A Tale From A Mango Tree (A Drabble)

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As the sun dipped out of sight below the horizon, the feathered folks were finding their way back home..

The Wise One saw a forlorn Kaga and knew at once not everything was right with the latter.

‘Kaga, you don’t look your usual self.’

‘Yes, my friend, you guessed right. These days when I go out, I’m not sure if I would be back in the evening with hair and hide in place.’

‘Why so?’

‘Well, you know I love those berries on the lone tall tree behind the mirasdar’s house.’

‘Yes, I’ve seen you stuffing yourself nonstop with those little things I don’t particularly care for. Am not surprised you’ve problems taking off after your fill.’

‘You with your evil eyes – it isn’t going to happen anymore.’

‘Why? Has the tree stopped producing berries? Has some one hacked it down?’

‘Mercifully, no.’

‘Then?’

‘All this time, no one paid any attention to those trees in and around – they were on no-man’s land. Suddenly the mirasdar is now claiming the trees are his.’

‘Still there’s no way he can fence them off to keep you away from the berries high up on the tree. Can he?’

‘An evil mind is devil’s workshop. He has a dog and a man to keep watch. Whenever I alight on the tree and take the first bite – mind you, I do it absolutely noiselessly that would not awaken an insomniac – the blessed dog somehow catches sight of me and starts howling his head off. This gets the man to the spot from wherever he is and whatever he is doing to launch a fusillade of stones and pebbles with his slingshot. He’s quite good with it – he almost brought me down earlier today… frightened the blazing daylights out of me. So, my friend, my favorite feeding ground is now out of bounds for me. Don’t know where the next meal is coming from.’

The Wise One commiserated: ‘So sorry to hear. It’s cruel to snatch the food off someone’s mouth.’

There was silence with either having little to say.

‘I’ve a suggestion to make, if you care to listen and do as I say,’ spoke the Mango Tree so far passively listening in on Kaga’s sad story.

‘Anything for those juicy berries, dear sir, as long as I live to see the sun set.’

‘Tomorrow, when you alight on the tree, don’t be sneaky. Make a show.’

‘Eh?’

‘Yes, no cawing – that’s not what I meant. As soon the dog begins to announce your arrival, tell him you’re not amused, display your temper by vigorously shaking the (tree) limb you’re perched…jump up and down on it like you were on a hot brick, push with your beak like you’re fighting off a vulture…whatever to show your annoyance. Keep at it for a minute and you’ll have a peaceful meal. After a while your friend on the ground may open his loud mouth once again. At which instant you repeat your act. If it ever gets hot at anytime like today with pebbles and stones beginning to fly around you, make an immediate exit without losing a moment. Go back if you must not before allowing an hour or two for matters to cool down.’

‘Well, sounds quite doable…no harm in trying it out. Anyway things can’t get any worse from here.’

Once Kaga moved away for the night, the Wise One threw a quizzical glance at the Tree saying ‘Man, have you gone senile?‘ and received a signal in response to wait and watch.

The following day was like any other day – the birds lodged in the leafy Mango Tree headed out early in the morning seeking food and adventure, and returned in the evening flapping their tired wings looking to a night of repose.

And there was Kaga gliding in gracefully. The glow on his face said it all. He thanked the Tree profusely: ’You know, after a few rounds, strangely the dog appeared to be amused by my act more than anything else. I almost got a feeling he opened his mouth now on purpose to get me going and entertain himself.  In the afternoon he even went so far as to wag his tail a few times! Thanks very much, sir, for restoring my lifeline.’

‘Just as I expected. Keep the show on and note all that jumping and pushing helps your digestion too.’

After Kagha took leave on this happy note the Wise One turned to the Mango Tree:

‘Just as you expected? All this song and dance – mind telling me what’s all this hooey?’

‘Nothing out of the ordinary…it always good to share…’

‘Eh?’

‘Soon Kaga will figure out for himself why it works for him. They are a team now –  the dog is hooked on the berries that Kaga shakes down!’

 

End

The Strange Case Of A Problem On Four Legs

Part 1

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One day, a distraught man turned up at the court of Rayar (Krishna Deva Raya) seeking justice.

His story came out haltingly amidst a lot of sniveling:

‘We are four sons to our father. On his death, we divided his property, cash, jewels…everything into four equal parts, one for each of us.’

Rayar sought: ‘Excellent. That’s how families need to be. So, what is the problem?’

‘You know it is this blessed cat that was dear to my father.’

‘Don’t tell me you divided…I don’t see the cat.’

‘No, no, we didn’t harm the poor thing. And it isn’t here. We claimed one leg of the cat for each of us.I got the right foreleg. So it was all settled…’

More sniveling.

‘Young man, get hold of yourself. No one goes away from the court of Vijayanagaram Empire without getting due justice. Proceed.’

‘Everything was fine, my Lord, until the day this creature had a fall and  broke my leg.’

‘Broke your leg…a cat did that?’

‘No, my Lord, I mean it broke its leg that was mine.’

‘Man, come to senses – its leg is your leg?’

‘Yes, my Lord, if you recall its right foreleg belonged to me.’

‘Oh, yes, you did mention…the strange arrangement.’

‘My brothers said since it was the right foreleg, it was on me to attend to it. So I had the leg swathed in an oil-soaked cloth as prescribed by a vaidya.’

‘You did the right thing by the poor animal.’

‘Yesterday evening there was a bit of chill in the air. The dumb cat laid itself near a lamp for warmth.’

‘Can’t blame – it was a bit nippy even here for us, I remember.’

‘Unfortunately a spark flew from the fire and landed on the oil cloth setting it ablaze.’

There was a collective gasp in the court.

‘The cat panicked, ran helter-skelter before jumping into a water tub.’

Rayar saw it for what it was: ‘Under the circumstances, most sensible thing to do, I say.’

‘But, my Lord, that’s when my troubles began.’

‘Don’t see how…’

‘The mutt got into the tub not before running wild through a couple of neighbors’ houses setting them on fire.’

Rayar saw the underdog’s point of view: ‘Well you would do more if it was your leg on fire.’

Ignoring Rayar’s levity, the woebegone man carried on: ‘Now the neighbors are holding the cat responsible for the damages. And my brothers are laying it squarely outside my door since the houses were torched by the cat’s right foreleg.’

‘Well, looks reasonable to…’

‘My Lord, you’ve got to help me out of this mess.’

‘It’s certainly an improbable sequence of events. But I can’t see how…’

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Tenali Raman stood up: ‘My Lord, I’ve a thought. If we can call his brothers and the neighbors to the court…’

Beleaguered Rayar glanced at Raman with gratitude; he knew enough to take Raman’s suggestion seriously. Instructions were issued to round them up and produce them in the court.

Part 2

When the court reassembled after a while with all the stakeholders present, Raman summed up the matter based on what the man had told the court earlier. Everyone agreed those were the facts. The neighbors stood their ground demanding compensation; and the brothers holding the injured right foreleg and hence the complainant responsible.

Raman addressed the King and the court: ‘My Lord, unfortunate but undeniable is the damage wrought by the hapless creature.  The claims of the affected neighbors cannot be disputed a whit. But to hold this man responsible…that’s a different matter. In fact the shoe is on the other leg. Let me explain – pause for a moment and think who carried the cat to its incendiary activities?’

Frowns on faces. The man had not said anything about anyone making a torch of a cat on fire.

Raman dispelled the fog that had momentarily enveloped the court: ‘It’s those three healthy legs that set the cat on the binge.’

A mild flutter at what was hinted.

‘It’s my submission the owners of those legs be called to account instead.’

The ensuing commotion took a while to die out.

End

 

 

Source: Seeded from shortstoriesshort.com and images from daily motion.com and topyaps.com

Wrong Turn

The story is not what it seems at first glance! It’s children’s and more. You’ll figure it out if you read it until after the end.  

Part 1

As in any other civil society, rats thrived and over time multiplied to menacing proportions finally awakening the collective concern of the subjects of a certain rajyam (kingdom) in the western parts of Bharat (India).

The growing public outcry moved the Raja to convene his court of mantri’s  (ministers) and officials to look at  the problem of rats that had assumed menacing proportion. Though he didn’t quite understand what was the hullabaloo about – for he saw no rats around his palace.

The proceedings were kicked off with the Raja’s ‘Is it really serious as it’s made out to be?’

Rats Crawling around the Floor of the Karni Mata Temple near Bikaner India

‘Yes, Raja, we cannot take a step forward without squashing one if it doesn’t run up our legs.’

‘But I never saw one coming to this court from my quarters.’

Thinking to himself ‘We were stupid not to have posted road-signs to the palace,’ the mukya mantri (the chief minister) clarified: ‘That’s because we maintain a pandal outside to lure them away from the palace with a constant supply of food with the fare varied to avoid boredom.’

‘Why didn’t you alert me earlier?’

‘Well…we didn’t want you to be troubled by these trifles.’

Their concern mollified the Raja. ‘Oh…so what do we do?’

Words were shot out thick and fast:

‘Let me caution you, mooshika (rat in Sanskrit) is the transport of our revered Lord Ganesha. We’ll incur His wrath if we cause harm to them in any way.’

Ganesha forum.spiritualindia org.jpg

‘So what do you suggest?’

‘May be we catch them all and release them far away from our city.’

‘What if those guys out there wherever don’t like it and decide to do the same in our direction? Or the vermin’s, with due apologies to our beloved Lord Ganesha for the unflattering reference, decide to find their way back on their own? You can never trust them to behave.’

‘Why don’t we open pandals likewise all over and keep the rats away from our houses?’

‘Doesn’t it occur to you all to simply deploy their natural enemies – cats, I mean. These rats – they would be decimated in a trice.’

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‘If you haven’t noticed, be informed there aren’t enough cats around. Also these bullies have grown big and bold enough to give nightmares to poor cats – lucky they aren’t eaten up yet. On occasions don’t you see our kids running for the hills?’

‘Simple, let us ask people to bring their rats killed and we’ll pay them a reward of, say, a silver for ten. Nothing like the shine and jingle of silver for our folks. All we need to do is to count and disburse. No sweat.’

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‘Yes, that’s better than asking them to do the gory stuff.’

‘A silver for a bunch of rats? Mmmm…Okay…and how do we do it?’

So the Raj-Vaidya (medicine man in the royal court) was summoned. He confirmed the non-availability in the jars of his back-room of any potent herbal mix that would clean up the conscience and do the dirty. At the risk of losing his home, hearth and possibly head, he was tasked to concoct a suitable solution.

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A month later, the Vaidya, the master he was of his trade, delivered on his commission exceeding himself, just as the public clamor for relief turned shriller.

The mukhya mantri advised the Raja to take the plans to the public without further ado.

A full court was convened with the crowd spilling to the fringes of the pandal of feasting rats – them (not the rats) on their toes not so much for catching a better view of the proceedings as for presenting a smaller obstacle to the frolicking rodents on the ground.

On behalf of the Raja, the minister unveiled the scheme. And for those who were in need, a sturdy trap with a capacity to catch ten average-sized rats was also made available for a silver. A total solution with no loose ends stopping shy of including the bait – though fail-proof recommendations were made for the latter.

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Silence reigned for a little while before the coin dropped (never mind there were no coin operated machines in the days of Raja’s and Maharaja’s).

Commercial instinct came to the fore ahead of other matters (now you know why the story located the rajyam in the west!):

‘Would the payment be immediate – like cash and carry, nay, carry and cash?’

‘Would any rat we catch would be counted as one or it depends on its size, weight…’

‘Can we bring dead ones too?’

‘Is the compensation proportional or there are slabs? Is there a minimum?’

‘It’s not fair to those catching more of the large ones. Rats and mice must be treated differently.’

‘The breakeven should be set lower at five rats.’

 

Then there were quality issues: ‘If the trap loses the bait and fails to trap? Has it been tested enough?’

‘What happens if the rats chew off the trap? Tough customers, you know.’

Metric issues: Can we not be paid by weight?

Governance issues: ‘What happens if your count is less than mine?’ The other way round was not an issue.

The mukhya mantri somehow managed to persuade his audience to go back to their homes with the scheme offered, largely helped by the growing restlessness of the Raja and his hardening glare at the relentlessly vocal section of the audience.

Some weeks later

Part 2

An overpowering stench gradually enveloped the palace and its grounds.

On making enquiries, the Raja learnt it was from the dead rats piling up into a big mound before their pit burial.

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Why was the rat-o-cide committed near the palace grounds?

The mukya mantri explained it was so for a good reason: Well, the potion had to freshly brewed to be effective. With the herbs for the same sourced from the gardens behind the palace, administering the potion could not happen at any place far.

The Raja was not pleased visibly and vocally.

The mantri’s and officials went into a huddle

It was collectively decided to make a small change to the scheme: Henceforth it was sufficient to produce as evidence only the tails snipped off the dead rats to claim the silver. Never mind how the de-tailed rats met their fate.  Were they dead at all when they parted with their appendages? Raja-Tantram (The Official Book on Tricks of Rulership) clearly emphasized ‘While solving a problem, stay solving the problem.’ Others can take care of themselves, wait out, go elsewhere, lived with, whatever…

So that was it.

The tails made smaller mound and were easily dispatched before turning malodorous.

Peace returned, the sun shone in all its glory – the Raja and his ministers went back to whatever they did ruling the rajyam.

After an unimpeded run of six months disquiet reared its head in the shape of the peshkar (CFO) when he perceived a-silver-for-ten significantly denting the treasury. The inflow of tails continued unabated and was, in fact, threatening to graduate into a torrent and a flood as a distinct possibility. It was as if some piper was luring all the rats of the world to their doom in this rajyam in an unending stream. How could this happen?

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Strangely, meanwhile, the tails were turning up young and rarely twitched. Perhaps the virile adult population with the propensity to procreate was already wiped out and the trend would soon reverse – a thoroughly welcome and encouraging augury.

The Raja conferred with his ministers and officials. Was it the unseen hand of some ill-meaning neighbor to destabilize the rajyam pumping rats through underground tunnels across the borders? Or something more sinister?

They decided to send out an investigation team to uncover what was happening. Who was rolling out this diabolical plan?

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It wasn’t long before the team returned with its findings none could imagine!

Part 3

The team reported the operation of an entirely new industry that had sprung up in the rajyam – rat farms!! Using adult rats they bred and sold the young fifty to a silver. The buyer sold the lot (the tails) to the state profitably at ten to a silver. The demand far outstripping the supply.  If their sources were to be believed research had reached an advanced stage to breed a rat whose tail could be periodically harvested without killing the ‘goose’.

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Not hard to guess what followed.

 

End

 

 

PS: Seeded by a very short piece from Gautham Iyengar (here) on unintended consequences of state subsidies!

Mixed metaphors and some inappropriate ones and a few neologisms may be excused.

Sources for images: Rats Crawling around the Floor of the Karni Mata Temple (Rat Temple) near Bikaner, Rajasthan, India from sharingtheglobe,com, forum.spiritualindia.org, reddit.com, .michaelfreemanphoto.com, vacanceo.com, rustlertraps.co.uk, Album of Mysore Maharaja from kamat com, liveleak.com, aaanimalcontrol.com and estellaandford.co.uk.

A Forgettable One-Night Stand (Drabble)

 

A cool breeze blowing in from the sea was such a relief after the sweltering heat of the day.

He was on the terrace all by himself until he heard footsteps behind him.

What? Who is it?

“Not to worry, mate. I heard noises up here and wanted to make certain everything was in order.”

It was a girl. Must have been in mid-forties.

She stood by his side. An amiable face, looking amused. The perfume…was it jasmine?

“I found they rent apartments here for such ridiculous money. It is crazy. Hope they didn’t rip you off.”

“Have I seen you before, lady? I moved into 21A yesterday and I hardly know anyone around here.”

“Just down the hall from you. 29B. You know, had I children, they would all be older than you now.”

Her hand was resting on his thigh. They sat in silence. The moon had risen. “Sometimes I wish I could step off the edge over there and just float like a leaf to the bottom.”

“A poetic image, lady.”

She looked down into his eyes and smiled sadly. “It is much too late for poetry.”

She stood up and walked away. At the parapet, where a low ceramic tile-topped wall bounded the edge of the roof, she stopped. “It has been a long time since I knew a man,” she said.

“Let’s go down to my room. They don’t bother you here”

It was past midnight when he returned to his apartment, sneaking in like a cat that overstayed on the outside. No one saw him coming out of 29B. He was mindful not doing anything to sully the reputation of the lady. Even the clicking of the doors closing and opening was carefully soft and muted.

No one was answering. Gray morning light was filtering through the dirty hall windows.

“What’re you pounding on that door for?” It was the building manager.

Showing a mild irritation, “Why, my friend in there.”

“Can’t keep it rented, even with the housing shortage in this damn town. Tenants always move out after the first week or two. Nobody’s lived in that apartment for months, lady. ”

End

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Inspired by and adapted from Mendel Cooper’s (quora.com/What-are-some-good-ghost-stories-to-tell-friends) ‘New York Has Some Characters’.

 

A Tale From A Mango Tree – A Short Story For Children

It was beyond the end of season.

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Their chattering was hushed by the Wise One who spoke up:

‘The man is nearly passed out from hunger, I can see…struggling to keep himself up. We must get some food to him without delay.’

‘Aye, Aye,’ they chorused.

‘But we’re small, our beaks smaller to carry chunks of food for him,’ one from them bemoaned.

‘I’ve thought about it. Here’s what we could do. Each of you, go for a kitchen in the village. Bring back cooked rice as much your mouth holds. Make many trips until we’ve collected enough. All this in double haste.’

They liked the plan and knew what must be done now, taking off from their perch right away for the village. All but one.

‘Why aren’t you gone like your friends? Don’t you want to do your bit?’

‘It won’t work…the plan.’

‘Pray, tell me, wise guy, why would it not?’

‘At this hour, the kitchens would be closed with pots and pans washed and stowed away.’

‘You, silly bird, that’s exactly right for us.’

‘All the left-overs would have been collected in lidded pots beyond our reach. And cooked rice…’

‘We’ll see about it soon…okay, brilliant guy, you doing anything besides nay-saying?’

‘mmm…I smell somewhere here…’  

‘Going after a teeny rat, you twit?’

Safe to assume the words were lost as the bird had long disappeared into the thick of leaves and branches.

Soon it was peck, peck…peck and a soft thud waking the man up from his stupor.

Gathering his last ounce of energy, he reached for the mangoes, semi-ripe, landed on a bed of dried leaves at arm’s length.

A while later the distant chatter of the birds drew closer, growing louder by instant, signalling their return. How could they…with their mouths full? Ah, it must be they were returning to the Wise One for his Plan B?  

Now they knew cooked rice in villages is always saved overnight with lots of water standing over.’

End

How Fate Was Overcome (A Children’s Story)

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A rishi had come to the village en-route Kashi. No one in the village paid any attention to him.Their disregard enraged the rishi; he cursed the village would not have rains for ten years.

Aghast villagers fell at the rishi’s feet seeking forgiveness. They made an earnest request to the rishi to revoke his harsh punishment.

The rishi was not assuaged. He went away saying no living being on earth planet could undo the curse.

The villagers were sadly resigned to their fate.

The Lord in his heavens heard the rishi’s curse and reluctantly put away his conch – it would not be used for years now. It was always the sound of the conch that brought rains down on the parched planet.

It was then they noticed a farmer taking his bullocks and plow every morning to his paddy field. He would till the land for an hour and return home.

One day, an elder in the village accosted him: ‘Don’t you know the rishi’s curse? Or, you think the curse would be ineffectual?’

The farmer said: ‘No, I am aware of the curse and I also believe a rishi’s curse can never be false.’

‘Then, why are you doing this? If there are going to be no rains for ten years, what’s the point in tilling the land everyday?’

‘Well, it keeps the animals and me physically fit. It’s not just that – the real danger is: if we don’t, we might, through disuse, just forget how to till when the rain returns.’

The Lord in his heavens heard these words and was startled out of his repose. It could happen to him too. He too might forget how to use his conch. That would be nothing less than an anartham (disaster). So he took out his conch and blew his lungs out in a long blast.

And thus ended the dry spell, sending everyone into a dizzy.

No one knew it was all the industrious farmer’s doing, him included.

End

 

 
Source: Adapted from a ‘forward’ from Nithya and image from hotstar com

 

Plane Crash (101 Words)

Author: Barry O’Farrell

Source: 101words.org

 Atlantic Airways Flight 670  the aircraft wreckage with parts of the approach lighting system in the foreground..png

The debris of our plane wreck is scattered across the snow-covered mountain top like a giant scar.

Day 10, we are now twenty-two survivors. Day 15, eleven. The wind is unrelenting, the cold unbearable. We are freezing.

To survive we make a profound decision as a group, cannibalism. Reluctantly we feed on the fleshy parts of those passengers who died in the crash. We hope this will keep us alive. We pray their ghosts will forgive us. We hope society will understand.

Day 20, someone broke open the trolleys in the galley. We stooped to the unthinkable and ate airline meals.

 thesegoldwings.com MEALS TROLLEY

 

End

 

 

 

 

Source: 101words.org/plane-crash/ and images from Wiki and thesegoldwings.com

The Call Of The Dead

The house was abuzz with the preparations for the grihapravesam (formal occupation of a new house) due to begin in a couple of hours. There was a steady flow of vendors of goods and services calling.

‘Amma, here’s 50 liters of milk you had ordered…’

‘Yemmao, take these flowers…the garlands are in this basket – there are two in them like you had wanted and this has the loose stuff…’

‘Sami, the temple poojari (priest) sent me here. He said you wanted coconuts to be picked. If you show me where the trees are…’

images  Thumba Agro Technologies, Palani

The Brihaspathi (family guru) arrived and the ceremony commenced on time.

Before long a child signaled to her mother to take him to the toilet. The houses in the village had toilets far back past the rear door, the backyard with trees and plants on one side and the dung-smelling cowshed on the other, the huge haystack well-removed from everything else for the fear of catching fire and the ubiquitous water-well. Business finished, the mother irritated at the distraction dragged the child back to the house even before he could pull his pants up.  Once near the trees in the backyard, the pants slipped down the child’s legs.

They were startled to hear loud and clear like a ringing bell a small girl giggling at the scene – the child standing there with pants around his ankles. The lady was not amused – she looked around and could find no one.  She checked going behind the trees in the backyard. No luck. And then the giggling ceased as suddenly as it had begun, all within a couple of minutes. Puzzling as it was she hurried back thinking no more about it.

The ceremony was conducted to its ritual conclusion as planned. In the time taken to set up for lunch thereafter, the guests relaxed stretching their limbs and circulated to connect up with friends and relations. In the ensuing banter two more guests mentioned about their strange experience of hearing a child’s laughter when they had gone out to the back of the house and couldn’t locate the source.

Within minutes everyone in the assembly had heard of it.  The more venturesome among the lot made a beeline for the backyard. The elders shrugged it off – they had seen and heard much worse in their days. Evil spirits were known to play cruel pranks. And this was only a harmless child having fun.

Presently, the team that had gone to check out returned. One batch confirmed hearing the sounds though somewhat muted while the second reported there was no sound, no girl and no cause to worry. A young man from this batch brought them to speed on phenomenon of mass psychosis quoting instances from world over.

The old man, a neighbor residing across the street and quiet until now, was not in agreement. Shaking his head slowly from side to side and waving his walking stick at no body in particular, he spoke up: ‘Tch, tch, it’s not simple as that…she isn’t going away.’

All heads turned to him. Who was this ‘she’?

He continued: ‘I remember – an incident that happened years ago when I was a young boy

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Shorn of drama and details, it was about a hapless girl visiting the house from the city accidentally falling into the well and was drowned. And for some reason not known she’s back here after a long break.

At this point disrupting the story session, the host emerged from the interior of the house to get the guests settled for lunch. But this was matter on hand was more pressing than lunch.  After all houses generally did not come with disembodied girls giggling at the back – a bit disconcerting, admittedly. The poor man at once drew everyone’s sympathy for his unfortunate lot. He was duly apprised of the developments starting at the beginning – the eventful return from the toilet of the mother and the child – and finishing with the old man’s story of the girl who had returned from the past. This was too serious to be settled in a hurry. Also it wasn’t the best to take decisions on empty stomach. They decided to deal with the girl post-sumptuous-lunch.

They still had to contend with the proverbial slip between the lunch and the lip. A compassionate lady intervened to point out the poor girl in the backyard must be hungry. She must be fed first. The thoughtful suggestion was accepted without any demur. Did the old man know what she liked? No? Never mind. So a small plate was brought out and the food fit for her age – more of the sweet – was laid out. Now popped up a question: Where should they keep the plate for her? The old man was helpful – he remembered the little girl liked playing around the coconut trees.That must be it. Even the sound had seemed to come from those coconut trees.  So the plate was placed under a coconut tree with a glass of water.

They had lunch with a relieved conscience.

Luckily the Brihaspati was still around for consultation. He assured the host it was not inauspicious that the girl had appeared precisely on the day of grihapravesam.  It was more likely she would protect the residents from all evil influences like kaaval daivam (guardian angel). Nevertheless a shanthi homam (an appeasement ritual) would help.  So it was agreed a homam would be performed – the date and the arrangements to be firmed up later.

Just as the venerable Brihaspathi was taking leave, the coconut picker appeared at the gate.

‘Didn’t we pay your charges in the morning itself?’ inquired the host.

‘Yes, Sami, you have already settled my accounts. I came for a different reason.’

‘You’ve come at a very inopportune time. The guests are still around. Tell me.’

‘Did you hear a girl giggling, Sami?’

The host gasped. How did it get to him so soon?

‘Yes, what about it?’

Why was he here? Did he practice exorcism on the side?

‘Ah, I thought so – it must be here. I was so worried. So careless of me to leave it here.’

What was he blabbering about? Did he practice exorcism in the reverse, planting spirits wherever he went? And then offering his services to take them away?

’Kindly allow me to find it and I’ll be gone within minutes. It must be in the coconut trees, the ones I climbed up.’

The host took a hard look at him. Was he staggering? Were his eyes alert? Hands steady?

‘I called out several times to see if I could find. ‘I’m sorry if it disturbed you.  My daughter loves it. Now of course the blessed thing is dead. 3-year old Nokia na, Sami, have to charge it up again now and then.’

It was now the host’s turn to stagger.

End

 

 

.

 

 

Source: Based on a report in Times Of India.

Images: Thumba Agro Technologies, Palani, the hindu.com

 

It’s Tenali Raman Again

Part 1

The orrargal (eyes and ears of the court) brought back news of wide-spread commotion in the city and its near-about.

Small knots of people collected at street corners, in front of shops, temples, under the trees…and speculating in hushed voices:

‘Someone must have spoken ill of the Gods and the Devas (demi-gods). This will not go unpunished…’

‘May be such blatant and cruel lies were being said against the good that even the Gods wouldn’t hear…’

‘Some evil plans being hatched? Surely we’re going to see some anartham (unthinkable) happening in the days to come…’

At the request of his ministers, Krishnadeva Raya assembled the court in great haste to deal with the situation. His Prime-minister Timmarasa was away leaving it to a stand-in.

‘Bavanna, have we been able to find out what is this all about?’

‘Yes, my lord, the udhyavanam (a large tended park) in the northern outskirts where we camp in summer

‘I know, the place lush with trees and plants…a pretty isolated spot, I thought. So what happened there?’

’My lord, that’s where it happened.’

‘And what happened there? You’re making me repeat myself.’

‘There is an old shrine out there for Sage Narada. A priest from the neighboring village comes every morning to perform the daily pooja; after he is done he locks up the shrine and goes away. Being a little out of the way, the shrine has very few visitors.’

‘Please get to the point.’

‘Yes, my lord. This morning when the priest opened the shrine he found…’

‘What? Were the ornaments stolen? The brass bell went missing?’

‘No, my lord, it’s worse. In this shrine, as customary, the murthy (icon, statue) showed the sage standing erect and front-facing, playing the Mahathi (stringed Veena uniquely attributed to the sage) and carrying khartal in his hands. And today the hands of the icon were lifted up as if to plug his ears. The icon did not appear to be vandalized…no tool marks anywhere. The sage seems to have lifted his hands of his own volition.’

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‘Obviously the priest was not in his senses or his sight was poor.’

‘No, my lord. I had it checked up subsequently with our own officers going out there. The reports are true.’

There was no interruption from the pensive King.

‘Our folks are very disturbed at this strange happening. They view it as a sure heaven-sent signal of some imminent calamity to befall us. Unless we do something about it in quick time…’

Part 2

The vexed King looked to his officers of the court for some explanations, solutions or suggestions.

‘I think we should immediately dismantle the shrine completely from there. The public memory is short. It’ll all be forgotten soon.’

‘No, this has already made a deep impression on our folks. Won’t be easily forgotten.’

‘We could claim we had arranged for a sculptor to install a new icon in place of the old one that was showing its age.’

‘Won’t wash – what if they ask you why sneak in an icon overnight and striking that unusual pose?’

‘Could be that the sculptor hid a secret feature we didn’t know about in the statue that got triggered somehow.’

‘It might be best to gracefully accept the sage is upset with us for some reason. Let’s call our jyotish’s (astrologers) and acharya’s (guru’s), check with them what prayaschittam’s (acts/rituals seeking forgiveness) are required to please the gods.’

These and other ideas that followed did not satisfy the King.

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Breaking the silence: ‘My lord, perhaps Raman can help us in this matter?’ hazarded an officer not missing an opportunity to get the former into trouble with the King.

It was the only suggestion that appealed to the King. Tenali Raman had on many occasions in the past saved the day for Raya and the Kingdom.

So a royal missive was immediately dispatched to Raman asking him to accompany the messenger and appear before the court right away.

It was a short wait before Raman arrived. The King asked Bavanna to apprise him on the developments so far.

Part 3

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‘So, Raman, what do you have to say? We’re eager to hear you.’

‘My lord, very strange indeed. And no wonder it has caused so much panic among our people. But there’s very little else useful to be said standing here. I would like to proceed to the shrine and see things for myself. I’ll report to you, my lord, as soon as I’ve some something significant.’

That was last of Raman seen or heard in the day.

In fact many officers in the King’s court were sure they had gotten rid of Raman for good.

The King retired for the night, at once furious at the lack of communication and concerned for Raman’s safety as forces of an unknown kind seemed to be at play here. It was a night of disturbed sleep for him.

Next morning, as a grouchy and groggy King emerged from his quarters, he was cheerfully greeted by Bavanna.

‘Has Raman come back?’ inquired the anxious King.

‘No sign of him yet, my lord.’

‘Then what’re you grinning about?’

‘My lord, it is good news. Filled with apprehension on what anartham was he to witness today, the priest opened the shrine this morning. And, lo, what does he behold? The sage – he had resumed his normal pose! Like as before. The problem and the panic gone! Life this morning is as usual all over the city.

‘I knew Raman would fix it. So what did he do?’

‘No, my lord, it doesn’t appear Raman had anything to do with it. In fact he is not traceable at all. And frankly we’ve no clue how the sage went back to his original stance. Yes, my lord, for many of us questions of what, why and how still linger on the entire episode. But we’re happy the population at large has gone back to work.’

‘I keep telling you wise guys the entire incident is the product of someone’s rich imagination.’

‘No, my lord, the incident did happen. I can personally vouch for it,’ said a haggard looking Raman, making his way to the King’s presence.

A surprised King inquired: ‘What have you done with yourself, Raman? Did you fight with a storm or ride a rogue elephant? And where have you been? Bavanna here says you never got in touch with us.’

‘Bavanna is right, my lord. But I returned later than midnight and crashed out of sheer exhaustion.  I got up only a little while ago and dragged myself here right away. Pardon my disheveled look, my lord.’

‘So what were you up to since you left the court yesterday morning? Did you know the sage has gone back to his normal pose?’

‘Yes, I know, my lord. But it wasn’t easy persuading him.’

‘What? You persuaded him?’

‘No, my lord. I must correct myself – it was actually quite easy to persuade the sage, but it wasn’t to find the buttons to push.’

‘What are you blabbering? Would you like to rest for a while and then talk?’

‘No, I’m quite alright, my lord. It’s a long story’.

Part 4

Raman’s story:

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He proceeded from the King’s court and reached the shrine by mid-day. The small shrine was predictably locked. But he could see the sage in his strange pose through a window on the side that was not shuttered firmly.

In all the time he was there he could see no visitors or even passers-by.

Finally he sat on the stone platform – a two-feet wide granite slab resting on a pair of low pedestals – laid out on one side of the front courtyard. Tired he was, he forced himself to think about what next. That’s when he observed a train of ants heading to a spot on the far side of the platform. It was a few spilled grains of cooked rice that were attracting the ants. It meant a visitor who had had his food at the spot. Who would it be? May be he could throw some light. But there wasn’t anyone in the vicinity to ask.

He entered the udhyavanam next to the shrine and made a thorough search covering every nook and corner. His efforts were rewarded when he located the caretaker in his cabin. He was an old man bent with age, failing eye-sight and hard of hearing. How he performed his duties was a wonder. Through gestures he confirmed there were hardly any visitors except for the priest in the morning. However – this was the interesting part – last couple of nights he saw a youngster sitting in the courtyard and in the morning there was no sign of him. As to what the young man was doing he couldn’t say. Obviously the old man did not have the strength at the end of the day to go all the way to the shrine and check. As far as he was concerned, it was better this way – the youngster in the shrine rather than in the udhyavanam.

Again there was no easy way to find out who this youngster was and why did he come to the shrine at late hours. It would be best, Raman thought, to stay back at the shrine and watch it first hand. Hopefully the lad would turn up this night too.  He borrowed a lamp and a few minimum accessories from the old man and set himself up for the night.

The sun went down. It was a signal for the nocturnal insects winged and not-winged to come out. Raman had a tough time keeping the buzz out of the body orifices. Before long a small dot of light suddenly appeared at a distance. Raman’s hear-beat went on high throttle. Once it was clear the light was coming towards where he was he extinguished his lamp not to scare off the visitor. When the figure got closer, he saw it to be a young lad carrying a bag and a lamp entering the courtyard. Raman hurriedly hid himself behind a tree.

The lad settled himself on the stone platform, cleared his throat and launched into a loud unrestrained exercise of his vocal chords.

Two things became instantly clear to Raman: a) why did the lad come to this isolated spot for his sadhana (practice). No village would let him to do within miles and b) why the poor sage did what he did.

It was the most besur (discordant) outpouring Raman had ever heard, more like a goat in the process of its throat being slit.

Mystery uncovered, Raman quickly came out of his hiding reassuring the startled lad he meant no harm. Taking pity on him, Raman spent a few hours teaching him basics of voice and tone control. It was near midnight when they finally parted.

It took a while for the King and Bavanna to return to the present.

The King inquired: ‘How did the sage go back on his stance?’

‘Well, I advised the self-taught youngster to seek the tutelage of a good guru. And cautioned him against returning to the shrine lest he attract the ire of the royal court. That should keep him away for good. Next, through the window on the side I spoke to the sage reassuring him now he was safe from the lad. And in return I requested him to assume his earlier form. Or else…I didn’t think it was necessary for me spell it out.’

Tenali Raman had done it again. Much to the chagrin of his detractors his stock in the court went up by a few notches.

End

 

Wiki: The Vijayanagara Empire (also called Karnata Empire and the Kingdom of Bisnegar by the Portuguese) was an empire based in South India, in the Deccan Plateau region. It was established in 1336 by Harihara and his brother Bukka Raya I of Sangama Dynasty. The empire rose to prominence as a culmination of attempts by the southern powers to ward off Islamic invasions by the end of the 13th century. It lasted until 1646 although its power declined after a major military defeat in 1565 by the Deccan sultanates. The empire is named after its capital city of Vijayanagara, whose ruins surround present day Hampi, now a World Heritage Site in Karnataka, India. The empire reached its peak during the rule of Krishnadeva Raya (1509–1529) when Vijayanagara armies were consistently victorious. The empire annexed areas formerly under the Sultanates in the northern Deccan and the territories in the eastern Deccan, including Kalinga, while simultaneously maintaining control over all its subordinates in the south. Many important monuments were either completed or commissioned during the time of Krishnadeva Raya.

Tenali Ramakrishna, who was known as Vikatakavi (jester poet), was a Telugu poet who hailed from the present-day Andhra Pradesh region, generally known for his wit and humor. He was one of the Ashtadiggajas or the eight poets at the court of Krishnadeva Raya.

Source: Adapted from Dhina Thanthi

Images from bhagavatam-katha.com, tagc.org,  dailymotion.com and topyaps.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birbal Faces A Tough Poser

Emperor Akbar upset at emerging second best in a test of wits with Birbal, wished to get even by putting him down in public. Instructions went out to all officials to attend the court to be convened on the following morning without fail.

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So on this day it was a full court seated in a hush when Akbar settled down in his throne. There was an unmistakable glint of mischief in his eyes that put Birbal on alert.

Akbar turned to Birbal:

‘Birbal, yesterday night, a question came to mind that robbed me of my sleep. To get back my peace I would like you to seek answers from the wise men here.’

‘My Lord, that was indeed very unfortunate. May we request you to share with us those annoying matters? I’m certain we’ll find answers in this august assembly that would satisfy you.’

‘I’m sure you’ll. Birbal. You’ve always, haven’t you? Here’s it is: Who in all of this empire has a bigger stature than your Emperor? I’m very curious to find out who it is.’

Instantly the entire court was on its feet chorusing:

‘Impossible, Jahampana, anyone to rival you? Please tell us whoever mooted this idea – we’ll have his tongue pulled out.’

‘Not an interesting answer I am looking for.’

Disappointed at the push-back, they looked at each other hoping for some spark only drawing a blank.

When it was clear they were totally flummoxed, Akbar smiled at Birbal:

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‘Usually you have an answer to every question. What do you have to say, Birbal? You appear to be tongue-tied this once.’

A caucus of officials nodded their head vigorously in affirmation. They loved to see Birbal fall from the Emperor’s favor.

Birbal: ‘My Lord, I was waiting for the court to express itself first.’

A mildly irritated Akbar: ‘Don’t you hear the loud silence? You may now say what you wanted to say if you did have something to say.’

Birbal: ‘With your permission, my Lord, I say this; I can surely think of one who is endowed with bigger proportions than my Emperor.’

A voice from the court: ‘Birbal has lost his head.’

Another voice: ’If he hasn’t already, he will now.’

A stern look from Akbar silenced the voices.

He turned to Birbal: ‘My dear Birbal, would you care to tell us who would it be?’

His even voice presently sounded neither amused nor provoked.

‘My Lord, when I say this I include not only this empire but neighboring kingdoms and far beyond.

‘You’re keeping us waiting,’ now Akbar’s curiosity fully aroused.

‘Janampana, you are seen by all present to be sitting here in this court at this moment, but this one I’m talking about – who lives by you – the presence is so massive to be perceived at once by people living far apart. Surely, has a bigger stature?’

‘You’re talking in riddles, Birbal.’

‘My Lord, what else can it be but your fame?’

A minute of silence followed.

When it sank in, Akbar laughed out aloud.

End

About Akbar and Birbal

Abu’l-Fath Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad Akbar also known as Shahanshah Akbar-e-Azam or Akbar the Great (1542 – 1605), was the third Mughal Emperor. He was of Timurid descent; the son of Emperor Humayun, and the grandson of the Mughal Emperor Zaheeruddin Muhammad Babur, the ruler who founded the Mughal dynasty in India. At the end of his reign in 1605 the Mughal Empire covered most of northern and central India. He is most appreciated for having a liberal outlook on all faiths and beliefs and during his era, culture and art reached a zenith as compared to his predecessors (Wikipedia).

You may use search to enjoy six other stories of Birbal’s wit and wisdom in this blog.

Credits: folknet.in and shortstories.co.in for images