A tongue wags
June 16, 2012 5 Comments
A ‘wisdom’ folk-tale ends in a way to surely surprise even the jaded:
This is about a woman (it could as well have been a man) in the village that loved talking about her neighbors, friends and relatives. It was always their foibles, vulnerabilities and occasionally about ‘dark secrets.’ She never claimed authorship nor did she reveal the sources for these juicy tidbits that she circulated. It was ‘I had heard…’ or ‘Someone told me…’ Many women flocked around her to hear the latest from the gossip-mill and there were a few others that steered clear of her.
One day there was a knock on her door. Standing out she saw a family disembarking from a fine horse-drawn cart. They had mistakenly come to her house while actually looking for her neighbor’s. Her curiosity was aroused. She pressed on them to come in, offered them water to drink and began her inquiries. They were a well-to-do family from a nearby village, something she had guessed from their appearances and accompaniments and had come down to finalize marriage for their son with the neighbor’s daughter.
She readily expressed her immense happiness at the prospect of such a fine groom of pedigree and means for her neighbor’s daughter. The girl was beautiful, good natured and well trained in tradition. They were indeed lucky to find a girl like her. But then…
The visitors persisted in knowing what she had to say. After much persuasion she reluctantly let them know. There was a strong rumor going around that as a dharmakartha (care-taker cum manager) the father of the girl had misappropriated the village temple’s funds and assets. Thereupon the visitors thanked her for tipping them off and returned quietly without calling on the neighbor.
Days later, it was her ill-luck this time the neighbor somehow learnt what had happened. He was furious at the loss of a good alliance for his daughter. He dragged the woman to the village panchayat (administration) accusing her of making ill-founded insinuations.
Before the panchayat, she said she had not hurt anyone, she merely repeated whatever she had overheard at the temple. She had committed no offense or crime.
The panchayat chief was a wise old man. He pondered over the matter for a while before addressing the woman.
‘Take this piece of paper and pencil. Kindly write down without anyone seeing all you had said on this paper, tear it up into small pieces and throw them to the wind as you go home. And do come back tomorrow to hear my judgment.’
The panchayat assembled again on the following day and the village, curious to see how the chief would judge this matter.
The chief said to the woman: ‘Now please go and collect all the pieces of paper you had scattered yesterday and read it out before I express myself.’
The woman protested, ‘How is that possible? The wind might have carried the pieces far and wide. I wouldn’t be able to find them.’
‘It’s the same with loose and carelessly spoken words. The damage done to a man’s honor and honesty…is not easily undone…’ admonished the chief. ’A wagging tongue is worse than a wielded sword.’
A simple-minded forerunner to how in today’s times ingeniously planting disinformation is honed to a fine art and an awesome science and used as a weapon of strategy to make or break men, societies and countries.
Inspiration: funfunky.com and openclipart.com for the image.