The Story Of The Brahma-Raakshas And The Mango Trees (For Children)

May require reading it to them.

Part 1

They were resting after a simple meal of dal (lentils) and roti (flat bread), on the rope-cots laid out in the open front-yard of the temple. The temple usually served as the night shelter for wayfarers who happened to pass by. A light breeze provided relief from the stickiness in the air. The sun had gone down a couple of hours ago. While the birds had returned home, the insects came out buzzing aloud. The street, poorly lit by lampposts, one here and one there, was deserted save for an occasional villager returning home from some field work.

The old priest, a kind and hospitable host, was making polite inquiries to the visitor by his side, a young man in early twenties, where was he coming from, where was he going, etc. It turned out he was hailing from a place not very far off proceeding to meet his cousin residing in the town.  Just then, interrupting their conversation, some soft and melodious music, played on a bansuri (flute) floated in from a distance. Had he heard the tunes before? Didn’t seem so.

BansuriNewIndianExpress

‘The villagers seem to take care of you well – there’s even music to lull you to sleep at night!’ the visitor said in jest.

‘Oh, that’ll be Keshav, the milkman…he’s good at it…happens every night…one day it is bansuri, sometimes it’s ektara…’

‘So you don’t get bored…’

‘It’s not what you think.’

‘Well, what is it then? Someone running classes for aspiring artists at this hour?’ He said it so light-heartedly it didn’t offend the priest.

‘It’s a long story.’

‘The evening is young yet. Am all ears. Unless, of course, you’re tired…’

Thus, thanks to the visitor, came to light a strange story that would have been otherwise lost to posterity.

Here’s the long and short of the priest’s account.

Part 2

The story started decades ago, when the priest’s father, also a priest, was serving at this temple.

One day — unfortunately, it was also the day he had to go out, leaving the temple in the hands of a stand-in – a yogi passing by arrived at the temple in the same manner the visitor had. The stand-in did not know enough to receive the yogi with due respect and provide him for a comfortable night stay.  The yogi, short on temper like Sage Dhurvasa, felt slighted.  Before departing, next day morning, the yogi cursed the village as a whole: he summoned a brahma-raakshas (a super-demon) and instructed him to live among the mango orchards, never to move out or unnecessarily hurt any human.

The curse was harsh on the village; for the village was known for its delicious mangoes, available in the summer, much sought after by the royalty of the land and the rich, the leftovers picked up by the traders for the commoners’ market.

Right from day one, the raakshas made his presence felt. He would make hideous sounds all day and night sending a chill up the spine for anyone in the vicinity.  There were also short interludes of delightful music sounding like coming out of some wind-instrument that could calm the nerves of an incurable insomniac – but these were few and far between. The orchards were left alone by the villagers for the fear of their lives. When one or two picked up enough courage to venture in, they were chased away by the raakshas with a dire threat to kill them if they ever returned. Come summer, he grew quieter – but only after consuming the all the ripe fruits as if he was making up for all the months he had gone without, essentially destroying the livelihood of the poor villagers.

Gloom descended on the village. Poverty sneaking into every house threatening to take up permanent residence. Many tantriks were brought in to evict the raakshas from their midst to no avail.

Finally the priest thought of a way. He located the whereabouts of the yogi through his network of priests. He went up to him in person and explained with due apologies why he was not welcomed and cared for properly when he had visited the village. And also the subsequent havoc that the raakshas was causing all around. The yogi was mollified; but he expressed his inability to recall the raakshas since he had stayed within his limits as instructed by the yogi himself; he could only be punished if he had transgressed in any manner. By way of a partial redressal, however, the yogi imparted a mantra to the priest. Without realizing the implications in full, the yogi also extracted a promise from the priest he would not share the mantra with anyone else. If he did, it would cease to be effective.

rakshas_by_interrage

On his return, the priest used the mantra month after month – it had to be recited on every ammavasya (new-moon day) morning before sunrise to forcibly bind the raakshas to a small cluster of trees until the next ammavasya. From time to time the raakshas roared out his resentment in no uncertain terms setting off palpitations in the hearts of the villagers; but there was little else he could do. The villagers gradually gained confidence knowing the raakshas would not cross his limits and went back to tending their orchards and plucking the fruits in summer, leaving the cluster well alone. And, much to everybody’s relief, life quickly returned to normal as before.

Happy times don’t last forever as they – pessimists – say. One day disaster struck.

It was the day before an ammavasya when the priest suddenly passed away.

Amidst the grief over the priest’s sudden death, even before the embers turned cold on the funeral pyre, a sense of nervousness gripped the villagers on how would the raakshas be kept in check now. For a while, it seemed there might not be any real cause to worry; for, there was the priest’s son, a young man barely out of his teens, but properly groomed by the father to take over. Their nervousness turned into pure panic when they learned the son was not initiated into the mantra by his father so as to comply with the solemn promise given to the yogi.

The vision loomed large of those terrible days when the raakshas was in full fury.  What would they do now? No one in the village slept even a wink that night.

Part 3

It was morning of ammavasya – the day to renew and recharge the bondage of the raakshas. With the earlier spell almost spent, the raakshas was kicking up fury threatening to break free, a show he put on every month without a let-up knowing well the monthly check on him would inevitably be reinstated by the priest.

Only this time the priest was not around to put him back on leash.

The son anointed as the new priest offered the morning pooja at the temple and turned up at the spot before sunrise. He called out – he know how from his father – to the brahma-raakshas:

‘Look, my friend…’

The raakshas derisively laughed: ‘Friend?? What friend? Where’s your father, one who has imprisoned me here?’

‘A friend or a foe, you’ll know when I’ve finished. Not sure if you’re aware – my father passed away yesterday, that’s why I’m here today.’

‘Sorry to hear.’ Somehow he didn’t sound he was mocking.

‘I know you too have a heart…and live by scruples. Like you haven’t harmed any of us from the day you came here though on occasions it was pretty close. And I know, for a brahma-raakshas, it’s not easy being confined to a small space.’

‘Thanks, but no thanks for your commiseration.’

‘I’ve a deal for you…’

‘Deal? What deal? Why, you now wish me to spend all my days sitting on a single branch of a tree?’ This time he was certainly mocking.

‘No, on the other hand, I would love to give you back access to the whole of the orchards like before for you to move around. No mantra, no bond.’

The raakshas had not known the mantra was not passed on to the son by his father. Hence the young priest was in no position to restrain the raakshas in any manner.

‘So what is it? I’m keen to hear what you’ve come up with.’

‘It’s like this: As I said before, you’ll have an unfettered access to whole of the orchards. In return you promise you’ll let the villagers freely tend to the trees without fear. Also you’ll not henceforth pluck the fruits…’

‘Ah, Ah, so I starve all through the summer just like at other times of the year, watching those luscious mangoes swaying in the breeze right in front of me, yet forbidden to touch…am I allowed, Sir, to take in the aroma that wafts in…’

‘Every evening, food would be brought straight off the kitchen of one of the houses in the village for you. All through the year, every day you’ll enjoy a varied meal instead of just mangoes and mangoes and mangoes…that too only in summer. Aren’t you fed up? Though, I know you’ve grown fond of those fruits. Think about it.’

‘Mmm…,’ the gears meshed and the wheels turned for a little while. And, then: ‘Sounds good, I’ll take it. Just make sure, during the season, to include a few mangoes in the meal.’

The young priest, heaving a sigh of relief, continued:

‘I’ve a further suggestion for you.’

‘What is it now?’

‘I suspect you must have been a sangeet vidwan (musician) of no mean merit in your earlier birth. For, I’ve heard the occasional music, so melodious, interspersing the awful racket – a veritable assault on the senses –  you usually produce.’

Tickled at the praise, the raakshas was willing to ignore the rebuke: ‘Go on.’

‘Perhaps you did not share your knowledge with your sishya’s (disciples) causing you to turn into a brahma-raakshas upon your death. Under this new mutually agreed arrangement, we needn’t be so adversarial from hereon; hence, why not you give up producing those hideous sounds – there’s no need to scare away anyone now, you know – and instead, sing to the trees the melodies you could? Will do them good, I’m sure. Might make the fruits even more delicious; after all, happy means produce happy outcomes. It’ll also do you enormous good – won’t be a wasted effort, I assure you.’

The raakshas thought for a moment. Won’t hurt him to do it…he agreed. How was he to know then this simple decision would prove to be life-changing for him in the time to come!

Thenceforth there was peace, prosperity and happiness in the village with the folks going about their business fearlessly, and the raakshas, generally relaxing, moving about as he wished within the orchards, singing as he pleased for the trees and enjoying the evening meal brought for him every evening without fail.

Years rolled by. The fruits indeed grew more delicious than ever before garnering rave praises from all over.

And one morning…

Someone saw strangely the food brought in the night before was left untouched. What happened? Was he ill? During the day, the music also had ceased, replaced by an eerie silence.

The priest was brought in to investigate.

‘Our friend seems to have attained eternal salvation…earlier than he was destined, perhaps due to his good deeds of service to the trees and hence to all of us,’ declared the priest.

The whole village was grief-stricken like they lost someone in the family.  Even the trees in the orchards appeared crest-fallen.

It did take a few months for the village folks to regain their equanimity and go about their lives as usual.

The following summer, however, brought some bad news: The fruits didn’t taste their best. It was like the trees had lost their verve.

It was then the practice was started at the priest’s suggestion of playing music – a song or two – every evening for the trees too to recover from their loss; life wasn’t the same for them without the daily treat of raakshas’s music, he suspected.

The next summer’s bountiful produce of mangoes confirmed the priest’s surmise.

Part 4

The priest concluded his story: ‘The practice continues till date. And that’s the music you heard.’

For a minute no one spoke.

Then the old priest went in and brought a plateful of sliced mangoes as a dessert.

The visitor took a few slices and went ecstatic in his praise.

The priest gave credit where, he thought, it was due: ‘All thanks to our late friend, the brahma-raakshas.’

Finishing the last piece, ‘You were pretty smart to push the deal through when you actually held no aces in your hand. A fair deal it was, I would think, paying off both sides: stopping him from depriving the villagers of their fruits while freeing him up and feeding him on the other hand,’ said the visitor.

‘You could say that,’ smiled the priest.

‘You were very clever too. You also got the raakshas to sing and got rid of him in the only way you could ever – an impossible task otherwise. It wasn’t through any unfair trickery either, I would say – for, it provided him with much needed salvation from an unenviable existence. When his bad karma was completely offset by the good he had accumulated by singing to the trees, even the yogi, his master, could not have stood in the way of his salvation.   And at the same time, the fruits got even better for the village!  Again, pay-off for both sides. And, what a pay-off for a mere act of singing!

All in all  brilliant moves on your part: ‘contain the damage first, eliminate the cause second’ with everyone a winner and a loser none!!’

Acknowledging with a hint of a smile, the priest added: ‘In fact these unusual melodies are entirely his – we play it with as much fidelity as possible.’

By now the visitor’s regard for the priest had gone up by several notches.

With the conversation thinning out, it wasn’t long before the old priest, exhausted at the end of the day, fell asleep, totally lost to the living world. The visitor however slept fitfully that night, turning on sides frequently, his dreams filled with angry yogi’s, their curses and a mishmash of freely-mingling disembodied spirits. Though spirits never put fear in him; for he was fed on countless incredible stories by his grandmother on spirits and their antics – some of them she had claimed to be her own real-life experiences.

Following morning, he got up early, readied himself and took leave of the priest thanking him gratefully for his hospitality.

An hour into the journey, for no reason, his mind wandered back to the music he had heard the night before.  Might be that there was always music in his family? Thinking about it, the notes did sound familiar – at least in some parts. Yes, it was kind of like what his grandfather played on the harmonium for his students years ago in the main hall of the ancestral house. It could as well be his mind was playing tricks after hearing the priest’s story. Dismissing the thoughts, he moved on.

End

 

 

 

 

Source: Image of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia from newindianexpress.com, and deviantart.com/interrage

 

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How Fate Changed Its Course! (A Children’s Story)

The old man was a jyotish (astrologer), known to be infallible in his predictions. It was like he sneaked a peek at Brahma’s (creator’s) notes when he said what he said. People came from far and near with their horoscopes to consult him.

One day a poor daily-wage earning man came up to him: “Sir, I’m gasping for breath in the firm grip of dire poverty, deeply mired in loans taken from all possible sources. Further, there’re two daughters to be married off. Haven’t a clue how I’m going to see through it all. Could you kindly take a look at my horoscope, Sir, and suggest if there’s a way out for me?”

jyotish-research.com janam-kundali

The jyotish took the horoscope and gave it a quick look. Rolling his cowries, he became pensive.  Breaking the silence, he said: “My dear fellow, I’ve some important tasks to complete. Your horoscope needs a more closer look. Leave it with me for today and come back at this time tomorrow – I’ll have my reading ready for you.”

Agreeing to the suggestion, the man inquired if he had to pay now any fees in advance. The jyotish said it wasn’t necessary, he would collect upon completing the job.

On the man taking leave, the jyotish’s daughter came up to him: “Appa, why did you fob him off, the poor man?  Only a little while ago, you said you’ve finished the backlog and you’re free to receive new clients for the day.”

The jyotish explained his action: “Dear girl, you’re an astute observer. Actually the horoscope was very clear saying his life would end tonight itself. And there may be no time or means to perform prescribed pariharam (remedial measures). I didn’t have the heart to tell him.”

In the meanwhile the poor man was headed back home picking his way through the paddy fields. On the way, suddenly, dark clouds gathered overhead. Very soon, rain broke out accompanied by thunder and lightning. Hastening his strides to find some shelter, the man came upon an abandoned mandap (a pillared structure). In a corner away from the shower he set his bag down – a long piece of cloth with its edges bunched and tied together to form a kind of pouch, usually slung over the shoulder – containing grains of rice for his wife to cook; and himself rested on a dry slab of stone forming the floor of the mandap at its center.

In an hour, the rain let up somewhat and he was ready to go. When he lifted his bag, it came off light in his hand and…almost empty! It was then he noticed on the floor a huge swarm of ants, countless, had raided his pouch and made away with the grains. There was little he could do. With a wan smile, he poured out whatever was left also for the ants and stepped out. The dinner tonight would be without staple rice.

On the following day, he went at appointed time to meet the jyotish.

Seeing him the jyotish was dumbstruck. His predictions never failed. Did he make a mistake? He took out the horoscope and examined again it diligently. He had not erred in his reading. Then how?? This man of meagre means could have hardly performed in short time the parihaaram needed to counter what the fate had ordained.

What had happened…after their meeting the day before? The jyotish asked him. There wasn’t much eventful that had happened previous evening to account for. The jyotish however persisted until he got it all from the man.

He went back and checked his palm leaves – inscribed on them was the jyotisha shastra (science of astrology). As he read the relevant parts, it took awhile for the full import to sink in…so that was it!!

While it was comforting to know he wasn’t wrong after all, at the same time he was awash with shame over his lapse; for, it was clear to him now he had not advised his client appropriately.  The man had performed the pariharam quite inadvertently, no thanks to the jyotish. The shastra had set out the pariharam in this instance as: he should feed a hundred hungry mouths before the day’s sunset to hold off the certain death fated for him. The swarm of ants feasting on the rice grains had ensured it was done…in excess too. There was no stipulation in the shastra the mouths must be human! Something the jyotish had unfortunately overlooked and considered the pariharam to be undoable given the man’s finances and the time available to comply.

It was a second life for the man, the jyotish explained. In the time to come a big upswing in his fortunes was predicted for him; the jyotish also impressed upon him the need to be always charitable and kind to all in his life.

The jyotish did not collect any fees this time, atoning for his lapse.

 

End

 

More stories here on winning over Fate:

How Fate Was Overcome…

How Fate Was Outwitted… (a 5-part story)

 

 

 

 

Source: Adapted from Palani Mohan’s post in FB and jyotish-research.com

The Story Of An Embarrassed Elephant

Have you ever seen an elephant embarassed to the pink?

Well, we find a story about one in Kalithogai (an anthology of poems, part of Sangam literature spanning from c. 300 BCE to 300 CE)!! Yes, you read it right, that’s some two thousand years ago.

Here it is:

கொடுவரி தாக்கி வென்ற வருத்தமொடு
நெடு வரை மருங்கின் துஞ்சும் யானை,
நனவில் தான் செய்தது மனத்தது ஆகலின்,
கனவில் கண்டு, கதுமென வெரீஇ,
புதுவதாக மலர்ந்த வேங்கையை
அது என உணர்ந்து, அதன் அணி நலம் முருக்கி,
பேணா முன்பின் தன் சினம் தணிந்து, அம் மரம்
காணும் பொழுதின் நோக்கல் செல்லாது,
நாணி இறைஞ்சும் நல் மலை நல் நாட!

Corbett National Park

Translation (not strictly word by word):

It was a do-or-die fight between the two arch enemies: the elephant and the tiger.

As the vanquished tiger made good its escape,

the elephant rested at a place on the slopes of the high mountain range

and quickly fell asleep, thoroughly exhausted.

The onslaught, however, continued as fiercely as ever, this time in its slumber.

In the process, the freshly blooming vaengai tree (nearby) took a beating of its life.

Finally, fully awake and anger abated, the elephant saw it was not the tiger it had thrashed.

It walked away feeling too embarrassed to look at the poor tree!


 

I wonder what made the poet think this one up. Did he see an encounter first-hand or hear about it from others? A flight of fanciful imagination poets are given to?  Is it an allegorical riddle wherein he is alluding to some incident and persons? Mocking at his king for some sorry misadventure? Or, merely a piece of subtle humor at the expense of a man returning home late, senselessly drunk, beating his wife and waking up next morning to monumental shame and remorse?

Luckily the intrigue endures till this date, feeding our speculative imagination endlessly. Like, of much more recent vintage, the enigmatic gaze of the lady in Louvre.

 

End

 

 

Source: Thanks to Bala of Tamizh Amudham (facebook.com/profile.php?id=100024567173978) for his post. Image from Jim Corbett National Park

Musings Of An Idle Philosopher

Bad

 

End

 

Source: THELATESTQUOTE

 

Accounting Karma (A Story For Children)

Watch out…you may be hit with it even if you had nothing to do with the act if you’re not careful. .

An old story brought back in WhatsApp:

Sagarworld com

It was a Friday. As customary, the King was out on the palace grounds under a shamiana performing anna dhaanam, distributing with his own hands food to the poor and the needy.

Presently at the head of the food line was an old man bent with age, hunger writ on his face.

Just then an eagle flew overhead holding its meal by its claws – a serpent. In a desperate struggle to free itself from a certain death the serpent spit out its poison. No one noticed a drop of it falling down through a netted air-vent in the shamiana’s canopy into the large anda of rice porridge being served out.

The old man received a generous helping of the porridge with a kind word spoken by the King.

No sooner he stepped out, overcome by hunger, he partook some of the porridge, his unsteady hands spilling much of it on the ground. Even before the little went down from the mouth to his stomach, the old man was stricken with convulsions and he dropped dead right there for all to see.

Elsewhere in the Heavens…

The venerable Chitragupta, the eternal book-keeper was vexed. The eagle was simply returning home after the hunt, holding the prey with its claws, to feed its young.  It had not anything violating its dharma. The serpent was only trying all it could to escape a certain death. The king had no knowledge of what had happened as he went about doing his good deed. Under the circumstances, to whom should he debit the karma of causing the death of the hapless old man?

Unable to resolve it satisfactorily, Chitragupta took the matter to his master, Lord Yama, the god of all dharma and death. Yama heard him out and advised him to wait for some more time; surely, he would get his answers.

In the afternoon a small group of Brahmins, returning from a pilgrimage to Kashi, came into the city.  Informed of the King’s anna dhanam, they reached the shamiana, only to find it completely deserted with no living soul anywhere in sight. Unaware of the morning’s happening, they suspected, given the prosperity evident all around, perhaps the King ran out of people to give and hence had gone back to his quarters.  While speculating on their next move, one of them suggested they should still try to meet the King in person. He would not send them back hungry. Also they could present him with a few of the gangai-chombu’s (small copper vessels filled with water from the Ganges and sealed at the mouth) they carried with themselves for people back home who were not fortunate to make the trip. The King was sure to like receiving them, a rarity in his land.

They located a fruit vendor at a distance and asked her directions for the King’s quarters. She obliged them pointing out the way. They thanked her and set themselves about when she called one of them and said in hushed voice:

’You all appear to be innocent out-of-town folks. Sad it would be to see you landing in trouble. And, don’t ever tell anyone I cautioned you. If you must and when you do meet him – I’ve no idea why you wanted to – don’t ever touch the food the King may offer you. Think of some ruse to say no. If he doesn’t like someone’s face, without a twinge of conscience he would poison his food. And who is to say he would like your faces? Just this morning I saw with my own eyes…’

At that instant Chitragupta in the Heavens was greatly relieved. Just as his master had said, now he knew whom to debit…

 

End     

 

Source: Image from sagarworld.com

 

 

The Story Of A Cobbler And A Punditji in Kashi (For Children)

Part 1

Those were the times Kashi was a great seat of learning where pundit’s, vidwan’s and acharya’s flocked to learn, debate and settle arguments in theology. A living city that goes back in time farther than recorded history, shrouded in countless myths and incredible legends…

And, our story here is about a punditji, presently hurrying towards the ghats of Ganges for his daily bath when a strap on his footwear gave way. Dragging his feet through the street, he ducked into a side-lane where he knew he would find a cobbler, an old man, plying his trade close to the waters of Ganges.

The old man took the punditji’s footwear and repaired it fit for use.

cobbler hiveminer.com er

When the punditji offered him money for his services, he politely declined:

‘Sir, I have sworn to do at least one good deed every day. What could be better than being of service to a learned man like you?  This would be my deed for the day.’

The punditji would not accept: ‘Old man, I cannot remain indebted to you for what you’ve done. With time the debt would grow many times over if I let it remain outstanding. So, here, take this money which is yours…’

‘Sir, if that be so…I ask you for a favour.’

‘Eh?’

‘I sit on the banks of ma Ganga and earn a living from attending to her devotees coming here for a bath. I’ve done very little in return for the mother. Please offer these coins to ma Ganga when you take bath. Won’t you do this for an old man?’

‘Why don’t you do it yourself? You look alright to walk.’

‘You know as well as I do, Sir, a cobbler cannot commit the sin of stepping up to ma Ganga and letting her waters touch his feet. I’ve already collected sins enough to see me through a couple of births…’

‘Okay, okay, will do.’

The learned man entered the waters waist-deep, gently offered the coins with some words of prayer and proceeded to take dips.

Turning back, as he made towards the ghat, he felt a touch on his shoulder.

He turned around. A hand – it could not have belonged to anyone on this earth – had shot out of the waters, offering him a beautiful gold kangan.

A dazed punditji took it without a thought like a man under a spell. Within the few moments he needed to gather his wits the hand had disappeared under the waters. He understood – it was ma Ganga’s blessings in return for the coins he had offered.

Truly the divine-looking kangan belonged to the old man. He went looking for him, but was not to be found at his place.

The punditji, running late for his sessions, thought of reaching it to the cobbler later.

When he returned home for lunch, he narrated the strange incident of the morning to his wife.

One look at the kangan, the lady almost swooned. Wearing it on her wrist, she stood before the mirror and saw herself in different poses like a bashful bride with the tiny bells on the kangan tinkling to divine music.

She made it clear to the husband she had no intentions of parting with it now or ever.

The learned man tried in vain to impress upon her who was the intended recipient.

He even told her wearing the gorgeous kangan would arouse the suspicions in the minds of the neighbours, aware of their modest living and meagre means. They might even bring it to the notice of the authorities.  And no one would believe his story.

The mention of the authorities was an ‘Ah’ moment for the wife. She came up with a ‘brilliant’ idea that would solve the problem for them – if they took the kangan to the royal court and presented to the Raja, he would be delighted and was sure to shower them with gifts.

The punditji did not stand up against her idea.

On the following day, the couple had none too difficult access to Raja’s durbar where things went exactly like the lady had envisioned. A connoisseur of art and craft, the Raja held the kangan in his hands like it was some rare fragile flower, admiring the fine piece of jewellery, while the queen squealed in delight. A gift, it was, verily fit for none other than the royalty.

The couple were thanked profusely and gifts heaped on them for the priceless piece they had brought.

As the happy couple made their way to exit, the Queen turned to her spouse:

‘My Lord, wouldn’t it look fabulous if I had a matching Kangan for the other hand too? I’m sure the punditji would be able to procure it for me from wherever he got this one.’

Part 2

It was not the merely gifts that weighed the punditji down as they returned home.

The wife was unfazed: ‘What are you worried about? The Raja has promised us even more if only…’

‘Don’t you understand? From where and how do I get it a second kangan? And if I don’t, be assured we won’t be seeing daylight rest of our living years.’

‘Frankly I don’t know why they call you a scholar. It’s so simple…go to the cobbler again with another strap of your footwear broken – that’s easy to arrange. And tell him, ma Ganga was mighty pleased with his offerings yesterday. He’s sure to…’

‘You’re right, I must be an idiot of first order to go along with your cocky ideas. Now I know exactly what I should be doing…’

Disregarding remonstrations of the wailing lady, he gathered all the gifts the Raja had given into a bundle and hit the street as though even a moment’s delay might cause his fickle mind to change to wicked ways. Frantically he went in search of the cobbler; found him at the same place resting after lunch under the shade of a nearby tree. The punditji grabbed his hands, sobbed out the entire story as it was and placed the bundle at his feet as though he was unburdening himself of all the guilt. And desperately sought his help; for, he still had to get the second kangan for the Raja.

The old man was moved to tears, his voice choked: ‘Is that what my ma…she did? Really, for this man? That kangan…it would’ve looked best ma wearing it herself. I would readily give my life to have a darshan of her fully decked in such ornaments…you know, If you had at that moment prayed to her, Sir, she would have, I’m sure, blessed you  with her darshan in full form…’

Composing himself in a few moments: ‘Sir, what can I say? And what can I do to help you? If anyone can, it would be only she, ma Ganga.’ Pointing to the bundle, ‘An old man like me has no use for these trinkets – I already earn my two meals a day, by ma’s mercy. If I may suggest, kindly take this bundle and offer it to ma like you did yesterday. Seek her forgiveness from your heart and, I’m sure, my ma won’t let you down.’

That day there were not many witnesses to the strange sight of a fully clothed punditji standing in the waters of Ganga early afternoon and saying prayers. And even fewer, in fact, none saw the man of meagre means making offerings to the river, way above his station.

varanasi A-man-bathing-in-Ganges-River-Varanasi-Indai

Feeling greatly relieved, literally and mentally, by acting out the cobbler’s suggestion, he returned empty handed for his evening chores. He knew the storm that awaiting him at home would spend itself harmlessly in a while, but his predicament with the Raja was something different; and here, ma Ganga was his only hope.

With that comforting thought, he slept peacefully that night, greatly aided by his wife’s silence – she was too cross to talk to him, for letting the riches slip away from their hands.

Indeed a tumultuous day it had been.

Part 3

The day began like any other day, but not for long.

Just as the punditji finished his morning pooja, there was a knock on the door.

It was the royal guards with Raja’s summons to the court.

A knot formed in the pit of his stomach and was doing somersaults.

Still he managed to retain the air of confidence about him given by cobbler’s words as he got ready to leave.

A wife being a wife she decided to go along. After all the Raja would find it a bit more inconvenient to be harsh with a man accompanied by a helplessly dependent woman.

On the way to the palace, he suppressed the tremble in his gait with difficulty; once inside the palace, without much ado, they were swiftly taken to a private audience with the Raja.

The Raja meant business, it seemed. The kangan was sitting pretty on a silk covered silver plate right before him. The Queen was not to be seen by his side.

The brave front the punditji had sported all this time fell away before the Raja like ghee on a hot tava.. Without even looking up, he began stammering out his incredible account of how he came by the kangan, expecting the Raja to blow up in disbelief any instant.

Predictably he was interrupted before long. ‘Punditjiji, spare me your tale. No need to explain,’ far from being a wrecking-ball, the Raja’s voice was inexplicably laced with sympathy. The kind Raja suspected as much and wished to save the learned man from being compelled to concoct stories to save himself: ‘It has already been hinted to me how this kangan came into your possession though I may not know the details yet…And, importantly, you need not go searching for a second one for me. I know where it is and it’s very unlikely you can’t get at it.’

‘Eh?’

‘Yes, because it’s still with its rightful owner who is not likely to part with it…Ganga ma herself told me all of it.’

What was happening here? Too much and too fast for their grasp. The punditji and his wife looked at each other all too flummoxed.

The Raja filled in: ‘Yesterday night, I had this strange dream…Ganga ma herself appeared before me and said this kangan was the one from the pair worn by her and she wanted it back for herself as wished by one of her ardent devotees whom she cannot deny. She did hint at how she let this one go from her in the first instance…So, punditji, I plan to offer the kangan back to Ganga ma this evening. I ask both of you to be present at the ghats. And you, especially, to perform the ceremonies!’

He brought the meeting to a close: ‘You may go now to get the preparations underway for the evening with the assistance of my staff. ‘Yes, I forgot to tell you this…for some reason she wanted to accept the kangan from your hands, no one else’s, not even mine. And also she said you’re forgiven; for, you’ve suffered enough – she didn’t elaborate on what the offence was or the punishment.’

For the first time ever since he had gone to the cobbler for mending his footwear a couple of days ago, the punditji was breathing easily as though a boulder sitting on his chest had been removed.

They returned home in silence. There was time yet to warm up for the evening of rituals and revelry.

 

End 

 

 

Source: Based on a story from a Tamizh fb forum that I’m unable recall presently. Images from hiveminer.com and travelingsolemates.com

I Had A Bone To Be Picked

airmalta-food-580x310

We were returning from our vacation in Jordan and Egypt, flying on the last leg: Bahrain – Mumbai.

As always, I had an aisle seat owing to my bulk and the need to go toilet often (a diabetic). And I am also prone to painful cramps in the legs if I don’t stretch them often enough. The poor wife got the middle seat. For the first time, I found her twisting and turning uncomfortably in her seat. I made a mental note to get her also an aisle seat hereon. A young man, perhaps employed in the Gulf and returning home on a break, occupied the window seat on far left, next to my wife.

It was two-hour flight, I think. Weary from a long mid-night wait at Bahrain, we were dozing almost as soon as we flopped into our seats, aided by the aircraft’s turbulence-free lulling cruise.

Sometime later, the lights were switched on. Air-hostesses emerged from the galley, ahead of the food-trolleys, hand-carrying food-trays to those who had ordered special meals.

Not very hungry, we pulled our folding-tables down ready to receive our Asian-Veg meal (acronym’ed AVEG, could be taken for average!), planning to take not more than a bite. When we did get our trays, to our dismay, it was not very diff from what was served earlier in the Cairo – Bahrain sectorpeas-rice-dhalpaneer as the main course, a bowl of semi-cooked chana, a sweet dish and the ubiquitous bun. Led me to think: ‘Bring out a recipe book for AVEG meals, these chef’s, their wits strained, will grab them like hot gulab jamuns.’

I don’t know if you have noticed: We L and XL folks can hold ourselves back very well as long as we don’t sit at the table – believe it or not, we can actually say ‘no’ to food!. Once seated or food is thrust on us, well, we are different people. So, I ended up taking a little more than a bite. Once done, tidied up both our trays and waited for them to be cleared. Very early in my employment, I had learnt our plate, at the end of our meal, should never look like a couple of hungry dogs had fought over it. A South Indian meal plate with its gravy-based dishes is apt to look like just that, given our proclivity to leave food behind under the mistaken notion a clean plate shows us up as a glutton or worse, the host did not feed us enough. .

The trolley finally reached a couple of rows ahead of us. That’s when my wife leaned onto my left and said hush-hush: ‘Now, don’t touch that one.’

Now which one was that?

Just for a moment, her eyes darted to the tray before the young man to her left.

I understood: ‘But why?’

‘You know what he ordered?’

‘Yes, some chicken stuff. I heard him ask for it.’

‘Then?’

Ah, now it was getting clearer to me. What I normally do is to take the tray from the traveler in the window seat and give it to the hostess to save her from leaning into and bending over all the way to haul in the tray.  This time she did not want me to even touch the tray and, inadvertently, its contents that had been a chicken once or at least a part of it.

‘Come on, I’m only going to hold it at the edges.’

‘Oh, how can you ever…how can you be so sure?’

There was no time – the trolley had reached our row by now and the hostess was ready to collect – to remind her about the occasions we have unavoidably eaten at restaurants serving food of both kinds. And am sure they did not use separate kitchens, utensils, plates…Why, many of them would have even used the same oil to cook.

So, I handed over the two trays, my wife’s and mine, carefully avoiding any spillage. And withheld my customary assistance in the transport of the third, for preserving domestic bliss.

Just when the hostess was putting away the last, we hit an air-pocket. For a moment she lost her balance. With practiced ease she was quickly back in control but not before depositing a piece from the tray onto my lap. Suddenly I was a freak with 207 bones, one of which from a different species, in an exoskeleton!

She deftly cleared the extra bone restoring my normalcy – one second it was there, it was gone like magic in the next. The hostess made light of it with a short apology said with a big smile and moved away.

Well, the magic was not fast enough, good enough to escape dear dharmapatni’s (wife’s) notice.  She stiffened in her seat, her ire welling up and not finding a target.

Didn’t our man Murphy say something about a buttered toast falling? It was unwise to bring it up presently, I thought.

Just imagine, you feel hopping mad and you cant take it out on anyone or anything! Poor lady, there isn’t much one can do, firmly belted to the seat and boxed in from both sides.

Under the circumstances, never mind it wasn’t your doing, one can never be too careful. ‘Remove yourself without delay to safe distance,’ is the sage advice given by those in the know. Not very practical within the confines of an aircraft flying full. Engaging in activities like watching a movie, reading in-flight mag, solving a Sudoku or talking apps to a fellow-traveler is tempting fate according to the same sources. And never ever look into her eyes – that ‘s fatal, we’re told. Left me with little choice but to get some shut-eye, not figuring in the taboo list. Happy to report perfectly satisfactory outcomes on all fronts.

 

End

 

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Source:  Inspired by a recent experience that came quite close. Image from tvm.com.mt