Once there was an old man who lived in a village in Kerala. His home had a thatched hut surrounded by coconut trees. He belonged to the Kurava tribe and like other members of his tribe, he was a poor and simple man. This old man had two daughters and both had been married off into families of modest means. The elder son-in-law continued to be poor. But the younger one started a business that flourished and he soon became a rich man.
The old Kurava and his wife were totally unaware of this. They lived in their small hut, cut off from the outside world. They tilled their fields and ate simple meals of rice twice every day. Their bed was no more than a length of sacking spread out on the floor of the hut. But the Kurava and his wife were quite contented with their standard of living. The riches in the world meant nothing to them.
One day Kurava's wife told him that they have been married off their daughters but wre completely unaware about their well being. They haven't come home for a whole year to see their parents. She asked her husband to go and meet them. The old Kurava readily agreed to go. He set out at daybreak the following morning, carrying nothing but his umbrella and a bunch of homegrown plantains. The older daughter's village was nearer, being half a day's walk away, so he decided to go there first.
The Kurava arrived at his daughter's house at midday. He found her living in a hut much like his own. It had a thatched roof, which extended beyond the front door to form a veranda. In this veranda the daughter did all her cooking. When the Kurava arrived, a pot of rice was boiling on the fire. The older daughter sat chopping a pumpkin from the vine that grew at the back of the hut. She welcomed her father warmly. They both sat in the veranda and shared a meal of rice with salt, pumpkin curry and fried red chillies. The old Kurava washed at the village pond and slept soundly on a length of sacking spread out on the floor. His older daughter's home reminded him so much of his own that he loved it and felt perfectly at peace.
The next morning the old Kurava went back home. His wife was waiting anxiously for him. Kurava happily informed her that their elder daughter is very happy and she is very lucky to have a good household. And the two spent the rest of the day talking about the good fortune of their elder daughter.
A few days went by and then the Kurava's wife again urged him to pay a visit to their younger daughter and find out if she is happy or if something is bothering her. Once again the old Kurava readily agreed to go. He set out at daybreak with his umbrella and a couple of homegrown coconuts in his bag. It was evening before he arrived at the prosperous village where his daughter lived. He asked for his son-in-law by name and people directed him to a grand looking, double-storeyed house with an iron gate. The Kurava shook his head at the very sight. He could not believe that it belonged to his daughter.
But it was. His daughter came running to greet him and led him in. She made him sit in a chair with a cushion under him and another one behind his back. The Kurava was most uncomfortable. He had never used cushions in his life so he removed both. Soon it was time for the evening meal. The Kurava would have been perfectly happy to sit on the floor and eat off a plantain leaf. But there was another chair waiting for him. Worse, the food was set out on a table. There were no plantain leaves either but gleaming metal thalis or plates heaped with fine white rice and several bowls of steaming hot food. The Kurava was dazed. He asked for a green chilli, helped himself to a single piece of fish, sprinkled a little salt on his rice and began to race through his meal. But his daughter and son-in-law kept coaxing him to eat more and more. And he ended up eating one meal more than he ever ate in 2 days. The food was rich and spicy too and he felt uncomfortable, as he had also overeaten.
The Kurava staggered out of his chair. His daughter now led him to his bedroom. Right in the middle of the room there was a bed. Over this bed hung a mosquito net that was tied to four wooden poles. The Kurava had this strange idea that he had to sleep on top of the mosquito net. Climbing the poles was no problems for a man who had spent a lifetime climbing coconut trees. But when he lay down on top, the mosquito net collapsed. And with a loud thud the Kurava fell on the mattress below. He was not hurt, but the noise brought the entire household running to his room. They somehow managed to hide their smiles. But try as they might, the Kurava would not sleep on the bed again. It was the floor for him or nothing.
The next day before the poor harassed Kurava had recovered from the adventures of the previous night; his daughter came to his room. She brought him some tooth powder to clean his teeth. The Kurava had always used a fresh green twig for the purpose. He thought the powder was meant to be eaten so he popped all of it into his mouth. And the poor man then coughed and coughed till his daughter came running again with a glass of water.
But by then the Kurava had enough. He felt that it was unsafe for him to stay in that house any longer. So he grabbed his umbrella, bade everyone a hasty goodbye and set out for home.
At the sight of him, his wife jumped up and enquired about her beloved daughter. The Kurava wiped the perspiration from his forehead, sighed and sat down. He said that their younger daughter is in great trouble. She does not even have a straw mat to sit on. In the morning she has to eat a fistful of some horrible tasting powder. As far as the food wa concerned he said that the curries are floating in oil and one is forced to eat to bursting.
His wife stared at him in shock and disbelief. The Kurava went on to add that the nights are the worst, as they had to climb and sleep on a strange looking bed. According to him only a monkey could do that!
The old Kurava and his wife spread a length of sacking on the floor and went to sleep. But their thoughts were with their younger daughter who did not have the good fortune to be able to sleep on the floor.
|More Articles in Indian Folktales (25)|