The Story Of Lost Gold, Wild-Cucumber And A Wise King – For Children

Part 1

He was a marginal farmer tilling a small piece of land, never getting enough for living off it. One day he decided enough was enough, he must try something else. So he set out on the road to the capital city of the kingdom.  

In the city he picked up the job of a helper with an old grocer. Over the years he impressed the owner with his hard work, honesty and helpful disposition. So much so, the childless grocer was happy to will the shop to him on his death.

Before long he took over as the shop, expanded his business and made more money.

With the money he had, he would buy gold. He thought it was unsafe to keep the gold at home. From time to time he would go to a near-by forest. Ensuring no one followed him or watched him, he would go to a certain spot amidst the trees, dig up a pot. He would carefully check if the contents were intact and then top it with the newly brought gold, put the pot back in its place and cover it with earth and dried leaves above so well no one would ever give the spot a second look.

He followed the practice for years without any hitch adding more pots over time.

And then

On one of his visits, the unexpected happenedhe found the ground disturbed at that spot. Frantically he dug up; and as he had feared there were no pots and no gold.

At one shot he had lost all his life’s earnings. And there was little he could do. He was absolutely positive no one ever followed him to this place or watched him dig up. It left him with no suspects to chase down.

He sank to the depths of despair. The only course now available to him, he thought, was to end his life.

He went up to the near-by river, waded to its deeper parts and then jumped head-long into its waters, looking neither to the right nor to the left.

It so happened the king of the land was also taking his bath at the same place. He observed what had happened and signalled his men to rescue the man immediately and bring him up.

The king asked him why did he want to end his life.

The man between his sobs narrated the story to the king.

The king was pensive for a while and then asked him how did he mark the place where the pots were hidden.

He said a lone wild-cucumber plant grew on the soil over the pots – he always dug out the pots taking care the plant was not harmed. He added the plant also went missing along with the gold.

A hint of a smile appeared on the king’s face. He assured the grocer he would try his utmost to recover his lost gold. If he did not succeed in his efforts, he would give him some gold from his treasury!

The king’s assurance did not do much to lift up his spirits. How in the world was the king going to find out who took the gold? There were no clues at all. Did the king have some magic mirror that revealed whereabouts of missing things? What would it amount to – the gold to be given by the king, if he did? Would it cover all that he had lost?

He returned home feeling not too sanguine about what was in store for him.

Kids, pause here before you read further. Would you believe if I tell you, all the facts are with you at this point to crack the case open! So think…what would be your tip to the king?

Part 2

Next day, the king complained to his minister about a certain vague tummy ache he felt. And asked him to get all the medical practioners (doctors) in the city to meet up with him. He would like to personally verify if they had treated anyone with symptoms like his.

The doctors were quickly rounded up and sent one by one to meet the king.

To each, the king would ask about the patients they had treated recently, what were their ailments and what were the medicines given as part of the treatment.

After several hours with numerous doctors, the king finally hit pay dirt. This doctor had a patient recently suffering from stomach related problems accompanied by general weakness, just like the king claimed to be going through. And how did he treat him? With the juice made from wild-cucumber, a vine/weed rarely seen in the land. So how did he get it? Well, his servant brought it for him from somewhere.

The servant was summoned. Upon questioning, he admitted to finding pots of gold in the forest. He defended himself – he did not think he was thieving someone else’s gold. It was not in anyone’s possession. He just found it and he took it.

He was persuaded to return the gold to its rightful owner. And was compensated adequately by the king.

Everyone was impressed with the king’s smart sleuthing.

What made the king follow this line of investigation, the minister asked him privately.

The king explained: Since the victim was very confident no one had ever seen him go to the spot or watched him dig, it was clear finder of the gold had not gone to the spot specifically in search for gold. He had no way of knowing gold being hidden there. So the only reason that brought him to the spot was the wild-cucumber plant. The plant is often used by medical practioners to treat stomach related ailments. While fetching the plant, by sheer chance the servant discovered the pots! And you know how he found the servant!

The grocer gave part of the gold to the king’s treasury and some to the servant as a gesture of appreciation.

Did you see it coming?

End

Source: Adapted from a story in Chandamama (July, 1955)

Images: Daily Mail, Toutube, Free Press Journal, facebook and eBay

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A Story And A Fun Game For Children…

and for us too, I think.

Next in the series (the first one here): The scene, not very unusual, put to a group of children was:

“The lady of the house set on the table a bowl of freshly baked cookies.

And when she was not around, Chotu, all of eight years, got to it and picked one that was the largest. Bade, elder by a couple of years, instructed by his mom to keep a watch – use of any force or raising one’s voice disallowed, took his job seriously.  Trying his best (or worst?) to persuade Chotu to put it down, at the same time removing the remaining cookies to safety, he said, “Chotu

The children were given time to develop the story from here on.

At the end of the allotted time, they were called in turn to present their conclusion. Here’s a selection from the many stories presented:

**

“Chotu, you took that one from the bottom of the heap, right? That was the first one Amma was figuring out the settings for baking them right. See, she even made them smaller for them to come out alright. Am sure this oneit would be faintly smelling of the dough and taste a little raw in the mouth

**

“Chotu, you took that one from the top of the heap, right? That was the last one – Amma scraped hard all the dough sticking to the bottom and also from the sides of the mixing bowl, lumped them together and baked as one large piece. You will find it a little flaky, crumbling in your hand and tasting a little uneven in your mouthAnd who knows what else got into it from the bowl, ugh”

**

“Chotu, what are you doing? What will mom do then? That piece was specially done by mom for your teacher. I even saw her sending a pic of it to her. You know, she has invited your teacher for a cup of tea here at our place and she’s on her way.”

**

“Chotu, you shouldn’t. That was from the batch she cooked specially for Bruno. Don’t know how it got mixed up with this pile.”

**

Not known if Chotu succeeded!

End

Source: 123rf.com

A Story And A Fun Game For Children…

and for us too I think.

A group of children were given an exercise. A scene, not very unusual, was put to them. And they were asked to take the story forward.

The scene: A house-owner hears noise coming from the back of his house. When he opens a creaky door and walks to the spot, he finds a girl standing under the mango tree frantically signalling to her friend atop to come down quickly. On the ground there were here and there a few half-eaten ripe mangoes taken from the tree.  The man, tall and hefty, looks menacingly at the boy trapped visibly up in the tree at a height too risky to jump down and flee.

After a while they were called in turn to present their conclusion. Here’s a selection from the many stories presented:

**

The boy on the tree said to the owner: Sir, we were not stealing your mangoes. See, we aren’t carrying any in our hands or bags. You know between us we had argument before coming here on who is the biggest land-owner around here. I was saying it was you. And I knew I was right. My friend here was not agreeing to it. I decided there was a way to convince her. I climbed up this tree and was showing her how far the lands owned by you stretched on all sides – like the palm tree seen there in the distance stands on the eastern corner of your property and so on. That’s when you came here. If you allow me, I’ll show her the rest.

**

The trapped boy gathered his wits quickly and said to the owner standing below: Dear Sir, we were passing by your yard talking among ourselves about an upcoming outing on Sunday. That’s when heard a racketmade by a bunch of squirrels feasting on the mangoes.  And if the fruit they bit into was a little less than ripe, it was discarded and they moved on to try another. Look at all these fruits half-eaten lying on the ground – it’s all their doing. We could not bear to see those luscious fruits so dear to you being ruined by these pests. So I said to het I would climb up the tree and drive them off. And that I did and as I was coming down, you came here, Sir. We were anyway planning to come in to tell you about all this. Surely you, a large-hearted person, wouldn’t be sending us back empty handed?

**

The boy said to the owner: Sir, we’ve no idea why you look upset. We were passing by minding our business when your man standing over there called us in. He said his master would pay if we could pick off the tree a bag full of mangoes, waving a cloth bag at us. We accepted the assignment. I went up, plucked the fruits one by one and dropped them down for him to catch and put away in his bag.  When the bag was full, he signalled me to stop. Taking the bag, he went this way promising to be back in a jiffy with our payment.  I was climbing down when you came inwe were expecting your man with the money as promised. Don’t know who you are. If you’re the owner, kindly pay us what you owe and we’ll be gone before you turn your back. You wouldn’t gyp a couple of kids of their legit earnings, would you?

**

Interesting?

End

Source: Based on a short piece read in Dhina Thandhi, a Tamizh daily, several years ago. Image from Elango Velur Thiruturaipoondi Tiruvarurஇயற்கை மற்றும் பசுமை and artstation.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.

We Did It….Well, Almost

Not many days to go.

When the contractor doing the interiors handed over, it was a flat, small at some 600 to 700 square feet, with nothing but bare walls, smelling of fresh paint.  

Got down to work right away – it was a race against time.

We began with an AC for the bedroom.

Should we get it from Satya at Luz or from Ratna at Panangal Park, both highly recommended.  Brand: Blue Star, Samsung, LG, Whirlpool or…? Capacity: Would one ton suffice or to be safe….Type: Split or window mounted? Power consumption: Two-star rated or three? Color: Would purple go with the rest of the decor?

And then followed, with choices galore, Washing Machine, Fridge, Double Bed with accessories, Couch for guests, Water Purifier, Food Processor and Rice Cooker.

With a kind S-I-L helpfully loaning a few essentials, you can well see, many items were still left out like a second AC, Dining Table, TV, Chairs, Curtains, Ironing Table, kitchen utensils….for want of time, money and energy.

Then came the ‘C’ items: mops, brooms, wash-room accessories and supplies, door mats and a few other zillion things (oxymoron? don’t mind it, pls) one could not live without.

All ordered in suitable models and options after visiting multiple shops for choice, suppliers chased for delivery and installation, by a couple of slow-moving, energy-strapped and flightless old birds, largely relying on public transport in an unfamiliar geography!

If this wasn’t DECISION FATIGUE in all glory…all to get that small space up and live-able with a few basic amenities. If I’m may be allowed a bit of exaggeration, it seemed I made more decisions in those few days than in all my years of professional career. Though there was one important mitigating factor: My experience with systems had taught me not to try optimizing to the fullest a design/plan along all its dimensions at once. In this instance it helped us not pushing hard the price ‘needle’, of course within reasonable limits.

We moved in, all set to receive them at the new place:

Day -3: All packing material, cartons carted away. Food and milk supply services arranged.

Day -1: Everything in its appointed place, working and checked. The bedroom attached toilet was a designated ‘dry’ zone for their use. The wet and paperless second toilet was for us. The mosquitoes were denied entry mercifully by the nets on the windows. The fridge stocked up.

All items on the check-list ticked. We slept peacefully.

Day 1: Daybreak.  No problems there.

10 am: The Moment – the kids arrived.

11 am: Everything going swimmingly. Nothing amiss. Deservedly congratulating ourselves.

02-35 pm: Some commotion in front of the bedroom toilet door

02-36 am: I reach the spot. My daughter seen here, there, everywhere.

02-37 am: She to me: ‘Appa, I can’t find – where have you kept it? S is in there. Need the toilet tissue.’

02-38 am: Oh sh#t, am out thru the front door.

…After all is done and said, I haven’t thrown out of the window as yet the sneaky thought of offering it all as a packaged service to many others out there similarly placed and needing help, this time tissue paper thrown in good measure:-)

End

Tenali Raman Turns To Sleuthing (A Story For Children)

Part 1

It was another day in the royal court of Krishna Deva Raya.

And a ‘knotty’ case had come up.

It was between a much-harried diminutive woman and a confident statuesque looking dame towering over the former by a foot and a half at least.

A gist of what the court heard:

The woman’s complaint: When her husband was alive and his business thriving, a couple of years ago, he had bought from the defendant this house in the middle of a sparsely inhabited neighborhood  quite away from the town for them to spend some days in peace removed from the daily hustle and bustle.  Which they did though not as often as they wished, after carrying out some adaptations and changes for their convenience.  

After her husband’s untimely demise, she sold off her house in the town where they lived to settle her husband’s business debts and had gone off on a pilgrimage to the north importantly to immerse his ashes in the river Ganga at Gaya followed by visits to various holy places like Badrinath, Hardwar, Rishikesh…And when she returned some nine months later – no motorized rapid transport in those days – she found this house occupied by the defendant claiming it to be hers. She was turned back at the gate itself, rendering her homeless.   

The defendant asserted that indeed was the fact and the woman was needlessly harassing her. She had always stayed in the house, it was always hers.

Those were the days when registration of property transactions was not rigorously followed. So no records could be adduced by either party to support its claim.

As things stood, it meant some detailed field investigation. The officers of the court looked at each other until one of them spoke up:

‘Your Highness, this is just the kind of matter our Raman is best suited for its resolution. My suggestion is… (mumbling inaudibly) It’s time he goes out under the sun and sweats a bit.’

Raya looked at Raman.

Usually a practitioner of his ready wit, Raman had no choice but to accept the investigative assignment.

Part 2

Next day, a none-too-eager Raman rode to the distant part of the town where the house stood.

There were a few small houses in the vicinity, none close by, where he made discreet inquiries. There seemed hardly any interaction with the big house and its occupants. Though, they confirmed seeing the dame on occasions going in or coming out.  Strike one for the diminutive woman.

He then decided to enter the disputed house to see things for himself, accompanied by the plaintiff. The dame had no objection to their visit.

On the inside the house was a compact single stored structure, everything looking like new. As the dame showed them around, the plaintiff followed like she was in a daze – there was not one piece in the house she could positively identify as hers. Even on the outside no flowering plants she claimed to have planted were to be found. Strike two for the plaintiff.

The tour of the house concluded, the host seated them and went in to bring some buttermilk for them.

Shortly afterwards Raman thanked the host for her cooperation and got up to leave, when the woman suddenly got up, coming to life: ‘Sir, there’s a niche we had not seen. It’s mine…I would like to…if you don’t mind.’ Were her eyes tearing up?

The host obligingly took them to the part of the house where the niche was. Yes, they had missed it on their earlier tour. It was a low-ceilinged ‘secret tunnel’ running behind and parallel to the wall on the far side of the kitchen for a third of its length with an opening for air and light – just big enough for a person and a half to pass. Its no-door entrance placed at the near-corner was cleverly concealed by a piece of ornamental tapestry – easily missed in a first glance unless one went looking for it. Set apart for a good reason, it was a place for a woman to dress and to keep her knick-knacks.

Now it was mostly empty but for a few discarded clothes in a small pile at the deep end. The plaintiff went in first, chin up, coming out dejected after a while unable to find anything in there she could recognize. Strike three for the plaintiff.

Ouch! Raman went in next and received a painful knock on his head from the low ceiling. Bowing down a little, he diligently took in the contents of the narrow ‘tunnel’.  On his way out, suddenly before him he caught the sight of a woman’s red garment flowing from waist down to silver anklets adorning a pair of legs. Startled for a moment, he realized he was seeing on a mirror on the wall before him, the host standing in the kitchen. A gentleman he was, Raman blushed and quickly looked away.

It was a pensive Raman returning to the kitchen, proceeding to look again at things in the house.  

Announcing his task was finished and instructing both the women to appear before the royal court on the following day, he thanked and took leave of the host, dropped the homeless woman at a dharamshala and went home.  

Part 3

At about noon on the flowing day, the matter came up before the royal court in the presence of both the plaintiff and the defendant.

Raya set the ball rolling:

‘Rama, have you been able to ascertain the truth and come to a conclusion?’

‘Your Highness, I’ve.’

‘Then let’s hear of it.’

Appraising the court of the happenings and findings of the day before,

‘In conclusion, the plaintiff herself would agree with me, there was nothing evident to show she ever occupied the house.’

For a brief moment the plaintiff received from the court glances filled with sympathy and derision in an equal split.

Raman continued: ‘On occasions, the neighbors had seen the defendant go in and come out of the house, never the plaintiff. There were no articles inside the house recognized by the plaintiff as hers. In face of these facts, if we still have to believe the plaintiff, the defendant must have completely refurnished the fixtures and furniture in the house leaving nothing behind as a link to the plaintiff…’

‘Which I believe the defendant had done…’

There was a furore in the court.

‘That’s not right,’ screamed the defendant.

 The court was called to order for Raman to continue.

‘There were two lapses she had committed…one was a careless omission and another…she didn’t think of its significance.’

Raman went on to explain how she had somehow overlooked fitting or replacing the one piece that proved to be her undoing – the mirror in the ‘tunnel’ was left in its original low mounting to suit the diminutive plaintiff. He recalled how it showed only a waist-down image of the host standing behind him which had triggered his thinking. Everywhere else the fittings and fixtures and shelves in the kitchen were shifted up and placed at a height suited for the statuesque defendant. 

Yes, there was something else too, Raman recalled…the low ceiling of the ‘tunnel’ brought home by the painful knock on his head. Its import had not occurred to the defendant and hence on occupation did not trouble herself altering it in any manner – the ‘tunnel’ was a space added after purchase by the plaintiff’s late husband for his diminutive wife’s exclusive use!

‘If we hold the defendant in custody and interrogate her more thoroughly, I’m sure, she would…’

Tenali Raman took a bow and sat down, his stature in the court further enhanced. Moments later the court broke into a resounding cheer, his detractors reluctantly joining in.

End

Take Those Candies Back, Will You?

candies-chochliki-3-5-kg

We were on our evening walk – about thirty minutes up and another thirty minutes down the sidewalk lining a main road in Rockville (Washington DC).

For an urban area, there’s a lot of greenery on both sides interspersing prim-looking townhouses, apartment blocks and single-family homes set back from the road by their foliage-and-grass front-yards. Sometimes we even sight a deer or two lazily grazing in the open spaces between the houses.  The only anxious moments are given by those tethered dogs straining at their leash menacingly baring their teeth and barking at us as we hasten up past those houses.

Usually sharing it with us are a few other ‘oldies’ out on walk like us, some joggers sweating it out causing the green-eyed monster to well up in our hearts momentarily though, young parents pushing their little ones in carts…yes, and a few walking their dogs that we stay clear off – smaller they’re more aggressive they seem to get.

Presently we were gone a little beyond the pretty little cottage when my wife a few paces ahead – for many years now I hopelessly trail behind her in these walks, forced into a single file to make way for the odd biker pushing ahead at break-neck-and-a-few-limbs speed – turned back: ‘You saw those children?’

Obviously I had not.

‘They were waving to us and saying something.’

On an impulse, I turned around and walked back to see a couple of small children of Chinese origin standing on the porch looking happy and still waving hands. Keeping watch on them was an elderly lady seated at the back in a cane-chair.

As I neared them, an older boy (10 to 12 years?) rushed up to me from somewhere at the back of the house inquiring nervously: ‘What’s it? What’s it?’

‘Nothing, not to worry,’ I pulled out a couple of chocolate-candies from my reserve stock I always carried being a diabetic and handed them to him, ‘just these…for them’ pointing at the children now curiously looking on.

The boy took it from my hand.

Then it struck me. I rummaged my sling-bag and found the last piece: ‘This is for you.’

I gave the elderly lady at the back – I thought I saw a smile – a friendly nod and walked away to join my waiting wife so far left wondering about my sudden detour, though it was only for a couple of minutes.

And, man, for the rest of the walk I listened to: ‘How many times do I have to tell you not to go near strangers…You’ll learn your lesson only when you get reported to the police…’

Mind is a strange device often dredging up on a cue unconnected memories – for some reason, I remembered  what I had learnt several decades ago on how a small signal applied at the base was amplified beta times at the emitter of a transistor!

Yes, she had told me before and I understand this is not the ‘done’ thing in these lands. I suppose one of these days this would be drilled hard into me in a manner not very pleasant and I’ll be cured of my impulses.

You can say it again: Life, these days, is different for sure.

End