Tenali Raman Shines Again – A Folk Tale For Kids

Once, Tenali Raman was permitted by his king Krishna Deva Raya ruling the renowned Vijayanagar Empire (VE) to visit the kingdom of Gajapati’s of Odisha at the request of the latter. On his way back, he broke his journey at Rampur, a small state with friendly relations with the VE.

After reaching the palace, he realized his visit was a little mistimed on learning about the recen happenings in the state.

*

The chieftain of the state was, for a month now, unfortunately down with an ailment – a painful stomach ache – that proved incurable till date. The prime minister of the state had organized experts in various different systems of medicine from all over the state and outside to come down and treat his master. With all efforts to no avail he was at his wit’s end on the next steps. It was then he heard about the arrival of a yogi from deep south on his way to Kashi. The yogi was reputed to have performed some incredible feats through his yogic powers. Where formal medicines have failed, maybe he could help. So the minister with the consent of his chief went ahead and made arrangements for the yogi to visit the palace and examine the patient.

The yogi on arrival was received with due honour and taken to the living quarters of the chieftain.  In the presence of the prime minister, the royal priest and the royal vaidya (doctor) he thoroughly examined the patient. When he was done, he turned to the vaidya and asked for some common herbs to be brought. Mixing honey, he pestled the ingredients into a gooey paste. Gesturing the two to silence, he sat down and for some good ten minutes chanted some esoteric mantra’s invoking Agni, the god of fire, keeping the paste in a shallow dish in front. Done, he handed over the dish to the vaidya for use.

And taking the prime minister aside he asked in a low voice:

‘Sir, speak truthfully, just between us when did you utter a lie, a lie of any kind, last?’

The minister was taken aback at the question so suddenly sprung on him. Recovering his poise, he said a little abashedly, ‘Yesterday, night, to my lady…before we went to sleep.’

The yogi wanted him to continue.

‘My wife has been pestering me for quite some time to get her a necklace like the one worn by our queen during last Dussehra (festival). I bought peace with a promise I’ll get one before the next Dussehra though I’ve no idea or the means on how to; and yesterday night I had to repeat myself when she brought it up.’

The yogi smiled.

Moving on to the vaidya he asked the same question. The vaidya too unprepared. He collected himself and confessed many a time he had given placebos to patients in the name of medicines though it did prove beneficial in number of cases. Would that be considered as lying?

The priest admitted to not being truthful when in his zeal he blessed devotees with aayush (longevity of life), arogyam (health) and aishwaryam (wealth) though it was in no way within his means to deliver or ensure the same, instead of praying for the same to the almighty on their behalf. Misrepresentation, right, was he lying?

Addressing them, he said: ‘this medicine is now invested with the power of agni to burn his ailment; giving three spoonful’s at one shot would cure him of the illness. Next morning he should up and about. But for now let it stand under the hot sun for a couple of hours before using it.’

In just three spoonful’s the stubborn ache gone? So potent? Incredible! They were visibly overjoyed.

The yogi continued: ‘Not so soon…there’s a condition, not easy to satisfy. It must be given to the chieftain only by someone who doesn’t speak a lie at all for any reason, good or bad. Anyone who does not qualify and yet tries to administer the medicine, would face intense heat of agni first and if he persists he would be burnt alive. So be very careful who you chose. Also remember the medicine would lose its potency in about three days from today- ah, wear this kappu (amulet) around your wrist and you’ll not come to any harm handling the medicine. Of course it won’t still let you…’

Nothing more to do, the Yogi took leave to continue his journey.

*

The inner council got down to the job immediately – they knew it was not going to be easy to find such a soul if there was one at all in mere three days. They brainstormed on how to go about. All kinds of ideas were thrown up, nothing appeared promising. Drawing a blank, they finally decided to broadcast a message right away covering all parts of the state inviting anyone who thought he qualified with a promise of a rich reward for the right man.  

So criers were dispatched expeditiously in all directions with the message however without disclosing the details of the sickness their chieftain was suffering from for the fear of demoralizing the entire populace.

In the following two days about fifty people, young and old, men and women turned up. There was no way the officials could check on their claims except lead them directly to handle the medicine set on a table a few feet away from the patient’s bed. No surprise not one of them could go near the table without getting badly singed.

Third day morning, the priest, the prime minister and the vaidya got together to contemplate their next move; and there was no next move they could think of. End of road. It was precisely at this moment of utter despondency, Raman landed at the palace.

*

Raman heard intently as they narrated to him all about the stricken chieftain, their efforts and finally the yogi’s prescription and the impossible challenge for them.

They were disappointed when all Raman said was he wanted to rest for a while and come back to join them.  His reputation had led them to expect much more.

Anyway, they sent an attendant to take Raman to his quarters, make him comfortable and stay with him to attend to his needs.

It was after lunch. They had resigned to the inevitable. The attendant came running.

‘Why, what happened?’ the minister inquired listlessly.

‘Sirs, an hour ago, sahib came out and spent time talking to the palace guards – about six or seven – one at a time in the gardens. He finally settled on our Ratna, the tall guy with a handlebar moustache, you know. When he finally parted, I overheard him tell Ratna to go home and get his son within the next hour without fail. When the latter hesitated about leaving his post without permission, sahib assured him it was alright, it was for the good of his master and the state and he would personally vouch for him. Don’t know what had transpired between them. Couldn’t talk to Ratna either as he had left for home to fetch his son.’

‘Intriguing! He has asked for Ratna’s son, and he assured him it is for the good of his master…at this time, I’m sure he’s as serious and concerned as we are and not engaged in any frivolous caper, so what’s going on here?’ the minister thought loudly.

‘I agree,’ the vaidya chimed in.

‘I think I got it,’ suddenly the priest jumped in excitement and ran to the gardens at the back.  In a few minutes he returned.

‘I have spoken to Ananta, the short stocky guy, and asked him to get his son here right away. He’ll be here anytime now.’

‘Care to tell us what’s happening? A children’s party for god sake?’ the tired minister shook his head.

Arre ram, don’t you see, we were stupid to go through all that…’

The other two were not amused by that bit of inclusive self-deprecation.

‘You know, Ananta’s son is about four years old. Would he know what lying is?’

The ‘penny’ dropped.

‘Great, simply brilliant,’ exclaimed the minister. ‘We’ve cracked it.’

The priest let go – this wasn’t the time to contest the collective ownership and credit for the solution.

Shortly Ananta came in with Veeru, his son. The child looked a little scared at all the attention he was getting suddenly.

The priest explained to the father what needed to be done and the father made it easy for the child. All the child had to do is to take the dish on the table, walk up to the bed and feed the willing man a spoonful of the paste. Just like his mom fed him over dinner. Likewise two more spoonful’s. As simple as that. Ananta made it a fun thing for the child – imagine a child feeding a grownup. Yes, it would be fun – Veeru perked up.

No sooner the child neared the patient with the dish carefully held in his hands, he shrieked and stepped back in horror. What had happened? It was like getting too close to fire, intolerably uncomfortable.

With great difficulty they coaxed the child to try once again. The second round was even shorter.

The four of them could not figure out what was happening. There was no question of a third round.

*

Just then Raman walked in with Ratna and his kid Sambu. One look at them, the unhappy Veeru almost in tears and his own crest-fallen attendant told him everything. Disregarding it for the present, he explained to Sambu what needed to be done.

With no fuss, the child did just as instructed within a couple of minutes! The chieftain took the spoonful’s and almost immediately fell into deep sleep, his snoring could be heard from where they stood.

They were nonplussed except for Raman.

The children were sent away with their father packets of candies for their efforts.

The looked at Raman.

Raman explained: ‘So this guy,’ pointing to the attendant, ‘was snooping on me, eh? Anyway, don’t you worry, no harm done. Well, it is right no child at that age knows what is truth and what is not. Whatever he sees or hears is the truth, the reality for him. There is a ‘but’ to it. If the child comes from an unhappy home, suffering at the hands of parents who are strict, impatient or even given to violence, the child begins to speak lies simply to escape from punishment. You should have checked like I did before bringing the child in.’

Next morning, Raman was seen off with generous gifts by a grateful and fit chieftain though a little sad his guest did not extend his stay despite his request.

End

Image from goodreads.com

A Fisherman’s Net And Wit – A (Very) Short Story For Children

King Khusro of Persia was very fond of fish. One morning he was sitting on a terrace with his wife Shirin when a fisherman came in and presented a fish to him. It was large and of a rare kind. The king was quite pleased. He summoned his servants and ordered them to pay a hundred silver pieces to the fisherman.

Shirin was annoyed that the king was gifting away so lavishly. As soon as the man went out of sight and hearing, she said, ‘Look, a hundred silver coins for a fish? Ridiculous. You’re setting up a precedent – you’ll be expected to pay on this scale for all time to come. Now call this man and return the fish to him on some pretext and take the money back.’

‘But dear, it doesn’t become of a king to ask for the money back. Let this pass for now.’

‘This shall not pass. There’s a way to deal with it without appearing to be mean. Call him and ask if this fish is a male or a female. If he says it’s a male, ask for a female and if it’s a female, ask for a male, and cancel the payment.’

Not wanting to displease his dear lady, the king acting upon her counsel called the fisherman back and asked him the question.

The fisherman bowed before the king and said, ‘This fish, my lord, is both male and female, lays eggs all by itself.’

The king burst out laughing. And quite instinctively ordered another hundred silver coins to be given to the fisherman.

As he walked out with the bounty, the man dropped a silver coin that fell and rolled out of sight.

The man stooped down searching high and low for the missing coin. Quite a while later, he managed to find it which he put away safely with great care.

All this happened in full view of the royalty reposing on the terrace.

‘What a mean guy? See how he goes down looking for one measly coin instead of letting it go for some poor man to find it!’ Shirin observed.

The king called the fisherman back and berated him for his meanness:’…with all those coins from me, yet you were not generous enough to let some miserable chap find one…’

The man bowed before the king: ’My lord, if my king picks up from dust a fisherman like me worth nothing, is it any wonder I pick up a coin fallen to the ground? Also, the coin on one side has my king’s image engraved and his name inscribed on another.  How could I abandon the coin to be found god know when if ever. And what is to prevent someone carelessly step on it?’

Amused by his cleverness and wit, the king offered him another hundred silver coins!

The lady had no further counsel to offer in the matter.

End

Source: A story in Chandamama, August, 1955, lightly edited. Image from financialexpress.com

‘I Hate It When My Brother Charlie Has To Go Away’

A horror Flash. Too good – oops, actually evil – to miss by horrorinpureform

I hate it when my brother Charlie has to go away.

My parents constantly try to explain to me how sick he is. That I am lucky for having a brain where all the chemicals flow properly to their destinations like undammed rivers. When I complain about how bored I am without a little brother to play with, they try to make me feel bad by pointing out that his boredom likely far surpasses mine, considering his confine to a dark room in an institution.

I always beg for them to give him one last chance. Of course, they did at first. Charlie has been back home several times, each shorter in duration than the last. Every time without fail, it all starts again. The neighborhood cats with gouged out eyes showing up in his toy chest, my dad’s razors found dropped on the baby slide in the park across the street, mom’s vitamins replaced by bits of dishwasher tablets.

My parents are hesitant now, using “last chances” sparingly. They say his disorder makes him charming, makes it easy for him to fake normalcy, and to trick the doctors who care for him into thinking he is ready for rehabilitation. That I will just have to put up with my boredom if it means staying safe from him.

I hate it when Charlie has to go away. It makes me have to pretend to be good until he is back.

End

Source: Reddit

Friendly Neighborhood

A story from by gomathiji lightly edited.

**

It was a Sunday morning and so everyone got up late, took the phone and indulged in a bit of idle talk or came out to watch the traffic lazily; and this Sunday started with a promise – a promise of some fresh fat to chew on.

It was Sumit who first saw Prakash bringing two large suitcases and placing them in the boot of his car. His wife Sarala joined him now in the balcony, watching. Prakash got into the driver’s seat and waited. His father walked out with his customary tripod and then his mother. They got into the car. The noise of the car door brought out some of the others. Prakash’s wife did not come out. Where were the three going out?

Some in the colony especially the elderly were watching from behind curtained windows and some others had opened their doors and stood at the doorway on the pretext of trying to get some fresh air.

Here’s where they relied on the mastery of Kailesh. He was everyone’s man Friday in that colony, paying their electricity bills, delivering milk sachets at their doorsteps, buying vegetables for them, lending a hand in rolling out roti’s…On Sundays too he worked overtime running errands for them.

So it was not a surprise that he knew considerable details in the family matters of everyone there.

Kailesh had just then come from the market; he pulled the cycle’s stand with his leg, simultaneously got down and climbed the fourth floor bounding up two steps at a time. He found the inmates of the house for whom he had brought milk sachets, dekho’ing from their balcony.

“Kailesh! Where are they going?” asked Sarala.

“Mmm… not sure. In fact I don’t know” Kailesh said.

Sarala and Sumit looked at him incredulously, “Really! We thought you would have known. Yesterday you had been there to take a huge number of their clothes to the drycleaners, hadn’t you?”

Kailesh: ”Yes, I don’t know if Prakash saab’s phone call has something to do with this. While I was collecting and counting the clothes, he asked someone for the address of a home – a home for the aged, you see.”

“Oh

“Prakash saab’s father, when I was leaving, was muttering that Punitha was making a too much of a fuss for nothing,” he added.

It was a while before the car had started moving as Prakash had to help the old couple get in.

By now Parbathi, the house help working in most of the homes there, had arrived and she could supply them a few missing pieces in the puzzle. She enlightened the assembly with: Prakash’s wife Punitha’s parents were arriving that evening.

So it was obvious that Prakash was taking them to the most probable place, as Prakash was their only son, a home for the aged.

“And to think, only a few weeks back Punitha advised us all to care for the elders of our household well,” observed Sarala.

By now, Rita and Kumar had joined. Their flat did not have a view of the front.

Rita remarked, ”Punitha has always been reserved and secretive. I knew something would happen like this.”

Kailesh ventured, ”Punitha didi is the only daughter for her parents. So where will her parents go?”

Kumar retorted, ”That does not mean Prakash has to send his parents to a home!”

“Kailesh, do you remember the name of the place Prakash was mentioning?” Sumit asked.

Kailesh, his forehead creased with an effort to remember. “Something like anda – dhal

Anda – dhal? What in the world was that?” they wondered.

All of a sudden it struck Kumar – a friend of his had been on the lookout for a home, to deposit his own parents.

Amanda Dale! That’s it. But it is well out of the city limits!” He exclaimed

It was the prime story of the day to cook, spice, chew, swallow and spit for the colony.

Evening came and a taxi pulled up in front of Prakash’s house. A middle aged couple alighted welcomed and hugged by a beaming Punitha, witnessed by many pairs of eyes.

Almost at once they heard another car. They could guess whose it was. They were right. Prakash was getting down andWhy? His parents were also getting down slowly. Punitha’s parents walked out to greet them. Then they all went inside the house, laughing.

Such a let-down it was. A drama that was not to be. Some even shook their heads in disapproval behind curtained windows.

Yet, soon afterwards, many of them happily received a word from Punitha and Prakash telling them not to cook for the night as a sumptuous packed dinner was on the way!

It was in celebration of his Pitaji’s eightieth birthday! And that they had been to the home for the aged earlier in the day to distribute clothes and sweets – Punitha could not go with them as her parents were to arrive.

So the neighborhood went to bed that night looking forward to another interesting day ahead – with so many families residing how could it be otherwise!

**

End

Source: Images from architexturez.net

The Sparrow Knew – A Parable

Once in a village there was this farmer tilling his land from dawn to dusk.

His hard work was amply rewarded as the crops thrived and in time, laden with grains, ready for harvesting.

In the middle of the field a sparrow had built its nest. And by now with its brood of two little chicks.

One day when their mother was away, the little sparrows overheard the farmer telling his son: ‘We’ll begin the harvest from tomorrow early morning. I’ve called in our neighbours.’

When the mother returned in the evening, the alarmed chicks related the conversation and said they should move right away.

The mother becalmed the chicks: ‘Yes, we must move, but not yet, there’s time, I assure you.’

Next day morning,

Like the mother sparrow said the harvest did not begin.

During the day, once again, the little sparrows overheard the farmer telling his son: ‘Son, get ready, we’ll commence harvesting from tomorrow early morning. Our relatives have promised to help.’

In the evening when the mother heard from its chicks, she was unperturbed. ‘Not yet,’ she said.

The following morning,

There was no move to towards beginning the harvesting.

On this day, the farmer told his son: ‘Tomorrow, keep yourself free and ready. You and I – we’ll do it ourselves.’

In the evening, the mother and her chicks flew away to find a new home.

End

Source: moral stories and image from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Paws)

When The Gold Went On A Trip – A Children’s Story

Part 1

In a village off Ujjain, there lived a merchant Sukhdev. He had a shop in the town selling fabric and garments. He did brisk business and built up his wealth over the years.

Presently, a spate of robberies took place in his and neighbouring villages targeting the community of merchants and traders. When the King’s soldiers were brought in, the robbers would lie low; and resume their nefarious activities once the soldiers withdrew.

It made Sukhdev nervous; he knew for sure sooner or later he would be visited too.  A mitigating factor in his favour was: being a miser by nature, his Spartan household and life-style gave no hint of his affluence or the gold he had hoarded.  Nevertheless he decided to act.

One day, his son and he loaded the casks with his gold on a couple of donkeys, threw some clothes over to make it appear he was taking merchandise to the market. They marched off to a jungle just beyond the village. Keeping their eyes peeled for any observer or follower, they reached an abandoned temple inside the jungle, a place no one ventured to. Holes were dug in the ground with the help of the tools they carried. Carefully, without making noise, they carried the casks and lowered them one by one into the hole. Half-way through the job, the son paused.

‘Father, I think there’s someone out there. Let me go and look,’ he said, pointing to a thicket at some distance.

‘Take these with you, there could be some wild creatures,’ the father gave him some small tools.

After a while the son returned: ‘Just as I suspected, there’s a man lying there. Looks to be a beggar. Not to worry, he’s dead. Probably starved without food. Just to be sure, I nicked his ear. No sound or motion, dead as stone.’

They moved more casks.

This time it was the father: ‘Let me also go and check. It’s better to be doubly certain – this is my life-savings.’

He too returned in a few minutes, ‘You’re right, Son, the poor guy is gone. Like you did, just to be sure, I nicked his other ear. He won’t be needing them anymore.’

They finished their job, all the casks lowered into the hole. The hole was filled back with the dug-out earth, the surface flattened, dead leaves spread over, all to leave no signs of the spot having been dug up.

That night and the following, they slept peacefully.

Part 2

The man was not dead yet. A destitute who had hit the end of road and did not even have the energy to carry out what he contemplated – suicide. Starving for several days, he had fainted near the bush.

The sharp pain on his ear-lobe woke him up to see someone attack him with a sharp tool. Fearing worse, he simply played dead biting the pain somehow.

His attacker withdrew to a spot ahead where an elderly man was burying in the ground some urns.

Ignoring the pain he watched the proceedings.

After a while he saw the elderly man heading in his direction.

Quickly he resumed his posture.

He felt being kicked a couple of times and then a sharp pain this time on his other ear.

With great difficulty, he once again played dead.

Luckily for him, the elderly man went back to the spot without inflicting anymore damage.

And in a short while he saw them both leave all the time looking around for any prying eyes.

He waited. They could come back looking for something they had forgotten.

Once the coast was clear, he mustered his last ounce of energy, not minding the throbbing pain, made it to the spot, clawed away the soil with bare hands to reveal close to the surface the lid of a cask.

He took the lid off and peered into the cask. Thrust his hand in and grabbed a fist full of coins in gold and silver. That would set him up nicely to begin with, he thought.

Part 3

Monsoon arrived with a bang in Ujjain and the surrounding villages. Torrential rain caused streams of water to wash away anything in their way.

Sukhdev was worried. It would be calamitous if the top soil was carried away and the casks were exposed.

At the first instance of the rains letting up he son and he went back to check if the casks were safe in their place.

To their shock they found the hole uncovered and the casks missing. They looked around for any clues and found none.

They returned home devastated.

His son gathered his wits and said: ‘Father, we’ll find him and recover our treasure.’

‘How? We don’t know who took it.’

‘Did you notice one thing – we never got any news at any time of a dead-body being found in these parts? Because he was not dead. He saw us burying the casks…took them away after we were gone. That’s him, the guy we saw.’

’‘Be it so, how do we find him? We know nothing about him.’

‘Nothing? Father, don’t forget we nicked his both ears.’

‘How do we still find him in the multitude? Do we go around entire Avanti looking at people’s ears? You’re forgetting one more thing. Even if this guy walks right past us, we won’t figure out.’

‘Why so?’

‘Simple, because he is head would be encased in a turban. Notched ears are no badge of heroism to flaunt about.’

The old man had a point…in fact, several points, the son thought.

Part 4

Days, months passed. The son was no nearer to figuring out a way.

Two years later,

It was a Sunday. It was a once-a-month ritual: The old man was sitting there in the back-yard getting his hair cut by a barber. To be followed by an oil bath.

The man was not his usual self looking woebegone.

Sensing it, the barber tried to perk him up by engaging him in small talk and some village gossip: ‘I shouldn’t be saying this…but you know your neighbour’s son is losing hair at his young age…’

Suddenly an ‘Ah’ moment. Who would know but the personal barber?

He checked if the barbers networked among their kind.

They did, it turned out, directly or indirectly.

That’s it – he tasked the barber to find out through his network, for a handsome fee, the whereabouts of a man in thirties, possibly quite rich, with both his ears nicked.

Part 5

It was about one long month before they struck pay dirt.

On the far side of the city, he was spotted. His ex-barber whom he had dismissed recently spilled the beans. The man was a top jeweller in the city claiming several royal families among his clients.

The father and son rushed to meet the dismissed barber. They assured themselves the jeweller was indeed their man. It was easy to find out where he lived. It was a huge mansion guarded like a fortress by armed staff.  All their attempts to gain an entry or even get a message through to him failed.

They thought enough about the options and decided to approach the King. Though the King himself could be one of the clients for the jeweller.

The King holding a public court was easier to reach; he heard them out and summoned the jeweller to appear before him.

When he arrived, the father and son recognized him despite his opulence. But he could not; for, he had only seen them from a distance and when they stood close on that occasion his eyes were shut playing dead.

The King briefed him on why he was summoned to the court.

The jeweller looked at the complainants for a few moments. And then he readily admitted:

‘Yes, I did take those casks away from where you had buried. I used part of the gold in one of the casks as capital to start and build my business in gems and jewels. And whatever I’m today, it is the fruit of my labour. The remaining stuff, in fact, remains in a safe room even today untouched. Was planning to…’

The father and son breathed a sigh of relief. At least good part of their hoard still remained intact.

The jeweller further offered: ‘…it is okay by me for you to cart away your stuff anytime you wish as long as I’m adequately compensated for what you did to me.’

The son countered: ‘What you took from one of our casks – wasn’t that already an adequate compensation? We thought you were dead – why didn’t you scream when you were hurt?’

’I feared for my life. You were two, ready with tools and here I was sprawled on the ground…’

The wrangle was cut short by the King.

‘Listen, folks, here’s what I think,’ the King turned to the jeweller: ‘Thankfully you admitted to it without any run-around. Knowing you to be an upright person of ethical practices, I want to be fair to you. There’s a choice for you: Either you similarly nick the ears of these two and return all the casks, making good what you took from them or simply let them go with their casks as they are now.’  

The jeweller thought for a moment like a businessman he was. Was notching the two worth the gold he had taken? He decided against and opted to return the casks as-was.

When they received the casks, the father and son checked: five carried their original seals.  The sixth with its seal opened…

…too was full to its brim.

It was his ‘Thank You’ for starting him off to a meteoric success.

End

Source: Inspired by a story in Chandamama (1955), Images from Saddle Ridge Hoard discoverers via Kagin’s, Inc. and shutterstock.com

The Dead Too Tell Jokes – A Dark Flash Fiction (Oxymoron?)

The man was sick – his hands that had killed and robbed manynow too feeble to move. Lights around the bed were dimmed for it hurt his eyes, save the soft glow of a solitary lighted candle set on the far-end of the fairly long bed-side table casting exaggerated shadows on the walls.  

Beyond the ubiquitous medicine bottles and flasks close at hand, the maid – a loyal servant of the house over many decades, now attending to the needs of the sick man – had also kept unobtrusively on the table a small picture of Shiva (*) in meditation, hoping against hope He helps her master recover.

She heard footsteps on the marble floor heading this way. A dreaded moment for her.

The footsteps stopped and a man in late thirties, well groomed, entered the room with a bustle. Looked at the man on the bed and then at the maid inquiringly with irritation and impatience.  

The maid informed him his father was tottering in and out of consciousness. Heartless as it might sound, she was in her mind thankful of being spared of another round of a nasty show-down.

“Good. I don’t know how – get his left thumb print on these papers, even if he’s dead. Will be back soon,” he shoved a sheaf of documents in her hand and set a stamping pad on the side-table.

She had seen them before in their hands.  

As he pulled the door open for going away, the sick man suddenly leapt up from the bed in one huge convulsion and dropped back dead. And caused a minor accident – his outstretched hand toppled the stuff on the crowded side-table cascading into the candle tumbling to the floor. It set the maid’s saree on fire. As she jumped in panic, the fire quickly jumped onto the sheets covering the dead man. Her screams, the flame and the smoke drew the other house-staff to the room; they quickly put out the fire before it assumed menacing proportions.

The damage caused by the fire did not appear to be heavy: The saree worn by the maid was charred for about six inches from the bottom. The full-length inner she wore saved her from serious burns. The papers in her hand too were both charred and soggy wet from the water they threw around. And the sheet covering the man was burnt for a couple of inches along the edges.  That seemed to be it.

Very quickly the staff cleaned up the place back to shape. All damaged clothes, sheets and robes replaced, toppled stuff put back where they belonged, the floor wiped dry

The son cursed his luck. Quickly collecting his wits, he saw it to be still a redeemable situation.

He made a show of checking on his father; and then sent away the rest of the staff playing down the fire. The maid was sworn to secrecy on his father’s death. A couple of phone calls made and he would get another set of papers in under ten minutes. So all was not lost.

His impatient wait on the couch was the longest he was ever in this room.

When the papers finally arrived, he summoned the maid.

When he lifted the frail left hand of the man, nay, the corpse to get a thumb print, to his horrorthe corpsehad blood on its hands, this time very much its own. And more, he found melted flesh oozing where the thumb once was.  

He immediately knew the ride from here was going to be rough or, worse, there might be no ride at all. He sat on the couch with hands on his head.

The maid was both sad – for, her master of long years, though evil, was no more; and relieved he was gone before the fire reached him; further evidenced by his face not set in any semblance of a grimace. Instead, strangely, there was a certain smirk on his visage, one might say!  

She certainly had another reason to be sad she was not aware yet: Her Shiva the Destroyer also disappeared in the fire!

Perhaps she might tell herself at that instant there was nothing more for Him to do, so He chose to go away quietly leaving the actors in the human drama unfolding in the house to their devices.

End

Note: Shiva is the designated Destroyer among the trinity of gods in the Hindu pantheon, also easily pleased and kind to his devotees.

Source: clipart.com and Guyana times.

Vikram And Betaal – A Story For Children

Vikram Aur Betaal or Vedalam stories are well known and the staple of many a story teller, grandma’s included.

It is originally based on ‘Betaal Pachisi’, written nearly 2,500 years ago by Mahakavi Somdev Bhatt. These are spellbinding stories told to the wise King Vikramaditya by the witty ghost Betaal.

The fabled King ruled over a prosperous kingdom from his capital at Ujjain. He had immense love for learning as well as for adventure. He was brave, fearless and with a strong will. Everyday he received many visitors who always brought gifts for him. Among such visitors was a mendicant who presented the King with a fruit on every visit. The king would hand over the fruit to the royal storekeeper. One day while handling the fruit, it broke and from the pop came out a ball of brilliant ruby. The surprised King ordered checking all the fruits, and, yes, from all of them yielded a fine ruby. He decided to meet the mendicant. However, the mendicant set a condition that the King must meet him under a Banyan tree in the center of a cremation ground beyond the city, at night, on the 14th day of the dark half of the month.

The King met him as decided. Asked the mendicant why he was doing this. There upon the mendicant said there was a task that only a King like Vikramaditya could accomplish. The King had to visit the northern-most corner of this ground where he would find a tree immeasurably old. There would be a corpse hanging from one of its branches. He must fetch it for the mendicant; for, the mendicant was seeking certain occult powers he would get only if a King brought down this specific corpse to him and if he practiced certain rites sitting on it.

Vikramaditya, obliged the mendicant. He would remove the corpse from a treetop and carry it on his shoulder. En route, the spirit in the corpse (Betaal) would narrate a story to the laboring King and on completing the story Betaal would pose a query. If he (the King) knew the answer, was bound to respond lest his head exploded into a thousand pieces. But if he did speak out, he would break the vow of silence and Betaal (in the corpse) would fly back to the treetop, leaving the King short of his destination! The King would go after the ghost and start all over again. And so on and on.

As the name ‘Betaal Pachisi’ suggests the Betaal told the King twenty-five stories. However, looking at the determination of Vikramaditya, Betaal finally disclosed the true motive of the mendicant. The mendicant’s plan was to practice certain rites sitting on Betaal (in the corpse) but he would also kill the King to get all powers to rule over the world. This put the King on the alert. In the end Betaal proved to be right and the mendicant tried to kill the King. However, Vikramaditya outwitted the mendicant and killed him.

Over a period of time many more episodes were added by imaginative story tellers that it grew into a big collection it is today. The stories piqued the young minds with those questions coming up at the end and the King’s intelligent responses.

Here’s one based on a vague recollection of the plot-line of a story I had read many decades ago in, yes, where else but Ambulimama (Chandamama):

**

Part 1

Once again, Betaal spoke up from the shoulders of Vikramaditya: ‘Hey, King, why are you engaged in this infructuous and risky enterprise?’ Eliciting no response from the King, Betaal continued: Looks like you are not going to be dissuaded. Okay, let me once more tell a story to take your mind off this tiresome task you wouldn’t give up. And, as always, ending with a question for you. You know well you answer it wrong and lose your head or you answer it right and you’re right back where you started. Here you go, listen carefully.

Once upon a time the kingdom of Kasigarh in the northwest was ruled by King Jayachandra.

The land was fertile fed by a perennial Himalayan river coursing through, the harvests bountiful. The subjects were content and happy under the fair and just rule of their King.

No surprise the neighboring kingdoms cast their covetous eyes on Kasigarh though no one made any moves.

All this changed when the evil Ugrasena came to power in the neighboring kingdom of Sooryadhara. It all began with sporadic incidents of their villagers, emboldened by the support of its soldiers, stepping over the borders and stealing cattle. Soon it became more frequent and escalated to harvesting standing crops on this side of the border. Resisting villagers were beaten up blue and chased away.

The news of these incidents of transgression reached Jayachandra along with a plea for protection from the affected.

Independently the King also received news from his sources in Sooryadhara of Ugrasena secretly mobilizing his forces for action against an enemy unspecified.

He was alarmed at these developments. The pacific minded King did not command a large army of soldiers to confront in conflict the much larger and powerful neighbor. He immediately sought the counsel of his ministers. It was decided to send out without delay an emissary to talk peace, even concessions, and restore normalcy on the borders.

The emissary returned snubbed – he didn’t even get an audience with Ugrasena.

By now the intentions became clear. Jayachandra had no option but to gather his forces together for a possible action, fully realizing they were far fewer and no match for their foes-to-be.

Not satisfied with the arrangements he had made, the King called for a session with his ministers on what else could be done to strengthen their defenses.

Many ideas were put forth. Of them, the ones deserving more serious attention were:

Could they buy peace? But then at what price? Also Ugrasena did not seem to be in a conciliatory mood. May be they should reach out to those advisors if any who had his ears.

Did Ugrasena make any powerful enemies they could tie up with? After all an enemy’s enemy is a friend.

Could they hire mercenaries to bolster their numbers? Were there any other force multipliers they could bring to bear upon the offender?

These were pursued with haste only to draw a blank at the road’s end. All, categorical no-go’s. They were not able to identify such advisors with access to Ugrasena who was rearing for some bare-faced aggression and nothing less. The kingdoms around Sooryadhara were all small like Kasigarh and would not dare to get into a confrontation. And, there were not many mercenaries around available for hire to make a difference to the numbers.     

Luckily this was when monsoon broke out over the land providing them some respite. For another couple of months, the river – a natural line of defense – swollen with stiff currents would be almost impossible to cross, the land would be rendered too boggy under their feet for men and horses.

But to what avail? While the gods for their part had done their job, the men still hadn’t a clue on how to save themselves from a certain defeat and depredation lying in wait.

The days rolled by.

With the rains showing signs of weakening, clearly time was running out for them.

Meanwhile, the subjects, becoming aware of their looming misery, began packing up and moving to safer places. The deserted streets – only making it easy for the enemy to march to the palace for the denouement.

And then one morning

Part 2

A commoner stood before the palace wanting to meet the King, claiming he could save the kingdom!

His clotheswere not of an itinerant.

He was taken to the court where the King and his ministers had assembled to ‘stir up a pot that had no stew.’

Asked to explain, he said he had a cousin, Shailendra, a great sculptor, taught, according to family sources, by none other than Vishwakarma himself up in the Himalayashis stone-works were so life-like.

Wait, is this the time to talk abouthis audience stopped him in irritation.

But he had not finished yet. Known only to the family, Vishwakarma had also blessed him with the siddhi – art, science and mantra – of breathing life into his pieces in stone!

Truly incredible! Was this possible? But what was it to their current predicament? His audience silent, incredulous and unclear yet where he was heading with this…

Thinking for his audience he said: ‘Just imagine, he makes a few fearsome monsters like fire breathing dragons and then

Suddenly the fog lifted. They gasped in comprehension. That’s itif that was possible, good heavens, it would completely turn, nay, overturn the table on Ugrasena and his forces. They couldn’t but smile seeing visions of the invaders fleeing in fear, death in their eyes like the proverbial bats out of hell.

Without further ado, at the King’s bidding, the man took them to Shailendra’s workshop.

Shailendra was taken aback to see the royalty suddenly appearing at his doorstep.

When he learnt about the purpose of their visit, he was even more aghast. He had never talked about it to anyone – of course the family knew about it – and, worse, he had never put it into practice even once before.

When he so expressed himself, the King pleaded with him to do it for the sake of the kingdom and all its subjects. And if he failed in his efforts, no harm would come to him, he was reassured.

Needless to say Shailendra finally agreed to undertake the exercise for the larger good of the people. 

On the following day, the plan was discussed in detail: What kind of monsters? How many? Where to position them? Etc.

And, Shailendra was left alone to chip away without any distraction.   

When done to perfection, his wards (in stone) were moved to their appointed station.

They waited for the assault to commence.

The rains had ceased, the river tame and the ground dry – just right for the invaders.

And then it happened

Part 3

To cut the long story short, the plan worked flawlessly exceeding their expectations.

The invaders ran for their lives and did not stop until they were far back into their land – for long after, they were in a daze muttering incoherently, their eyes fixed in fear and disbelief.

The job done within a few hours of action, the monsters now stood at their station lifelessly serving as a permanent and nightmarish reminder for the aggressors to stay away for now and ever.

The King showered Shailendra and his kin with lavish gifts. Made him a minister in his court. Allotted him living quarters within the palace.

It took a week or so for normalcy to return, people coming back to their abandoned homes, etc.

And then, Shailendrawent missing! Nowhere to be seen, neither in his new quarters nor in his old workshop. Nor anywhere in the kingdom.

All attempts to trace him failed.

It was rumored he was sighted by some, sneaking away on a horse-back heading for the hills under the cover of darkness.

So, my friend, that’s the story, concluded Betaal.

Now the question for you: Why did Shailendra walk away from all that one could dream of achieving in one’s career and life – recognition, honor, awards, wealth, royal patronage, etc. etc.? Think well before you respond. You well know it’s either your head or a repeat of a burdensome task for you. Over to you, Sir.

Vikramaditya broke his silence: The lesser of the reasons was he worried about being unceremoniously sacked very soon for non-performance as a minister – he was never equipped for it, but the King wouldn’t listen. The main reason however was: Though the King himself was fair and just presently, Shailendra wasn’t sure if the next request for his siddhi would necessarily be for public good. Power – more so, this kind of power – was very likely to corrupt. The sculptor may not have the choice to refuse – that’s why, he took the easy way out.’

Betaal lauded the astute King for his intelligence and flew back to his abode leaving the King short of his destination.

End

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikram_Aur_Betaal, merisaheli.com and Cambodian lions.

‘Scare Me In Sixty Seconds Or Less’

This little girl is Maria. She was five years old when she was brutally murdered by her own father. She was tortured and her eyes were gouged out and finally killed.

After her death, she returned as a ghost to avenge her father. This photograph was captured by a photographer who witnessed this shocking incident.

He later went to his studio to develop the film to see exactly how the girl looked like. As soon he saw the picture, a chill ran down his spine and felt that something was wrong. Just then he heard a knock on his door. He was trembling with fear when he heard it. He stood still for a solid minute but the knocking kept continuing and it became louder every passing second.

At last, he gained the courage and went ahead to open the door. He turned white as soon as he saw the sight. The girl from the photograph was standing right at his door smiling at him creepily. The next day the photographer was found dead at his house with his eyes gouged out.

The legend is that, the girl will knock on people’s door who sees this picture and kill them exactly the way she was murdered.

Sounds funny right? I don’t believe in all these things. I mean, who in this age believes in ghosts and stuffs. Even you’ve seen this picture now. Did anything happen to you now? Nothing right?

OK wait, there’s someone knocking at my door. I’ll be back soon. Take care till then. Won’t you?

End

Source: Nirmal Kumar, A photographer in the making.

Times Are Such…(50 Words)

So rude of the fellow. I ask him the time of the day. He just rushes past like he did not hear or see me. Well, the feud has to wait for another day. The honks are deafening – have to get to the other side before it turns green.

End