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.