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.’

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‘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.

Nasiruddin, The Outliar

Mulla Nasiruddin’s tales like Akbar-Birbal’s and Tenali Raman’s are short and witty and some  downright outrageous, all the same enjoyable. Here’s one such:

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On a particularly cold night, Nasiruddin was stretching his legs in front of a dying fire,

He was joined by a villager given to gross exaggeration and sometimes outright lies. Much as he would have liked, Nasiruddin could do little to avoid him. It wasn’t long before the villager launched himself in full flow.

‘You know, these don’t bother me,’ he said punching the hard mattress Nasiruddin was sitting on.

‘Don’t understand why should my mattress bother anyone save me.’

‘This kind of dried grass is quite beneath me.’

‘But that’s where a mattress belongs – beneath you?’

Nasiruddin’s levity or naivety, whatever, was roundly ignored.

The villager rolled on: ‘Under the circumstances, I sleep over the air.’

‘Eh?’

’Yes, I simply levitate.’

‘Oh!’

Obviously it called for an explanation that was supplied without any encouragement: ‘I learnt it a few months ago from an itinerant Baba!’

‘Very interesting! And what a coincidence it would be if he was the same guy who taught me to see in the dark. Was he one eyed, toothless and in white robes?’

It was villager’s turn to be nonplussed: ‘Seeing in the dark? Really? Then…why would you do that?’

‘Do what?’

‘But I’ve seen you go out in the night always carrying a lighted lamp in hand – never without it.’

‘Oh, at my age collisions could be nasty, you’ll agree – a fall can break a bone or two. So the lamp – it’s for others to stay clear off me.’

The villager suddenly remembered at that instant he had to be elsewhere.

End

 

 

Source: Adapted from speakingtree.in and image from  nasrudinsblog.wordpress.com

Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars

‘Josyam parkaliyo josyam,’ her booming voice

offered to foretell life’s many sorrows and joys.

Strongly vouched for by lawyer’s m’am –

his success rightly told before its time.

 

‘Why not this once? None will be wise about…’

– lady of the house all by herself thought,

Men battling at the court on the day of reckoning –

surely the end for them, their evil designs of usurping.

 

Them – would learn not to covet the house,

that lit a fire of greed difficult to douse.

Where it was sited, long ago, in town outer,

now in the midst of a bustling pricey center.

One married to a girl of city mayor,

held himself above laws of commoner.

 

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So the woman was called in and asked what the stars said.

Mantras chanted, cowries rolled, eyes closed–

a smaller house is an inexorable destiny, she pronounced.

‘What came over me to ask?’ the lady regretted teary-eyed.

 

Hours later…

She was pulled out of swirling thoughts.

Men came in with raucous rejoicing and welcome sweets,

Finally, truth would prevail, she always knew. .

She must tell the lawyer’s wife…what a day, phew!

 

Outside the door, lay an envelope unopened yet

from the office of the mayor, the seal on its face said

 

Its contents –

About his initiative on congestion far gone

and plans to widen a road over their pretty lawn.

 

End

 

 

 

 

Image from keyword-suggestions.com

 

The Interview (100 Words)

When the grueling physical finished, two candidates made it to the face-to-face.

Hiring

The first guy went in.

Family background and social affiliation checked out; and, now on health and habits.

‘When do you go to sleep and when do you…?’

‘Oh, all of seven hours. Luckily, no kids’

‘What I wanted to hear.’

‘Yes…can’t say about him,’ throwing his hand back to the guy waiting outside.

‘Eh?’

‘He’ll probably tell you – has disturbed sleep and wakes up groggy. Advised him to see a doc’

‘You know him?’

‘Oh, neighbors, sort of.’

 

The other guy joined as a night watchman.

 

End

 

 

 

Source: Adapted from net and slide from slideshare.net/quintonstoneking/disney-interactive-proposal-team-beta-group

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’.