A Horse and Two Goats (By R. K. Narayan)

One of my all-time favorites – RKN’s story of the cat – had appeared here.  If you love short stories and haven’t looked at this one before, I would urge you to read it – you won’t be disappointed, I assure you. The final twist in the tale – in fact the last line – is unimaginable!

This time, another hilarious piece from the master story teller, written in the seventies:

Horse and 2 goats

(If you wish to see the clip first, go to the end of this post)

Muni is a poor resident of Kritam, one of the smallest of India’s seven hundred thousand villages. Despite its small size, the village has a grandiose name: Kritam means “crown” or “coronet” in the Indian language of Tamil. There are only thirty houses in the village, most of them simple thatched huts. The only sophisticated residence in the village is the Big House, a brick and cement building from whose well the local villagers get their water. “His wife was old, but he was older and needed all the attention she could give him in order to be kept alive.” The two have been married since he was ten and she eight: “He had thrashed her only a few times in their marital life, and later she had the upper hand.” At onetime Muni was a relatively prosperous herdsman, with “a flock of forty sheep and goats.” He sold the sheep’s wool and sold the animals for slaughter to a town butcher, who brought him “betel leaves, tobacco, and often enough some bhang.” However, those high old times are past. Now Muni’s flock, struck by “some pestilence” (though Muni suspects a neighbor’s curse), has dwindled to two goats.

Now in the last stage of their lives and without an offspring to count on, they are forced to live with poverty and embarrassment, bearing crass jokes and insensitive remarks by fellow villagers.

Away from the prying eyes of villagers, still, Muni follows his daily routine of taking the animals to graze near the highway two miles away, where he sits all day in the shade of the statue – a horse rearing next to a fierce warrior – and watches his goats and an occasional passing vehicle. The vehicles are something to tell his wife about when he goes home at night.

Despite his poor life, Muni is a dreamer and an avid food lover. He is really fond of good food and bidi’s. Because of the couple’s poverty, Muni’s daily lunch usually consist of only millet and an onion. One day, Muni picks some “drumsticks,” or seed pods, from the tree in front of his home and asks his wife to cook them in a sauce for him to eat. Muni’s wife agrees to make the sauce if he can get all of the necessary ingredients from the village shop: dhal, chili, curry leaves, mustard, coriander, gingelly oil, and a potato. Muni has no money to pay for the items but tries to convince the shop owner to give them to him on credit by engaging in conversation and laughing at his jokes. However, the shop owner shows Muni a ledger of past debts that he owes and says he must pay them off before availing any more credit. Muni tells him that his daughter will give him some money for his fiftieth birthday, although he does not actually have a daughter. The shop owner does not believe him and says he looks at least seventy.

Muni goes home and tells his wife to sell the drumsticks, since he could not get the ingredients for the sauce. There is no other food in the house, so Muni’s wife sends him away with the goats. “Fast till the evening,” she tells him. “It’ll do you good.” He then takes his goats and goes to the highway to let them graze as usual. While he is there, he sits on a pedestal at the base of a weather-beaten clay statue depicting a majestic horse and a warrior. The statue had been there since Muni was a young child, and his grandfather had explained to him it was a reference to the mythical horse Kalki, who according to Tamil legend will come to life when the world ends and trample all bad men.

While Muni is sitting there, he sees a yellow station wagon coming towards him down the highway.

The car runs out of gas and comes to a stop on the road in front of the statue. A white foreigner gets out of the car and asks Muni in English whether there is a gas station nearby. However, Muni cannot communicate with him because he does not speak English and the foreigner does not speak Tamil. The foreigner tells Muni he is a coffee trader from New York. Inevitably his eyes catch the beautiful clay horse standing behind Muni. Impressed with the unparalleled art, he wants to buy it, planning on taking it to his country, and proudly showing it off to his relatives and friends, to garner their admiration and envy.

He offers to pay Muni for the statue, thinking it belongs to him as Muni sitting on the platform nonchalantly. Muni does not understand what the foreigner wants, and initially mistakes him for a police officer, because he is dressed in khaki. He believes the man had arrived to investigate a dead body found a few weeks ago on the border between Kritam and a neighboring village. He tells him he does not know anything about the incident and the murderer probably lives in the other village.

The foreigner does not understand. He offers Muni some cigarettes, and explains that he and his wife, Ruth, decided to travel to India on vacation after a power failure in the Empire State Building forced him to work four hours without air conditioning on a hot summer day. In an effort to draw the suspicion away from him, Muni comes up with a history of the horse and the legend of Kalki and aspects of Hinduism.  While the stranger tries to negotiate a price for the statue and says that it would look good in his living room. The conversation continues for a while – best seen on the clip – before the foreigner gives Muni a hundred-rupee note and asks him to help move the statue to his car. Muni believes at first that the foreigner is asking him for change and suggests that he go to the village money-lender. When the foreigner stoops down to pet his goats, Muni mistakenly believes that the man is giving him a hundred rupees to buy his animals. Elated, Muni accepts the man’s money and leaves the goats behind for him.

Thinking Muni had agreed to sell him the statue, the foreigner flags down a passing truck and pays the men to help him detach the statue from the pedestal and move it to his car. He also pays to siphon off some of their gas so he can restart his engine.

Muni goes home and shows his wife the hundred-rupee note, telling her that he received it from a foreign man who stopped to buy his goats. At that moment, however, the couple hears bleating outside their door and discover Muni’s goats standing there. Muni is confused, while his wife suspects him of stealing the money, and says she will go to her parents’ home because she does not want to be there when the police apprehend him.

End of story

There is hardly any similarity between the thoughts, action or words of the two protagonists, and yet both of them keep talking garrulously, sharing their dreams and aspirations, giving the reader a glimpse of their individual lives. While the horse statue carries great cultural and religious importance for Muni’s village, to the foreigner it is more a decorative item to serve as a talking piece during house parties. At last, though, money wins, as the foreigner is able to buy the horse, by giving a hundred rupee note to Muni, while Muni thinks the dumb foreigner has paid him too much for two paltry goats!

The humor and the irony of this tale lies in the total benign incomprehension that exists between the two, not only in the way neither understands the other’s language – it is only the reader who knows both sides of the story and is able to laugh at the idiosyncrasies of life – but also in the absolute contrast of their cultural, educational and economic backgrounds, emphasized by the way each values the clay horse. Much of this is conveyed through the wonderful double discourse that makes up a significant part of the story, with each of the characters happily developing his own hermetically-sealed interpretation of the other’s words and gestures. And, on the way, Narayan also touches on the issues like childlessness, crude apathy of mankind to the lesser mortals, or the irrepressible instinct of a man to show off his intelligence,

The story’s charm lies in the way Narayan refrains from passing judgement.

The clip (10.11 mins) with English subtitles is here for your viewing pleasure.





Sources: The above post is a lightly edited mash-up from a) Anupama Sarkar at scribblesofsoul.com/a-horse-and-two-goats-by-r-k-narayan/ b) V. Panduranga Rao, “The Craftmanship of R. K. Narayan,” in Indian Writing in English, edited by Ramesh Mohan, Orient Longman, Ltd., 1978, pp. 56-64. c) supersummary.com/a-horse-and-two-goats/summary/ d) enotes.com/topics/a-horse-and-two-goats e) encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/horse-and-two-goats#B and f) icseenglishhelp.org/2017/07/summary-horse-and-two-goats-r-k-narayan.html




On Punjab National Bank Episode (Even More)

PNB episode seems to bring out the creative juice in many!!!

If you notice there’s very little repetition in the humor it engenders.

So, here’re some more:

After the final count, PNB may have to remodel their branches!

PNB 3 branches have begun moving to new accommodations... Gautham Iyengar

Dressed to rob?

PNB 5 IMG-20180220-WA0002


The secret of success…

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Good for a chuckle though not fair to Modi!

PNB 2 28378611_10160146114235370_4967616187728379840_n (1)






On Punjab National Bank Episode (More)

Checking on a marriage alliance:



This is back again from the archives though the reference is to Vijay Mallaya fleeing to UK,


(Context: Farmers committing suicide over their inability to repay loans)

Source: Kannan

On Punjab National Bank Episode

A collection of funnies on the sorry episode – do let me know if there’re more:

Punjab National Bank, boasting of a vigilance team awash with awards and recognition, clamping down after the ‘horse’ has bolted!


Source: Rupen in fb (rupendoshi).

Earlier, this was also from him:


This R.K. Laxman’s cartoon vide Rajanga Sivakumar, appearing decades ago, is prophetic:

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Another from the inimitable R. K.

27972732_10208725717858971_4435621505332620433_n (1)

Came across this – possibly the ‘progenitor’ of these funnies:

28070466_1631138883632469_991086771342420412_o Usha





Who Are You? (Humor From The South)

Humor in Tamizh mags are normally pathetic. It’s a wonder how they get published at all. For all that, they make it up handsomely when it comes to topical humor. It’s usually creative in concept and funny and unsparing in content. Examples: recent hike in bus fares, some political leader changing his affiliation, water shortage, etc. etc.

Here’s one sure to draw a chuckle:

(English translation included)

A vadivelu 1

A vadivelu 2

Clearly national parties still have a lot of ground to cover in the Dravidian country to gain a fair assessment, if ever.


‘Let There Be No Light,’ He said. So, It Was (Wasn’t)

thesun.co.uk drunk

It had been a rather difficult day for them.

They retreated to where they usually did when overwhelmed with the feeling of not being equal to the world out there. Thank god (!) for these islands of solace where they let one lick one’s hurts and wounds undisturbed, unhurriedly and unwatched, and often magically transform, however briefly, sorry losers into bristling winners.

Like all good things, this too had to end.

Making their way out, somehow going astray, they found themselves passing by the gates of a shrine.

A booming voice from inside stopped them dead in their tracks, admonishing:

‘Ye sinners, how much more would you do…’

They looked at each other.

The voice kept up: ‘…alcohol, gambling, women…’, pausing for effect.

‘Who is talking to us?’

The taller of them peered inside.

‘Oh, it’s a guy in white robes.’

‘Why is he talking to us? We said nothing to him.’

‘It’s not just us, there’s a whole bunch seated before him.’

‘Why are they letting him insult…instead of grabbing him by his neck and throwing him out?’

‘How would I know?’

The man in robes resumed: ‘There’s only so much god puts up with…’ pausing again.

The penny then dropped for the taller one: ’Oh, he’s a godman, a preacher.’

The shorter wondered: ‘It’s a mystery to me…why doesn’t he show up if had a message for us instead of…’

He was rudely interrupted in his reverie when the man in robes thundered: ‘And when that happens, there’s hide and heart to pay. Begins with light being snatched away from your eyes…yes. You go blind…’

And there it happened with a flash and a pop.

Seconds later, the taller yelped: ‘Man, I’ve gone blind, can’t see a thing.’

The shorter joined: ‘Oh, no, me too…it’s all so unfair…to pull our sights out…just like that without a word or warning…’

The taller was one with his friend. ‘You’re right. How’re we to know how much is ‘so much’?’

The shorter speculated: ‘Is this man god himself in disguise?’

Just then someone bumped into the two.

The shorter recovered his poise and consoled the offender who also appeared to be not seeing: ‘No use making haste, now, mate. What’s done is already done…I mean ‘so much’ that you have already piled up to your (dis)credit…’

‘Move aside, will you, idiots,’ hissed the figure, ‘Need to get there, I’m the electrician here.’





Source: PInspired by a post from interest, image from thesun.co.uk

Musings Of An Idle Philosopher






Source: MikeysFunnies.com, image from roxalana.com