Tenali Raman Shines Again – A Folk Tale For Kids

Once, Tenali Raman was permitted by his king Krishna Deva Raya ruling the renowned Vijayanagar Empire (VE) to visit the kingdom of Gajapati’s of Odisha at the request of the latter. On his way back, he broke his journey at Rampur, a small state with friendly relations with the VE.

After reaching the palace, he realized his visit was a little mistimed on learning about the recen happenings in the state.

*

The chieftain of the state was, for a month now, unfortunately down with an ailment – a painful stomach ache – that proved incurable till date. The prime minister of the state had organized experts in various different systems of medicine from all over the state and outside to come down and treat his master. With all efforts to no avail he was at his wit’s end on the next steps. It was then he heard about the arrival of a yogi from deep south on his way to Kashi. The yogi was reputed to have performed some incredible feats through his yogic powers. Where formal medicines have failed, maybe he could help. So the minister with the consent of his chief went ahead and made arrangements for the yogi to visit the palace and examine the patient.

The yogi on arrival was received with due honour and taken to the living quarters of the chieftain.  In the presence of the prime minister, the royal priest and the royal vaidya (doctor) he thoroughly examined the patient. When he was done, he turned to the vaidya and asked for some common herbs to be brought. Mixing honey, he pestled the ingredients into a gooey paste. Gesturing the two to silence, he sat down and for some good ten minutes chanted some esoteric mantra’s invoking Agni, the god of fire, keeping the paste in a shallow dish in front. Done, he handed over the dish to the vaidya for use.

And taking the prime minister aside he asked in a low voice:

‘Sir, speak truthfully, just between us when did you utter a lie, a lie of any kind, last?’

The minister was taken aback at the question so suddenly sprung on him. Recovering his poise, he said a little abashedly, ‘Yesterday, night, to my lady…before we went to sleep.’

The yogi wanted him to continue.

‘My wife has been pestering me for quite some time to get her a necklace like the one worn by our queen during last Dussehra (festival). I bought peace with a promise I’ll get one before the next Dussehra though I’ve no idea or the means on how to; and yesterday night I had to repeat myself when she brought it up.’

The yogi smiled.

Moving on to the vaidya he asked the same question. The vaidya too unprepared. He collected himself and confessed many a time he had given placebos to patients in the name of medicines though it did prove beneficial in number of cases. Would that be considered as lying?

The priest admitted to not being truthful when in his zeal he blessed devotees with aayush (longevity of life), arogyam (health) and aishwaryam (wealth) though it was in no way within his means to deliver or ensure the same, instead of praying for the same to the almighty on their behalf. Misrepresentation, right, was he lying?

Addressing them, he said: ‘this medicine is now invested with the power of agni to burn his ailment; giving three spoonful’s at one shot would cure him of the illness. Next morning he should up and about. But for now let it stand under the hot sun for a couple of hours before using it.’

In just three spoonful’s the stubborn ache gone? So potent? Incredible! They were visibly overjoyed.

The yogi continued: ‘Not so soon…there’s a condition, not easy to satisfy. It must be given to the chieftain only by someone who doesn’t speak a lie at all for any reason, good or bad. Anyone who does not qualify and yet tries to administer the medicine, would face intense heat of agni first and if he persists he would be burnt alive. So be very careful who you chose. Also remember the medicine would lose its potency in about three days from today- ah, wear this kappu (amulet) around your wrist and you’ll not come to any harm handling the medicine. Of course it won’t still let you…’

Nothing more to do, the Yogi took leave to continue his journey.

*

The inner council got down to the job immediately – they knew it was not going to be easy to find such a soul if there was one at all in mere three days. They brainstormed on how to go about. All kinds of ideas were thrown up, nothing appeared promising. Drawing a blank, they finally decided to broadcast a message right away covering all parts of the state inviting anyone who thought he qualified with a promise of a rich reward for the right man.  

So criers were dispatched expeditiously in all directions with the message however without disclosing the details of the sickness their chieftain was suffering from for the fear of demoralizing the entire populace.

In the following two days about fifty people, young and old, men and women turned up. There was no way the officials could check on their claims except lead them directly to handle the medicine set on a table a few feet away from the patient’s bed. No surprise not one of them could go near the table without getting badly singed.

Third day morning, the priest, the prime minister and the vaidya got together to contemplate their next move; and there was no next move they could think of. End of road. It was precisely at this moment of utter despondency, Raman landed at the palace.

*

Raman heard intently as they narrated to him all about the stricken chieftain, their efforts and finally the yogi’s prescription and the impossible challenge for them.

They were disappointed when all Raman said was he wanted to rest for a while and come back to join them.  His reputation had led them to expect much more.

Anyway, they sent an attendant to take Raman to his quarters, make him comfortable and stay with him to attend to his needs.

It was after lunch. They had resigned to the inevitable. The attendant came running.

‘Why, what happened?’ the minister inquired listlessly.

‘Sirs, an hour ago, sahib came out and spent time talking to the palace guards – about six or seven – one at a time in the gardens. He finally settled on our Ratna, the tall guy with a handlebar moustache, you know. When he finally parted, I overheard him tell Ratna to go home and get his son within the next hour without fail. When the latter hesitated about leaving his post without permission, sahib assured him it was alright, it was for the good of his master and the state and he would personally vouch for him. Don’t know what had transpired between them. Couldn’t talk to Ratna either as he had left for home to fetch his son.’

‘Intriguing! He has asked for Ratna’s son, and he assured him it is for the good of his master…at this time, I’m sure he’s as serious and concerned as we are and not engaged in any frivolous caper, so what’s going on here?’ the minister thought loudly.

‘I agree,’ the vaidya chimed in.

‘I think I got it,’ suddenly the priest jumped in excitement and ran to the gardens at the back.  In a few minutes he returned.

‘I have spoken to Ananta, the short stocky guy, and asked him to get his son here right away. He’ll be here anytime now.’

‘Care to tell us what’s happening? A children’s party for god sake?’ the tired minister shook his head.

Arre ram, don’t you see, we were stupid to go through all that…’

The other two were not amused by that bit of inclusive self-deprecation.

‘You know, Ananta’s son is about four years old. Would he know what lying is?’

The ‘penny’ dropped.

‘Great, simply brilliant,’ exclaimed the minister. ‘We’ve cracked it.’

The priest let go – this wasn’t the time to contest the collective ownership and credit for the solution.

Shortly Ananta came in with Veeru, his son. The child looked a little scared at all the attention he was getting suddenly.

The priest explained to the father what needed to be done and the father made it easy for the child. All the child had to do is to take the dish on the table, walk up to the bed and feed the willing man a spoonful of the paste. Just like his mom fed him over dinner. Likewise two more spoonful’s. As simple as that. Ananta made it a fun thing for the child – imagine a child feeding a grownup. Yes, it would be fun – Veeru perked up.

No sooner the child neared the patient with the dish carefully held in his hands, he shrieked and stepped back in horror. What had happened? It was like getting too close to fire, intolerably uncomfortable.

With great difficulty they coaxed the child to try once again. The second round was even shorter.

The four of them could not figure out what was happening. There was no question of a third round.

*

Just then Raman walked in with Ratna and his kid Sambu. One look at them, the unhappy Veeru almost in tears and his own crest-fallen attendant told him everything. Disregarding it for the present, he explained to Sambu what needed to be done.

With no fuss, the child did just as instructed within a couple of minutes! The chieftain took the spoonful’s and almost immediately fell into deep sleep, his snoring could be heard from where they stood.

They were nonplussed except for Raman.

The children were sent away with their father packets of candies for their efforts.

The looked at Raman.

Raman explained: ‘So this guy,’ pointing to the attendant, ‘was snooping on me, eh? Anyway, don’t you worry, no harm done. Well, it is right no child at that age knows what is truth and what is not. Whatever he sees or hears is the truth, the reality for him. There is a ‘but’ to it. If the child comes from an unhappy home, suffering at the hands of parents who are strict, impatient or even given to violence, the child begins to speak lies simply to escape from punishment. You should have checked like I did before bringing the child in.’

Next morning, Raman was seen off with generous gifts by a grateful and fit chieftain though a little sad his guest did not extend his stay despite his request.

End

Image from goodreads.com

A Fisherman’s Net And Wit – A (Very) Short Story For Children

King Khusro of Persia was very fond of fish. One morning he was sitting on a terrace with his wife Shirin when a fisherman came in and presented a fish to him. It was large and of a rare kind. The king was quite pleased. He summoned his servants and ordered them to pay a hundred silver pieces to the fisherman.

Shirin was annoyed that the king was gifting away so lavishly. As soon as the man went out of sight and hearing, she said, ‘Look, a hundred silver coins for a fish? Ridiculous. You’re setting up a precedent – you’ll be expected to pay on this scale for all time to come. Now call this man and return the fish to him on some pretext and take the money back.’

‘But dear, it doesn’t become of a king to ask for the money back. Let this pass for now.’

‘This shall not pass. There’s a way to deal with it without appearing to be mean. Call him and ask if this fish is a male or a female. If he says it’s a male, ask for a female and if it’s a female, ask for a male, and cancel the payment.’

Not wanting to displease his dear lady, the king acting upon her counsel called the fisherman back and asked him the question.

The fisherman bowed before the king and said, ‘This fish, my lord, is both male and female, lays eggs all by itself.’

The king burst out laughing. And quite instinctively ordered another hundred silver coins to be given to the fisherman.

As he walked out with the bounty, the man dropped a silver coin that fell and rolled out of sight.

The man stooped down searching high and low for the missing coin. Quite a while later, he managed to find it which he put away safely with great care.

All this happened in full view of the royalty reposing on the terrace.

‘What a mean guy? See how he goes down looking for one measly coin instead of letting it go for some poor man to find it!’ Shirin observed.

The king called the fisherman back and berated him for his meanness:’…with all those coins from me, yet you were not generous enough to let some miserable chap find one…’

The man bowed before the king: ’My lord, if my king picks up from dust a fisherman like me worth nothing, is it any wonder I pick up a coin fallen to the ground? Also, the coin on one side has my king’s image engraved and his name inscribed on another.  How could I abandon the coin to be found god know when if ever. And what is to prevent someone carelessly step on it?’

Amused by his cleverness and wit, the king offered him another hundred silver coins!

The lady had no further counsel to offer in the matter.

End

Source: A story in Chandamama, August, 1955, lightly edited. Image from financialexpress.com

When The Gold Went On A Trip – A Children’s Story

Part 1

In a village off Ujjain, there lived a merchant Sukhdev. He had a shop in the town selling fabric and garments. He did brisk business and built up his wealth over the years.

Presently, a spate of robberies took place in his and neighbouring villages targeting the community of merchants and traders. When the King’s soldiers were brought in, the robbers would lie low; and resume their nefarious activities once the soldiers withdrew.

It made Sukhdev nervous; he knew for sure sooner or later he would be visited too.  A mitigating factor in his favour was: being a miser by nature, his Spartan household and life-style gave no hint of his affluence or the gold he had hoarded.  Nevertheless he decided to act.

One day, his son and he loaded the casks with his gold on a couple of donkeys, threw some clothes over to make it appear he was taking merchandise to the market. They marched off to a jungle just beyond the village. Keeping their eyes peeled for any observer or follower, they reached an abandoned temple inside the jungle, a place no one ventured to. Holes were dug in the ground with the help of the tools they carried. Carefully, without making noise, they carried the casks and lowered them one by one into the hole. Half-way through the job, the son paused.

‘Father, I think there’s someone out there. Let me go and look,’ he said, pointing to a thicket at some distance.

‘Take these with you, there could be some wild creatures,’ the father gave him some small tools.

After a while the son returned: ‘Just as I suspected, there’s a man lying there. Looks to be a beggar. Not to worry, he’s dead. Probably starved without food. Just to be sure, I nicked his ear. No sound or motion, dead as stone.’

They moved more casks.

This time it was the father: ‘Let me also go and check. It’s better to be doubly certain – this is my life-savings.’

He too returned in a few minutes, ‘You’re right, Son, the poor guy is gone. Like you did, just to be sure, I nicked his other ear. He won’t be needing them anymore.’

They finished their job, all the casks lowered into the hole. The hole was filled back with the dug-out earth, the surface flattened, dead leaves spread over, all to leave no signs of the spot having been dug up.

That night and the following, they slept peacefully.

Part 2

The man was not dead yet. A destitute who had hit the end of road and did not even have the energy to carry out what he contemplated – suicide. Starving for several days, he had fainted near the bush.

The sharp pain on his ear-lobe woke him up to see someone attack him with a sharp tool. Fearing worse, he simply played dead biting the pain somehow.

His attacker withdrew to a spot ahead where an elderly man was burying in the ground some urns.

Ignoring the pain he watched the proceedings.

After a while he saw the elderly man heading in his direction.

Quickly he resumed his posture.

He felt being kicked a couple of times and then a sharp pain this time on his other ear.

With great difficulty, he once again played dead.

Luckily for him, the elderly man went back to the spot without inflicting anymore damage.

And in a short while he saw them both leave all the time looking around for any prying eyes.

He waited. They could come back looking for something they had forgotten.

Once the coast was clear, he mustered his last ounce of energy, not minding the throbbing pain, made it to the spot, clawed away the soil with bare hands to reveal close to the surface the lid of a cask.

He took the lid off and peered into the cask. Thrust his hand in and grabbed a fist full of coins in gold and silver. That would set him up nicely to begin with, he thought.

Part 3

Monsoon arrived with a bang in Ujjain and the surrounding villages. Torrential rain caused streams of water to wash away anything in their way.

Sukhdev was worried. It would be calamitous if the top soil was carried away and the casks were exposed.

At the first instance of the rains letting up he son and he went back to check if the casks were safe in their place.

To their shock they found the hole uncovered and the casks missing. They looked around for any clues and found none.

They returned home devastated.

His son gathered his wits and said: ‘Father, we’ll find him and recover our treasure.’

‘How? We don’t know who took it.’

‘Did you notice one thing – we never got any news at any time of a dead-body being found in these parts? Because he was not dead. He saw us burying the casks…took them away after we were gone. That’s him, the guy we saw.’

’‘Be it so, how do we find him? We know nothing about him.’

‘Nothing? Father, don’t forget we nicked his both ears.’

‘How do we still find him in the multitude? Do we go around entire Avanti looking at people’s ears? You’re forgetting one more thing. Even if this guy walks right past us, we won’t figure out.’

‘Why so?’

‘Simple, because he is head would be encased in a turban. Notched ears are no badge of heroism to flaunt about.’

The old man had a point…in fact, several points, the son thought.

Part 4

Days, months passed. The son was no nearer to figuring out a way.

Two years later,

It was a Sunday. It was a once-a-month ritual: The old man was sitting there in the back-yard getting his hair cut by a barber. To be followed by an oil bath.

The man was not his usual self looking woebegone.

Sensing it, the barber tried to perk him up by engaging him in small talk and some village gossip: ‘I shouldn’t be saying this…but you know your neighbour’s son is losing hair at his young age…’

Suddenly an ‘Ah’ moment. Who would know but the personal barber?

He checked if the barbers networked among their kind.

They did, it turned out, directly or indirectly.

That’s it – he tasked the barber to find out through his network, for a handsome fee, the whereabouts of a man in thirties, possibly quite rich, with both his ears nicked.

Part 5

It was about one long month before they struck pay dirt.

On the far side of the city, he was spotted. His ex-barber whom he had dismissed recently spilled the beans. The man was a top jeweller in the city claiming several royal families among his clients.

The father and son rushed to meet the dismissed barber. They assured themselves the jeweller was indeed their man. It was easy to find out where he lived. It was a huge mansion guarded like a fortress by armed staff.  All their attempts to gain an entry or even get a message through to him failed.

They thought enough about the options and decided to approach the King. Though the King himself could be one of the clients for the jeweller.

The King holding a public court was easier to reach; he heard them out and summoned the jeweller to appear before him.

When he arrived, the father and son recognized him despite his opulence. But he could not; for, he had only seen them from a distance and when they stood close on that occasion his eyes were shut playing dead.

The King briefed him on why he was summoned to the court.

The jeweller looked at the complainants for a few moments. And then he readily admitted:

‘Yes, I did take those casks away from where you had buried. I used part of the gold in one of the casks as capital to start and build my business in gems and jewels. And whatever I’m today, it is the fruit of my labour. The remaining stuff, in fact, remains in a safe room even today untouched. Was planning to…’

The father and son breathed a sigh of relief. At least good part of their hoard still remained intact.

The jeweller further offered: ‘…it is okay by me for you to cart away your stuff anytime you wish as long as I’m adequately compensated for what you did to me.’

The son countered: ‘What you took from one of our casks – wasn’t that already an adequate compensation? We thought you were dead – why didn’t you scream when you were hurt?’

’I feared for my life. You were two, ready with tools and here I was sprawled on the ground…’

The wrangle was cut short by the King.

‘Listen, folks, here’s what I think,’ the King turned to the jeweller: ‘Thankfully you admitted to it without any run-around. Knowing you to be an upright person of ethical practices, I want to be fair to you. There’s a choice for you: Either you similarly nick the ears of these two and return all the casks, making good what you took from them or simply let them go with their casks as they are now.’  

The jeweller thought for a moment like a businessman he was. Was notching the two worth the gold he had taken? He decided against and opted to return the casks as-was.

When they received the casks, the father and son checked: five carried their original seals.  The sixth with its seal opened…

…too was full to its brim.

It was his ‘Thank You’ for starting him off to a meteoric success.

End

Source: Inspired by a story in Chandamama (1955), Images from Saddle Ridge Hoard discoverers via Kagin’s, Inc. and shutterstock.com

Vikram And Betaal – A Story For Children

Vikram Aur Betaal or Vedalam stories are well known and the staple of many a story teller, grandma’s included.

It is originally based on ‘Betaal Pachisi’, written nearly 2,500 years ago by Mahakavi Somdev Bhatt. These are spellbinding stories told to the wise King Vikramaditya by the witty ghost Betaal.

The fabled King ruled over a prosperous kingdom from his capital at Ujjain. He had immense love for learning as well as for adventure. He was brave, fearless and with a strong will. Everyday he received many visitors who always brought gifts for him. Among such visitors was a mendicant who presented the King with a fruit on every visit. The king would hand over the fruit to the royal storekeeper. One day while handling the fruit, it broke and from the pop came out a ball of brilliant ruby. The surprised King ordered checking all the fruits, and, yes, from all of them yielded a fine ruby. He decided to meet the mendicant. However, the mendicant set a condition that the King must meet him under a Banyan tree in the center of a cremation ground beyond the city, at night, on the 14th day of the dark half of the month.

The King met him as decided. Asked the mendicant why he was doing this. There upon the mendicant said there was a task that only a King like Vikramaditya could accomplish. The King had to visit the northern-most corner of this ground where he would find a tree immeasurably old. There would be a corpse hanging from one of its branches. He must fetch it for the mendicant; for, the mendicant was seeking certain occult powers he would get only if a King brought down this specific corpse to him and if he practiced certain rites sitting on it.

Vikramaditya, obliged the mendicant. He would remove the corpse from a treetop and carry it on his shoulder. En route, the spirit in the corpse (Betaal) would narrate a story to the laboring King and on completing the story Betaal would pose a query. If he (the King) knew the answer, was bound to respond lest his head exploded into a thousand pieces. But if he did speak out, he would break the vow of silence and Betaal (in the corpse) would fly back to the treetop, leaving the King short of his destination! The King would go after the ghost and start all over again. And so on and on.

As the name ‘Betaal Pachisi’ suggests the Betaal told the King twenty-five stories. However, looking at the determination of Vikramaditya, Betaal finally disclosed the true motive of the mendicant. The mendicant’s plan was to practice certain rites sitting on Betaal (in the corpse) but he would also kill the King to get all powers to rule over the world. This put the King on the alert. In the end Betaal proved to be right and the mendicant tried to kill the King. However, Vikramaditya outwitted the mendicant and killed him.

Over a period of time many more episodes were added by imaginative story tellers that it grew into a big collection it is today. The stories piqued the young minds with those questions coming up at the end and the King’s intelligent responses.

Here’s one based on a vague recollection of the plot-line of a story I had read many decades ago in, yes, where else but Ambulimama (Chandamama):

**

Part 1

Once again, Betaal spoke up from the shoulders of Vikramaditya: ‘Hey, King, why are you engaged in this infructuous and risky enterprise?’ Eliciting no response from the King, Betaal continued: Looks like you are not going to be dissuaded. Okay, let me once more tell a story to take your mind off this tiresome task you wouldn’t give up. And, as always, ending with a question for you. You know well you answer it wrong and lose your head or you answer it right and you’re right back where you started. Here you go, listen carefully.

Once upon a time the kingdom of Kasigarh in the northwest was ruled by King Jayachandra.

The land was fertile fed by a perennial Himalayan river coursing through, the harvests bountiful. The subjects were content and happy under the fair and just rule of their King.

No surprise the neighboring kingdoms cast their covetous eyes on Kasigarh though no one made any moves.

All this changed when the evil Ugrasena came to power in the neighboring kingdom of Sooryadhara. It all began with sporadic incidents of their villagers, emboldened by the support of its soldiers, stepping over the borders and stealing cattle. Soon it became more frequent and escalated to harvesting standing crops on this side of the border. Resisting villagers were beaten up blue and chased away.

The news of these incidents of transgression reached Jayachandra along with a plea for protection from the affected.

Independently the King also received news from his sources in Sooryadhara of Ugrasena secretly mobilizing his forces for action against an enemy unspecified.

He was alarmed at these developments. The pacific minded King did not command a large army of soldiers to confront in conflict the much larger and powerful neighbor. He immediately sought the counsel of his ministers. It was decided to send out without delay an emissary to talk peace, even concessions, and restore normalcy on the borders.

The emissary returned snubbed – he didn’t even get an audience with Ugrasena.

By now the intentions became clear. Jayachandra had no option but to gather his forces together for a possible action, fully realizing they were far fewer and no match for their foes-to-be.

Not satisfied with the arrangements he had made, the King called for a session with his ministers on what else could be done to strengthen their defenses.

Many ideas were put forth. Of them, the ones deserving more serious attention were:

Could they buy peace? But then at what price? Also Ugrasena did not seem to be in a conciliatory mood. May be they should reach out to those advisors if any who had his ears.

Did Ugrasena make any powerful enemies they could tie up with? After all an enemy’s enemy is a friend.

Could they hire mercenaries to bolster their numbers? Were there any other force multipliers they could bring to bear upon the offender?

These were pursued with haste only to draw a blank at the road’s end. All, categorical no-go’s. They were not able to identify such advisors with access to Ugrasena who was rearing for some bare-faced aggression and nothing less. The kingdoms around Sooryadhara were all small like Kasigarh and would not dare to get into a confrontation. And, there were not many mercenaries around available for hire to make a difference to the numbers.     

Luckily this was when monsoon broke out over the land providing them some respite. For another couple of months, the river – a natural line of defense – swollen with stiff currents would be almost impossible to cross, the land would be rendered too boggy under their feet for men and horses.

But to what avail? While the gods for their part had done their job, the men still hadn’t a clue on how to save themselves from a certain defeat and depredation lying in wait.

The days rolled by.

With the rains showing signs of weakening, clearly time was running out for them.

Meanwhile, the subjects, becoming aware of their looming misery, began packing up and moving to safer places. The deserted streets – only making it easy for the enemy to march to the palace for the denouement.

And then one morning

Part 2

A commoner stood before the palace wanting to meet the King, claiming he could save the kingdom!

His clotheswere not of an itinerant.

He was taken to the court where the King and his ministers had assembled to ‘stir up a pot that had no stew.’

Asked to explain, he said he had a cousin, Shailendra, a great sculptor, taught, according to family sources, by none other than Vishwakarma himself up in the Himalayashis stone-works were so life-like.

Wait, is this the time to talk abouthis audience stopped him in irritation.

But he had not finished yet. Known only to the family, Vishwakarma had also blessed him with the siddhi – art, science and mantra – of breathing life into his pieces in stone!

Truly incredible! Was this possible? But what was it to their current predicament? His audience silent, incredulous and unclear yet where he was heading with this…

Thinking for his audience he said: ‘Just imagine, he makes a few fearsome monsters like fire breathing dragons and then

Suddenly the fog lifted. They gasped in comprehension. That’s itif that was possible, good heavens, it would completely turn, nay, overturn the table on Ugrasena and his forces. They couldn’t but smile seeing visions of the invaders fleeing in fear, death in their eyes like the proverbial bats out of hell.

Without further ado, at the King’s bidding, the man took them to Shailendra’s workshop.

Shailendra was taken aback to see the royalty suddenly appearing at his doorstep.

When he learnt about the purpose of their visit, he was even more aghast. He had never talked about it to anyone – of course the family knew about it – and, worse, he had never put it into practice even once before.

When he so expressed himself, the King pleaded with him to do it for the sake of the kingdom and all its subjects. And if he failed in his efforts, no harm would come to him, he was reassured.

Needless to say Shailendra finally agreed to undertake the exercise for the larger good of the people. 

On the following day, the plan was discussed in detail: What kind of monsters? How many? Where to position them? Etc.

And, Shailendra was left alone to chip away without any distraction.   

When done to perfection, his wards (in stone) were moved to their appointed station.

They waited for the assault to commence.

The rains had ceased, the river tame and the ground dry – just right for the invaders.

And then it happened

Part 3

To cut the long story short, the plan worked flawlessly exceeding their expectations.

The invaders ran for their lives and did not stop until they were far back into their land – for long after, they were in a daze muttering incoherently, their eyes fixed in fear and disbelief.

The job done within a few hours of action, the monsters now stood at their station lifelessly serving as a permanent and nightmarish reminder for the aggressors to stay away for now and ever.

The King showered Shailendra and his kin with lavish gifts. Made him a minister in his court. Allotted him living quarters within the palace.

It took a week or so for normalcy to return, people coming back to their abandoned homes, etc.

And then, Shailendrawent missing! Nowhere to be seen, neither in his new quarters nor in his old workshop. Nor anywhere in the kingdom.

All attempts to trace him failed.

It was rumored he was sighted by some, sneaking away on a horse-back heading for the hills under the cover of darkness.

So, my friend, that’s the story, concluded Betaal.

Now the question for you: Why did Shailendra walk away from all that one could dream of achieving in one’s career and life – recognition, honor, awards, wealth, royal patronage, etc. etc.? Think well before you respond. You well know it’s either your head or a repeat of a burdensome task for you. Over to you, Sir.

Vikramaditya broke his silence: The lesser of the reasons was he worried about being unceremoniously sacked very soon for non-performance as a minister – he was never equipped for it, but the King wouldn’t listen. The main reason however was: Though the King himself was fair and just presently, Shailendra wasn’t sure if the next request for his siddhi would necessarily be for public good. Power – more so, this kind of power – was very likely to corrupt. The sculptor may not have the choice to refuse – that’s why, he took the easy way out.’

Betaal lauded the astute King for his intelligence and flew back to his abode leaving the King short of his destination.

End

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikram_Aur_Betaal, merisaheli.com and Cambodian lions.

World’s Shortest Horror Picture-Story…

with world’s largest cast – in fact, everyone of us:-((

Here’s what 9-years old Kuzhali thought of the subject in a recent competition held in Chennai under the auspices of Bharath Scout And Guides:

It’s interesting how the surface features like trees, farms, factories…are shown on the spherical globe conveying the universality of the problem and the solution!

End


Source: Image from Science Lovers in FB. I found Kuzhali’s drawing in a FB post by her dad, the eminent author of children’s stories, Vizhiyan.

An Old Story And New Insights

A story most from my generation must have heard as children sitting on the lap of their grandma (don’t know what is said to them these days). It goes generally like this:

In a village an old woman sitting under a tree prepared vada’s for sale.

A crow sitting on the tree waited for an opportunity.

When the woman was looking away, the crow swooped down and flew up and away, picking up a delicious vada in its beaks, all in a flash.

As it sat on a branch of a nearby tree, ready to savour its booty, a fox came along. .

Espying the crow atop with the vada in its beaks,the scheming fox spoke:

‘Oh my friend there, news got to me you’re blessed with a very sweet voice that has the koels go away in shame! I have come from a long distance only to hear your voice. Could you kindly sing a song for me? Won’t you? Please don’t disappoint me. ’

The crow was thrilled to hear these words. Not to disappoint its appreciative audience, the crow obliged.

As it opened its mouth going ‘kaa kaa’, the inevitable happened.

The fox grabbed the fallen vada with alacrity and quietly slipped away leaving the crow in a daze.

Usually the grandma, a simple soul, finished the story and made her demand like the child should now go to sleep or eat its food without further fuss…The moral of the story was not explicitly stated. And we simply understood it as: the crow was foolish and the fox wily.

Grandma’s, in the generations that followed, grew more articulate. They would point out how it was unwise of crow to foolishly embark on what it was not capable of, falling a victim to flattery.

Some crow lovers, not happy with the story, added a second round where the crow, learning from its experience, would hold the vadaunder its claws and belt it out raucously to the fox’s dismay.

A few die-hard purists steered the story back to its original course: In a third round, the fox would request the crow holding the vada in its claws to perform a dance. Yes, it meant the foolish crow…

In some versions, the smart crow, till the end, holds fast to the vada while obliging the fox with song and dance.

In all these versions the story is one of getting into deep waters and followed optionally by learning from one’s experience and getting out unscathed.

The one moral of the story, right before us in plain sight, yet strangely missed by most, was pointed out by Dr Sudha Seshayyan in one of her programs I watched today:

Ill-gotten gains are never enjoyed.

At one stroke this invalidates the versions that let the crow get away with the vada.  All said and done the crow was a thief stealing it from the old woman. Unintended consequences of tampering an old tale?

End

Source: image from YouTube

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Watch this short clip here, don’t miss.

Vide Gopalswamy

End

Jottings From The US: If You’re Jaded For Fun and Surprise, Try This…

…You wont be disappointed! Of course you’ll need…

For us, talking to/engaging this eight year old was an endless source of fun and surprise.

It was family time for watching TV, after dinner and all school work duly completed for the following day. Usually it’s a movie or a serial picked in deference to our – visiting them – likes.  And sometimes it’s what the children wanted.

Today it was an English serial with a smattering of violence and romance.

It also let me witness the play of an unusual but purposeful parental ‘rule’:

‘Close your eyes,’ the dad said when one of those scenes came up.

This was easier done and less stressful for the adults, I thought, than remaining alert all the time and fast-forwarding past whenever it popped up.

Ne (the 8 yo) this time did something more. She got up from her seat with alacrity. Keeping her back to the TV, she quickly marched up to where I was seated, climbed up next to me and, considering me as equally ‘vulnerable’, shielded me by closing my eyes with her small hands!

**

On another occasion her dad was talking to her on evils of procrastination and advising her against it. He summed up finally: ‘You know, Ne, time and tide waits for no man.’

She looked contemplative, nodding her head in agreement. However there was a solitary crease on her small forehead as she inquired tentatively: ‘Dad, but this time and tide…may not be such a difficult thing for us, girls?’

**

End

 

The Story Of The Brahma-Raakshas And The Mango Trees (For Children)

May require reading it to them.

Part 1

They were resting after a simple meal of dal (lentils) and roti (flat bread), on the rope-cots laid out in the open front-yard of the temple. The temple usually served as the night shelter for wayfarers who happened to pass by. A light breeze provided relief from the stickiness in the air. The sun had gone down a couple of hours ago. While the birds had returned home, the insects came out buzzing aloud. The street, poorly lit by lampposts, one here and one there, was deserted save for an occasional villager returning home from some field work.

The old priest, a kind and hospitable host, was making polite inquiries to the visitor by his side, a young man in early twenties, where was he coming from, where was he going, etc. It turned out he was hailing from a place not very far off proceeding to meet his cousin residing in the town.  Just then, interrupting their conversation, some soft and melodious music, played on a bansuri (flute) floated in from a distance. Had he heard the tunes before? Didn’t seem so.

BansuriNewIndianExpress

‘The villagers seem to take care of you well – there’s even music to lull you to sleep at night!’ the visitor said in jest.

‘Oh, that’ll be Keshav, the milkman…he’s good at it…happens every night…one day it is bansuri, sometimes it’s ektara…’

‘So you don’t get bored…’

‘It’s not what you think.’

‘Well, what is it then? Someone running classes for aspiring artists at this hour?’ He said it so light-heartedly it didn’t offend the priest.

‘It’s a long story.’

‘The evening is young yet. Am all ears. Unless, of course, you’re tired…’

Thus, thanks to the visitor, came to light a strange story that would have been otherwise lost to posterity.

Here’s the long and short of the priest’s account.

Part 2

The story started decades ago, when the priest’s father, also a priest, was serving at this temple.

One day — unfortunately, it was also the day he had to go out, leaving the temple in the hands of a stand-in – a yogi passing by arrived at the temple in the same manner the visitor had. The stand-in did not know enough to receive the yogi with due respect and provide him for a comfortable night stay.  The yogi, short on temper like Sage Dhurvasa, felt slighted.  Before departing, next day morning, the yogi cursed the village as a whole: he summoned a brahma-raakshas (a super-demon) and instructed him to live among the mango orchards, never to move out or unnecessarily hurt any human.

The curse was harsh on the village; for the village was known for its delicious mangoes, available in the summer, much sought after by the royalty of the land and the rich, the leftovers picked up by the traders for the commoners’ market.

Right from day one, the raakshas made his presence felt. He would make hideous sounds all day and night sending a chill up the spine for anyone in the vicinity.  There were also short interludes of delightful music sounding like coming out of some wind-instrument that could calm the nerves of an incurable insomniac – but these were few and far between. The orchards were left alone by the villagers for the fear of their lives. When one or two picked up enough courage to venture in, they were chased away by the raakshas with a dire threat to kill them if they ever returned. Come summer, he grew quieter – but only after consuming the all the ripe fruits as if he was making up for all the months he had gone without, essentially destroying the livelihood of the poor villagers.

Gloom descended on the village. Poverty sneaking into every house threatening to take up permanent residence. Many tantriks were brought in to evict the raakshas from their midst to no avail.

Finally the priest thought of a way. He located the whereabouts of the yogi through his network of priests. He went up to him in person and explained with due apologies why he was not welcomed and cared for properly when he had visited the village. And also the subsequent havoc that the raakshas was causing all around. The yogi was mollified; but he expressed his inability to recall the raakshas since he had stayed within his limits as instructed by the yogi himself; he could only be punished if he had transgressed in any manner. By way of a partial redressal, however, the yogi imparted a mantra to the priest. Without realizing the implications in full, the yogi also extracted a promise from the priest he would not share the mantra with anyone else. If he did, it would cease to be effective.

rakshas_by_interrage

On his return, the priest used the mantra month after month – it had to be recited on every ammavasya (new-moon day) morning before sunrise to forcibly bind the raakshas to a small cluster of trees until the next ammavasya. From time to time the raakshas roared out his resentment in no uncertain terms setting off palpitations in the hearts of the villagers; but there was little else he could do. The villagers gradually gained confidence knowing the raakshas would not cross his limits and went back to tending their orchards and plucking the fruits in summer, leaving the cluster well alone. And, much to everybody’s relief, life quickly returned to normal as before.

Happy times don’t last forever as they – pessimists – say. One day disaster struck.

It was the day before an ammavasya when the priest suddenly passed away.

Amidst the grief over the priest’s sudden death, even before the embers turned cold on the funeral pyre, a sense of nervousness gripped the villagers on how would the raakshas be kept in check now. For a while, it seemed there might not be any real cause to worry; for, there was the priest’s son, a young man barely out of his teens, but properly groomed by the father to take over. Their nervousness turned into pure panic when they learned the son was not initiated into the mantra by his father so as to comply with the solemn promise given to the yogi.

The vision loomed large of those terrible days when the raakshas was in full fury.  What would they do now? No one in the village slept even a wink that night.

Part 3

It was morning of ammavasya – the day to renew and recharge the bondage of the raakshas. With the earlier spell almost spent, the raakshas was kicking up fury threatening to break free, a show he put on every month without a let-up knowing well the monthly check on him would inevitably be reinstated by the priest.

Only this time the priest was not around to put him back on leash.

The son anointed as the new priest offered the morning pooja at the temple and turned up at the spot before sunrise. He called out – he know how from his father – to the brahma-raakshas:

‘Look, my friend…’

The raakshas derisively laughed: ‘Friend?? What friend? Where’s your father, one who has imprisoned me here?’

‘A friend or a foe, you’ll know when I’ve finished. Not sure if you’re aware – my father passed away yesterday, that’s why I’m here today.’

‘Sorry to hear.’ Somehow he didn’t sound he was mocking.

‘I know you too have a heart…and live by scruples. Like you haven’t harmed any of us from the day you came here though on occasions it was pretty close. And I know, for a brahma-raakshas, it’s not easy being confined to a small space.’

‘Thanks, but no thanks for your commiseration.’

‘I’ve a deal for you…’

‘Deal? What deal? Why, you now wish me to spend all my days sitting on a single branch of a tree?’ This time he was certainly mocking.

‘No, on the other hand, I would love to give you back access to the whole of the orchards like before for you to move around. No mantra, no bond.’

The raakshas had not known the mantra was not passed on to the son by his father. Hence the young priest was in no position to restrain the raakshas in any manner.

‘So what is it? I’m keen to hear what you’ve come up with.’

‘It’s like this: As I said before, you’ll have an unfettered access to whole of the orchards. In return you promise you’ll let the villagers freely tend to the trees without fear. Also you’ll not henceforth pluck the fruits…’

‘Ah, Ah, so I starve all through the summer just like at other times of the year, watching those luscious mangoes swaying in the breeze right in front of me, yet forbidden to touch…am I allowed, Sir, to take in the aroma that wafts in…’

‘Every evening, food would be brought straight off the kitchen of one of the houses in the village for you. All through the year, every day you’ll enjoy a varied meal instead of just mangoes and mangoes and mangoes…that too only in summer. Aren’t you fed up? Though, I know you’ve grown fond of those fruits. Think about it.’

‘Mmm…,’ the gears meshed and the wheels turned for a little while. And, then: ‘Sounds good, I’ll take it. Just make sure, during the season, to include a few mangoes in the meal.’

The young priest, heaving a sigh of relief, continued:

‘I’ve a further suggestion for you.’

‘What is it now?’

‘I suspect you must have been a sangeet vidwan (musician) of no mean merit in your earlier birth. For, I’ve heard the occasional music, so melodious, interspersing the awful racket – a veritable assault on the senses –  you usually produce.’

Tickled at the praise, the raakshas was willing to ignore the rebuke: ‘Go on.’

‘Perhaps you did not share your knowledge with your sishya’s (disciples) causing you to turn into a brahma-raakshas upon your death. Under this new mutually agreed arrangement, we needn’t be so adversarial from hereon; hence, why not you give up producing those hideous sounds – there’s no need to scare away anyone now, you know – and instead, sing to the trees the melodies you could? Will do them good, I’m sure. Might make the fruits even more delicious; after all, happy means produce happy outcomes. It’ll also do you enormous good – won’t be a wasted effort, I assure you.’

The raakshas thought for a moment. Won’t hurt him to do it…he agreed. How was he to know then this simple decision would prove to be life-changing for him in the time to come!

Thenceforth there was peace, prosperity and happiness in the village with the folks going about their business fearlessly, and the raakshas, generally relaxing, moving about as he wished within the orchards, singing as he pleased for the trees and enjoying the evening meal brought for him every evening without fail.

Years rolled by. The fruits indeed grew more delicious than ever before garnering rave praises from all over.

And one morning…

Someone saw strangely the food brought in the night before was left untouched. What happened? Was he ill? During the day, the music also had ceased, replaced by an eerie silence.

The priest was brought in to investigate.

‘Our friend seems to have attained eternal salvation…earlier than he was destined, perhaps due to his good deeds of service to the trees and hence to all of us,’ declared the priest.

The whole village was grief-stricken like they lost someone in the family.  Even the trees in the orchards appeared crest-fallen.

It did take a few months for the village folks to regain their equanimity and go about their lives as usual.

The following summer, however, brought some bad news: The fruits didn’t taste their best. It was like the trees had lost their verve.

It was then the practice was started at the priest’s suggestion of playing music – a song or two – every evening for the trees too to recover from their loss; life wasn’t the same for them without the daily treat of raakshas’s music, he suspected.

The next summer’s bountiful produce of mangoes confirmed the priest’s surmise.

Part 4

The priest concluded his story: ‘The practice continues till date. And that’s the music you heard.’

For a minute no one spoke.

Then the old priest went in and brought a plateful of sliced mangoes as a dessert.

The visitor took a few slices and went ecstatic in his praise.

The priest gave credit where, he thought, it was due: ‘All thanks to our late friend, the brahma-raakshas.’

Finishing the last piece, ‘You were pretty smart to push the deal through when you actually held no aces in your hand. A fair deal it was, I would think, paying off both sides: stopping him from depriving the villagers of their fruits while freeing him up and feeding him on the other hand,’ said the visitor.

‘You could say that,’ smiled the priest.

‘You were very clever too. You also got the raakshas to sing and got rid of him in the only way you could ever – an impossible task otherwise. It wasn’t through any unfair trickery either, I would say – for, it provided him with much needed salvation from an unenviable existence. When his bad karma was completely offset by the good he had accumulated by singing to the trees, even the yogi, his master, could not have stood in the way of his salvation.   And at the same time, the fruits got even better for the village!  Again, pay-off for both sides. And, what a pay-off for a mere act of singing!

All in all  brilliant moves on your part: ‘contain the damage first, eliminate the cause second’ with everyone a winner and a loser none!!’

Acknowledging with a hint of a smile, the priest added: ‘In fact these unusual melodies are entirely his – we play it with as much fidelity as possible.’

By now the visitor’s regard for the priest had gone up by several notches.

With the conversation thinning out, it wasn’t long before the old priest, exhausted at the end of the day, fell asleep, totally lost to the living world. The visitor however slept fitfully that night, turning on sides frequently, his dreams filled with angry yogi’s, their curses and a mishmash of freely-mingling disembodied spirits. Though spirits never put fear in him; for he was fed on countless incredible stories by his grandmother on spirits and their antics – some of them she had claimed to be her own real-life experiences.

Following morning, he got up early, readied himself and took leave of the priest thanking him gratefully for his hospitality.

An hour into the journey, for no reason, his mind wandered back to the music he had heard the night before.  Might be that there was always music in his family? Thinking about it, the notes did sound familiar – at least in some parts. Yes, it was kind of like what his grandfather played on the harmonium for his students years ago in the main hall of the ancestral house. It could as well be his mind was playing tricks after hearing the priest’s story. Dismissing the thoughts, he moved on.

End

 

 

 

 

Source: Image of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia from newindianexpress.com, and deviantart.com/interrage

 

How Fate Changed Its Course! (A Children’s Story)

The old man was a jyotish (astrologer), known to be infallible in his predictions. It was like he sneaked a peek at Brahma’s (creator’s) notes when he said what he said. People came from far and near with their horoscopes to consult him.

One day a poor daily-wage earning man came up to him: “Sir, I’m gasping for breath in the firm grip of dire poverty, deeply mired in loans taken from all possible sources. Further, there’re two daughters to be married off. Haven’t a clue how I’m going to see through it all. Could you kindly take a look at my horoscope, Sir, and suggest if there’s a way out for me?”

jyotish-research.com janam-kundali

The jyotish took the horoscope and gave it a quick look. Rolling his cowries, he became pensive.  Breaking the silence, he said: “My dear fellow, I’ve some important tasks to complete. Your horoscope needs a more closer look. Leave it with me for today and come back at this time tomorrow – I’ll have my reading ready for you.”

Agreeing to the suggestion, the man inquired if he had to pay now any fees in advance. The jyotish said it wasn’t necessary, he would collect upon completing the job.

On the man taking leave, the jyotish’s daughter came up to him: “Appa, why did you fob him off, the poor man?  Only a little while ago, you said you’ve finished the backlog and you’re free to receive new clients for the day.”

The jyotish explained his action: “Dear girl, you’re an astute observer. Actually the horoscope was very clear saying his life would end tonight itself. And there may be no time or means to perform prescribed pariharam (remedial measures). I didn’t have the heart to tell him.”

In the meanwhile the poor man was headed back home picking his way through the paddy fields. On the way, suddenly, dark clouds gathered overhead. Very soon, rain broke out accompanied by thunder and lightning. Hastening his strides to find some shelter, the man came upon an abandoned mandap (a pillared structure). In a corner away from the shower he set his bag down – a long piece of cloth with its edges bunched and tied together to form a kind of pouch, usually slung over the shoulder – containing grains of rice for his wife to cook; and himself rested on a dry slab of stone forming the floor of the mandap at its center.

In an hour, the rain let up somewhat and he was ready to go. When he lifted his bag, it came off light in his hand and…almost empty! It was then he noticed on the floor a huge swarm of ants, countless, had raided his pouch and made away with the grains. There was little he could do. With a wan smile, he poured out whatever was left also for the ants and stepped out. The dinner tonight would be without staple rice.

On the following day, he went at appointed time to meet the jyotish.

Seeing him the jyotish was dumbstruck. His predictions never failed. Did he make a mistake? He took out the horoscope and examined again it diligently. He had not erred in his reading. Then how?? This man of meagre means could have hardly performed in short time the parihaaram needed to counter what the fate had ordained.

What had happened…after their meeting the day before? The jyotish asked him. There wasn’t much eventful that had happened previous evening to account for. The jyotish however persisted until he got it all from the man.

He went back and checked his palm leaves – inscribed on them was the jyotisha shastra (science of astrology). As he read the relevant parts, it took awhile for the full import to sink in…so that was it!!

While it was comforting to know he wasn’t wrong after all, at the same time he was awash with shame over his lapse; for, it was clear to him now he had not advised his client appropriately.  The man had performed the pariharam quite inadvertently, no thanks to the jyotish. The shastra had set out the pariharam in this instance as: he should feed a hundred hungry mouths before the day’s sunset to hold off the certain death fated for him. The swarm of ants feasting on the rice grains had ensured it was done…in excess too. There was no stipulation in the shastra the mouths must be human! Something the jyotish had unfortunately overlooked and considered the pariharam to be undoable given the man’s finances and the time available to comply.

It was a second life for the man, the jyotish explained. In the time to come a big upswing in his fortunes was predicted for him; the jyotish also impressed upon him the need to be always charitable and kind to all in his life.

The jyotish did not collect any fees this time, atoning for his lapse.

 

End

 

More stories here on winning over Fate:

How Fate Was Overcome…

How Fate Was Outwitted… (a 5-part story)

 

 

 

 

Source: Adapted from Palani Mohan’s post in FB and jyotish-research.com