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.

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








Source: powerhumans.com

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Words Never Fail

HH Jagadguru Shankaracharya, Sridevi


Many a story remains incomplete.

With some, they run out of pages

and some, ink.





Mind Is A Lonely Place (50+Words)

india-1427989_960_720 Pixabay

The ride to the railway station had been tiring.

Through the window she could see him hurrying away as the train pulled out slowly, puffing and panting.

Her mind, for no reason, went back to the time when she did not have the baby.

She was even ready with a name: ‘Asha’ meaning Hope.





Source: Inspired by a post in Pinterest, image from Pixabay.

When Men Of Words Play Pass-The-Ball…

the outcome is a delightful read! It’s amazing how one takes off where the other leaves it! Enjoy:

(English version follows)



Mirza Ghalib: ‘Permit me to have my drink in the Masjid (place of worship). If you don’t approve of it, show me a place where I could with no god around.’

Iqbal: ‘A Masjid is where god resides. It’s no place to have your drink. Yes, there’s one place where you could…the heart of a non-believer.’

Ahmad Faraz: ‘I’ve returned precisely from there, finding the place not of the kind you’re alluding to. It’s not without god – only the non-believer is not aware.’

Wasi: ‘There’s no place on earth without god. Make your way to the heavens where you’re within your rights to enjoy your drink.’

Saki: ‘When I have my drink, it’s for nothing but keeping sorrow at bay.  With no sorrow around, it’s no longer fun to have one’s drink in the heavens.’

Meer: ‘We drink for pleasure and blame it unfairly on sadness and sorrow. Have a jug full…you’ll see the heavens right here on earth!’




Source: Pinterest

PS: The translation is not word-by-word. Attribution not checked for authenticity.

Life Loves Its Circles


Into the second week of our visit, SU, her mother, while getting ready to leave for work, suggested: ‘Appa, why don’t you help SH do her maths exercises? That’ll be a great help.’ She had seen me at a loose end…sort of, in those days.

Had I seen it coming, I would have busied myself reading even if it was ‘Anna Karenina’. You’ll appreciate my trepidation was not misplaced if you knew a bit of history: When SU was at the age of SH, she and her sister both were quite successful in ensuring such occasions with me performing parental duties with regard to their course-work didn’t arise. And, at those rare times when it did happen, our session usually came to a premature end with me withdrawing voluntarily without any rancor from the scene. Had little choice, faced with ‘Appa, this is not the way my teacher taught us in the class. Now you tell me if I should follow her or listen to you. I’ve no issues doing it your way, but then don’t raise the roof when I (don’t) get my marks.’ In the event of any hesitation or delay on my part to disengage immediately, my wife would settle the matters by appearing magically on the scene, combat-ready to take on any agency thwarting her daughter’s performance at the exams. Well, it’s a different matter – I don’t mind admitting – they weren’t any worse for it in their following years of academics.

You saw the irony of it all? Life coming around in one full circle…

I responded with a weak nod.

This interaction with SU happened within the earshot of SH, heads down at her table on some school assignment, seemingly oblivious.

After SU left for work,

The ten-year old gently came up to me and asked – did I see a twinkle in her eyes? ‘Thaatha (grandpa), you wish to be a good thaatha or a bad thaatha?  While I was still considering her question and its implication, she added, speaking slowly: ‘I love you, Thaatha. So bad your stay is so short.’

Once again, a rhetorical, leaving very little to choice.

As with the mother, so with the daughter.

Life loves its circles.

Needless to tell you I chose to be a good one for the short time I had with her.


It Happens…

First of a series of short vignettes on life around as seen, heard, felt or even read about:

I was on my morning ritual – walking around the outer periphery of Diamond Garden near where I live, with an enthusiasm that wasn’t exactly gushing, taking in the usual sights: other walkers speeding past me with an ease that at first annoyed me to no end, now at peace with it; straight-from-Nashik farm vegetables sold in a brisk but unlicensed trade under the fear of sudden raids and confiscation by allegedly-bribe-taking authorities; a motley bunch of young and old of both sexes collecting inside the Garden, flinging their limbs about as directed by a trainer and emitting noises from the deep-end of their voice boxes like they do in a movie on martial arts; an enterprising middle-aged lady serving, in small plastic cups designed to hold only a little more than a spoon-full, a chlorophyll-rich herbal concoction of ingredients pulled from half-a-dozen polished containers, perhaps to make up for an husband idling or lying senselessly drunk at home; another bunch, mostly in their sixties and above, in casual postures, letting out bursts of loud mirthless laughs – do these qualify for health benefits? – sure to  startle the unwary; a homeless guy looking like a runaway from coal mines, sitting feet up on one of those shiny steel benches reading a newspaper in English; …

I’m digressing.

Into what was my third round I think, this man crossed my path heading somewhere beyond the Garden, clad in a black dhoti usually worn by Ayappa devout’s, unshaven, with a small sandal-paste-kumkum tilak on his forehead.  As he pulled ahead of me, as they all do…ugh…, I read ‘TATAVAMSI’ printed at the back of a sleeve-less jacket he wore over his shirt. I was intrigued. One has heard of many vamsam’s (lineages) named after illustrious guru’s, acharya’s and even venerable rishi’s from mythology. But a vamsam by this name TATA – this was a new one for me. Who was this TATA his grandchildren so proudly and publicly announce to the world? Why not take his name? The word means grandfather in Thamizh.

Well, the question remained in my head for a few moments, going out of my mind no sooner he went out of my sight.

Then, it was not to be. In my penultimate round executed more in joy than in breath – the end was in sight, you know – this guy was walking right back along the same way he had gone, crossing me again. Curiosity could not be contained. I stopped him in his stride to ask him politely who was this TATA and what was grand about his grandfather that he went about carrying the old man on his back instead of in his heart as the usual practice was. He was startled out of his wits to be suddenly accosted by a perfect stranger and hit straight out of the blue with a query that made no sense to him even after he recovered his wits about him. Helpfully I drew his attention to the words he carried on his back.

‘Oh,’ he burst out laughing, ‘Sir, it’s nothing about my poor diseased TATA who would have given his life to belong to a worthy vamsam, it’s TATVAMASI.’

No elaboration was needed for the profound advaidhik pronouncement from the scriptures.

‘Oh,’ I said.

Moving on, mercifully and gracefully he didn’t make it worse for me. Having said that, I must also tell you this – at my age, it takes lot more than this for me to be shamed, a limit not challenged yet.

At the same time, inescapable’s cannot be ducked for long, Regrettably it looks like the long delayed visit to my doctor would be sooner than I had planned for my cataract. Though it would still leave me with the flawed ‘auto-suggest/correct’ feature embedded in my grey cells unfixed.