Friends Indeed Are Friends In Need!

This piece is based what I recall in bits and pieces from my foggy memory of a story from that treasure – ‘Dravida Naattu Kathaigal’. An earlier piece at https://ksriranga.wordpress.com/2010/02/14/how-fate-was-outwitted/ was also from this source.

Part 1

Somdutt was orphaned when he was a small child in a village not far from the city of Ujjain. A kind guru took him to his ashram and brought him up like his own son. Along with his other disciples, he was also properly instructed in scriptures and shastras by the guru. Years rolled by quite peacefully until one day the guru summoned him to his side for some serious talk.

‘Child, you have learnt all that I could teach. Now it’s time for you to step out of the shelter of this ashram and see the world outside and seek your fortune. You may want to start with Kashi and visit other cities in the north.’

So shortly after, Somdutt set off to Kashi with Guru’s blessings and tips and a meager kit. The road to Kashi was well travelled and hence posed no problems. However on the second day, after passing through the city of Ujjain, Somdutt inadvertently strayed from the route and found himself deep inside a forest. As he was trying to get his bearing, he saw in front of him a well. The well appeared to good shape though with a low retaining wall. The sight of the well made him feel thirsty. He took out the chombu (a narrow necked vessel to hold water), and a rope from his kit. He secured one end of the rope around the chombu’s neck and slowly dropped it down into the well to draw water.

The chombu descended for a length and stopped. It seemed to have caught some obstacle. Somdutt carefully peered down and could not see anything in the darkness. Now the rope was also being tugged vigorously. A voice spoke from the depth: ‘My friend, kindly pull me out from here. You’ll come to no harm, I promise. Else, I’ll not let the chombu drop past me.’ Somdutt relented: ‘All right, climb aboard, I’ll pull you out.’ He pulled the rope out retrieving the chombu from the well. From the chombu popped out a rat. The rat thanked him profusely: ‘I’m the sole son of the Raja of Rats. Chased by a snake, I jumped into the well to escape. I’m deeply indebted to you for saving my life. So would be my father. If ever you need help, sit in a dark place and invite him. He’ll surely appear before you.’ And the rat scampered away into the bushes.

Resuming his efforts to fetch water from the well, Somdutt slipped the chombu again into the well. Again the chombu descended for a length and stopped catching some obstacle. A voice spoke from the depth: ‘My friend, kindly pull me out from here. You’ll come to no harm, I promise. Else, I’ll not let the chombu drop past me.’ Somdutt relented: ‘All right, climb aboard, I’ll pull you out.’ He pulled the rope out retrieving the chombu from the well. From the chombu popped out a snake. The snake thanked him for the rescue: ‘‘I’m the only son of the Raja of Snakes. Chasing the rat that you let out just moments ago, I foolishly jumped into the well. I’m deeply indebted to you for saving my life. So would be my father. . If ever you need help, sit in a dark place and invite him. He’ll surely appear before you.’ And the snake slithered away into the bushes.

The chombu again dropped into the well until it snared some obstacle. This time, Somdutt heard a voice that sounded more like a roar even in its plea: ‘My friend, kindly pull me out from here. You’ll come to no harm, I promise. Else, I’ll not let the chombu drop past me.’ Somdutt relented: ‘All right, climb aboard, I’ll pull you out.’ This time, he felt a heavy weight on the rope as he pulled it out with great effort. Moments later a ferocious tiger clambered out of the well. The tiger thanked him for the heart: ‘Do not have any fears, please. You’ll not be hurt in any way as I promised. I’m the son of the mighty Raja of this Forest. I chased a man who tried to bring me down with poisoned bait. He jumped into this well. In the heat of the pursuit, I too foolishly jumped in. I’m deeply indebted to you for saving my life. So would be my father. If ever you need help, invite him. He’ll surely appear before you.’ Before going away the tiger paused to warn Somdutt: ‘Yes, I must caution you as you saved my life. Don’t let the man out from there. You’ll regret if you do.’

Quite predictably the chombu was stopped by the man. He pleaded: ’You were kind enough to save these animals. I’m sure you are not so heartless to leave me to die here without help. Don’t pay any attention to what the tiger said. Please regard me as your own brother.’ Somdutt relented after moments of hesitation: ‘All right, climb aboard, I’ll pull you out.’ The man hung on to the rope as he was slowly pulled out. When he emerged from the well, he thanked a tired Somdutt for his kindness.

Finally Somdutt was able to fetch water unimpeded and quench his thirst.

The man learnt of Somdutt’s plans and offered to guide him out of the forest back to Ujjain and put him on the right track to Kashi. Once in the city, he invited him home. Somdutt had not seen much of Ujjain, but he was in a hurry to get to Kashi; he promised to visit him on his return.

And thus Somdutt was again on the road to Kashi.

(To be contd.)

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2 Responses to Friends Indeed Are Friends In Need!

  1. Sharmishtha says:

    you have reproduced the story quite accurately. its a sad but quite realistic story when it comes to capturing human nature.

    Like

  2. Nithya says:

    I remember this story! Good one

    Like

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