Fifty-Fifty narrates the story of two men living in the same village. One was called Banta Singh, the other Ghanta Singh. The two were the best of friends. They enjoyed each other's company and spent all their time together. But there was one difference between them. While Ghanta Singh was a sly fellow and an opportunist, Banta Singh was a honest and simple man. He always trusted the plans that were Ghanta Singh and agreed to be a part of these plans. He never thought about his share of profit or the consequences of Ghanta Singh's schemes.
Neither Banta Singh nor Ghanta Singh had much money. Naturally, they did not have many possessions either. One day Ghanta Singh came up with a bright new idea and asked Banta Singh whether he will be a party to it. As always Banta Singh readily agreed. Ghanta Singh then suggested that they would share their possessions equally.
Delighted with the idea, Banta Singh grabbed Ghanta Singh's hand and shook it so hard that his friend's bones began to rattle. Ghanta Singh thought for a moment and then said that they have three things in common, he has a cow and Banta Singh has a nice warm blanket and a ber (wood apple) tree behind his house. So they will share these things equally. The simple-minded Banta Singh could not guess the cunningness of Ghanta Singh and agrees to such a division.
Ghanta Singh had it all worked out. He said to Banta Singh and said that the front half of the cow will be his friend's while he will take the rear. The roots of the ber trees would be Banta Singh's and he will be contented with the leaves and branches. As far as the blanket was concerned Banta Singh can keep it all through the day and he would not need it. Hearing this Banta Singh protested and said that he should use the blanket too. To this the shrewd friend replied that he would take the blanket at night. And so things were finally settled, to the great satisfaction of both.
A week went by, then two. Soon it was a month since the new arrangement had been put into practice. And slowly it began to dawn on Banta Singh that something was wrong. Since he owned the front half of the cow it was his job to wake up at the crack of dawn and feed the animal. He had to draw a bucket of water from the well so the cow had fresh, clean water to drink twice a day. But the rear of the cow belonged to Ghanta Singh so it was he who milked it. He drank a whole tumbler full of rich, creamy milk every morning. But all Banta Singh had was tea in a glass only slightly larger than a thimble.
As for the blanket it lay on Banta Singh's bed all day. But he could not use it because he was up and attended to his business. When night fell, Ghanta Singh whipped away the blanket and snuggled under it. Meanwhile Banta Singh had to spend the night curled up into a ball to keep himself warm.
Banta Singh had hoped to eat the ber from his tree. For months he had looked after the tree, removing weeds, tilling the soil and adding manure when it was required. The fruit grew on the branches before his eyes. But when the first ber was ripe Ghanta Singh reached out and grabbed it. And popped it went into his mouth! He did not offer the ber to Banta Singh even once.
Bewildered at these developments Banta Singh confronted Ghanta Singh. To this the shameless man replied that it was so settled that the branches belonged to him. The ber were found on the branches. Therefore the fruits were his.
Banta Singh was most annoyed but he could not do a thing about it. Dejected he went for a long walk. On and on he walked till he came to the forest near his village. There he met a sadhu or a prophet with matted hair and holy ash rubbed all over his body. The sadhu looked at Banta Singh and enquired the reason for his unhappiness. He also offered to help Banta Singh. Banta Singh narrated the strings of events that have occurred in the recent past. After listening to the whole story the sadhu said that his friend has cheated him and he should not have allowed this. He advised him about the course of action that he must take to teach Ghanta Singh a lesson.
Banta Singh returned home feeling very bright and cheerful. As soon as the two friends had finished their evening meal, Ghanta Singh prepared to go to sleep Banta Singh picked up the blanket, soaked it in water and handed it over to Ghanta Singh. On seeing this he screamed and was stupefied by this act. He asked Banta Singh that why he soaked the blanket in water. Banta Singh coolly answered that blanket was his at daytime. So he was free to do what he felt like with it.
Ghanta Singh was so surprised that his mouth dropped open. He wondered what had happened to Banta Singh. But he said nothing. He only grumbled himself to sleep, though he was cold and miserable all night.
The next morning Ghanta Singh got up early and hurried out to milk the cow. Banta Singh was already awake. He had fed the cow and given her fresh water to drink. But he was still hanging around. Ghanta Singh placed a pail between his knees and began to milk the cow. When the pail was half full, Banta Singh tickled the cow's nose with a wisp of straw. Startled, the cow kicked hard. Not only did she upset the pail, she landed Ghanta Singh a good crack on the jaw.
Ghanta Singh lost his temper and shouted at him. To this Banta Singh replied that the front half of the cow was his. So he was free to do as he pleased. To this Ghanta Singh could make no reply. That morning he missed his tumbler of milk. All he had was tea in a glass only slightly larger than a thimble.
When the sun rose a little higher, Ghanta Singh went and sat in the fork of the ber tree. He began to pick and eat the fruits one by one. Suddenly Banta Singh appeared with an axe to chop the trees. Gauging his intentions Ghanta Singh cried out in alarm. Banta Singh laughed and reminded him that the trunk was his. So in accordance to the arrangements made he can definitely chop them down and his friend cannot stop him.
At last Ghanta Singh realized that he could not cheat his friend any longer. He then suggested amending the arrangements. This time Banta Singh had it all worked out. He said that they would use the blanket on alternate nights. Both of them will look after the cow and share the milk equally. As for the tree, they will turns looking after that as well. And when the fruit comes, we'll share it fifty-fifty. Ghanta Singh willingly agreed to this new arrangement. He was happy to share things with Banta Singh and the two became good friends once again.
The moral of Fifty-Fifty is that it is immoral to cheat a good human being and more incorrect to deceive a friend. Sharing is good if the distribution is just.
|More Articles in Indian Folktales (25)|