has been of no avail. If you have come here to play any kind of joke, beware! This sword of mine is very sharp and can chop your head in a second”. Sonu was least flustered by the king’s words. “Your Highness, said he, I am confident that your daughter will be up by tomorrow noon, and when I cure her, will you give what I want?

“Yes” said the king totally sure that the boy would be the prey to his sword the next day.

The next day, Sonu went to the chamber where the princess lay. The chamber was the highest room in the king’s fort and out of the window in the chamber; one could see the deep river gushing with fury miles and miles below. He asked all the security men and maids to leave and they all obeyed as it was the king’s order that Sonu should be given what he wanted, to cure the princess. Sonu went in and closed the doors. He opened the window and peered underneath the bed of the princess. The princess was in deep sleep. There was a tiny black cat curled up under the bed. In a moment, he picked it and flung it down into the river through the window.

After a while, the princess jumped up from bed. “Why was I sleeping so long? I am hungry” she said as Sonu opened the door to the curious onlookers which included the king. The princess ran up to the king and hugged him. “Papa, why did I sleep so long?” she asked in her sweet voice. The king saw that she was perfectly okay and was overwhelmed with joy. Even without Sonu asking for it, he offered the princess hand in wedding to him and overnight Sonu became a Prince, the son in law of the king.

He spent happy days and went back to Soonapur and met the people, who were very happy and showered him with gifts. As he was going back to the palace, he saw a beggar in tattered robes and the beggar was sobbing. Sonu recognised that it was Monu and went up to him and talked to him. Monu was extremely surprised at the blind luck which had befallen his brother. He was ashamed when Sonu was still affectionate to him even as he had ditched him in the jungle. He asked for forgiveness and Sonu, a good person he was forgave him readily and gave him money to start a new business and Monu turned a new leaf and they all lived happily ever after.

 

Ravana Humbled – Part III

This is the third story in the series Ravana Humbled where Ravana is humbled by a mere monkey.

Ravana was once flying across Kishkinda in his Pushpak. As he was deciding to land, he saw the monkey king Vali sitting on a rock facing the river Pampa and offering his morning prayers. Ravana landed at a short distance from him and walked out of his aircraft. Vali was deeply engrossed in his prayers so much so that he did not notice Ravana. Ravana got angry. “What impudence! This puny monkey pretends not to have seen me! He deserves to be humbled for this. I shall catch his tail which is the matter of pride for all these vanaras.”

Ravana then sneaked behind Vali to pull his tail. He caught the unusually long tail in the middle with his right hand and to his horror, the tail wound around his right hand! He raised his left hand to free his right hand and the tail wound it up too!  “Hey! Hey!” he shouted, but it was of no avail. He then sat down and tried to use his legs to free his hands, but to his dismay, the tail wound them up too. He was left hanging like a bundle to Vali’s tail.

Ravana thought that Vali would turn back after his prayers were over. But to his dismay, after the prayers were over, Vali stood up and increased his size massively and took to the skies flying towards the southern shore where the three seas met. He plunged into the sea and stood in the water offering prayers whilst Ravana was struggling to keep afloat in the water as he was bound by Vali’s tail.

Vali again took off and this time it was the eastern shore. Ravana, dripping wet and shivering could not even shout. With the dipping ritual over, Vali headed to the Himalayas. He circumambulated the Kailash still with Ravana hanging on his tail. Ravana was out of his wits and did not know what to do. He waited impatiently. Vali now headed back to Kishkinda. As he got down to Kishkinda, Ravana gathered all his might and shouted loudly yet sounding so weak, “Help” he said,” Let me go! Please let me free!” Vali turned to his side and saw but he could see nobody. “Whoever you are come in front of me!” roared Vali. “I can’t, I can’t” groaned Ravana “Errrrr… I am caught in your tail.”

Vali turned around and saw Ravana’s plight. Immediately he uncoiled his tail and surprised at seeing Ravana , asked with concern, “Are you not King Ravana? How did this happen??” Ravana was too ashamed to tell him the truth and said sheepishly, “Well… it was an accident. Let us not talk about it…”

Vali entertained Ravana as a king would be entertained and sent him home with lots of gifts after forging a friendship. Ravana returned on his Pushpak, humbled once again.

 

The Kingdom In A Seed

Long ago, the kingdom of Vidharbha was ruled by a just king by name Vidhyadhara. Vidhyadhara was very learned and wise and brave at the same time and so he was the perfect ruler of his country He was very much loved by all his subjects. The only grievance the people and the king had was that Vidhyadhara had no heir. The very thought that there was no successor to the king made the people and the king very sad.

Now, the king was a very avid gardener too. He took great interest in growing new species of plants and relieved his stress by spending time in his garden. He had great knowledge about various plants.

One day, Vidhyadhara called his minister and asked him to make an announcement to the public. The announcement was for a contest for the children of the kingdom. They were asked to come to the palace on a particular day.
On the given day, the gates of the palace witnessed a long queue of children waiting eagerly with their parents. Soon after, the king came out and said, “My dear subjects, as you all know, I am looking out for a successor to this throne of mine. I am now going to give you each a seed which you should plant in a pot and take very good care of. On the last Sunday of the second month from now, I would like you to bring me the pots and show me the progress and I will decide my heir accordingly.”The king then proceeded to distribute seeds of different flowering plants to each child present there. The parents and children were elated alike and all of them happily took the seed from him and went home.

Now, among the children who took the seed from him, was Suman, the son of a poor man. Suman came home and with the guidance of his father, prepared a pot with the best soil he could find and planted the seed. He poured just enough water every day and saw to it that there was enough sunlight. Weeks passed, but there was no sign of Suman’s plant growing. Suman then added some new soil and manure, but of no avail. He was deeply disappointed as the deadline was fast approaching.

On the appointed date, Suman’s father called out to him,” Suman! Are you getting ready to go to the palace? Today you have to show the pot to the king!” Suman was in tears. Sobbing, he told his father, “I…. will not… go….” On being asked why, he told his father that he could not face the king with his empty pot. Suman’s father told him, “Look my son, you have put in a lot of effort haven’t you? But the plant has not come up. You should not be disheartened. Go to the king and tell him that in spite of your efforts, the plant did not come up. At least the king will know that you made sincere efforts”

After listening to his father, Suman was not still reconciled, but could not disobey his father and so took his pot with only the soil in it and went to the palace with his father. This time again, the same long queue was there with all the children holding pots with beautiful plants, some with flowers and others with beautiful healthy leaves. Suman felt even more depressed looking at the happy children who were beaming with pride. He felt that the children were looking at him scornfully. And many of them were. Suman bent his head down in shame .

Suddenly there was a commotion and Vidhyadhara appeared from the entrance of the palace with his ministers. The children greeted him with shouts of joy. The king returned the greetings and sat on the special seat put there for him. One by one the children went to the king and showed their pots with the plants. The king did not show any emotion, but smiled at each kid as he saw the plant held by them. The kids who had shown the pots were asked to sit in the lawn nearby. Suman was the last child in the queue. Soon it was Suman’s turn.

With tears filled in his eyes and choking with grief, his head still hung, Suman slowly inched his way to the King. “Come my son”, said Vidhyadhara, as Suman came near. He lifted Suman’s chin up and asked him lovingly, “Where is the plant, my boy?” Suman could not contain his grief. “My plant did not come up your Highness”, he said, as he burst into tears. Sobbing uncontrollably, he continued, “I did everything to take good care of the seed you gave me… But… but…” and started crying loudly. The king put his arm around Suman and comforted him.He then turned around and said in a loud firm voice, “I have selected this boy to be my successor”.

The parents and other children who were waiting hopefully got up shocked at Vidhyadhara’s announcement. Vidhyadhara continued, “Yes, I have chosen this boy to be my successor. I was looking for integrity, sincerity and ability to admit failure, in my heir apparent. And this boy has it all!” The people around still could not understand what the king was saying.

Vidhyadhara continued, “I had given all the children roasted seeds on that day and asked them to bring the plant that grew out of that… and I can see that only this boy has been sincere to confess that the seed did not grow and he had the courage to admit what he thought was his failure. He is the right person to be my successor and rule this country righteously!! The seed that I gave was the seed of Integrity!”

Suman and his father could not believe their ears! It was a pleasant shock to them and now all of Suman’s wishes to study a lot and come up in life were going to come true!!

Morals:
 Truth always Triumphs.
 Honesty is the best policy

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