(Last Updated on : 01-01-2009)
This folktale is from Andhra Pradesh
. It was originally told in Telugu
, the language of the people of Andhra. It highlights the fact that a village priest is generally a poor man and finds it difficult to support his family. But it also points out that even in olden times women could solve their own problems. They stayed at home and rarely ventured out. But when necessary, they could outwit men. There are similar folk-tales in other Indian languages where women are shown to be very intelligent and resourceful.
This is a story of a woman called Buddhimati. She lived in a village in Andhra Pradesh. The word Buddhimati means 'a woman of intelligence' and Buddhimati really was as good as her name. At any rate, she was far, far more intelligent than her husband Vishnu Rao.
Vishnu Rao was a Brahmin. He worked as a priest. And, like so many other village priests, he earned just enough to provide his family with one square meal a day. Sometimes he failed to earn even that much. But in spite of his poverty, he loved to invite people to his house for meals. Friend, acquaintance, neighbour, neighbour's cousin, anybody. Vishnu Rao only had to meet someone in the street to bring him home for a meal. Many people took advantage of his hospitality. They pretended to be hungry or down and out so as to get a free meal.
Now there was precious little food in Vishnu Rao's house at the best of times. With this steady stream of guests pouring in, Buddhimati often had to go hungry herself. Sometimes even her children had to go hungry so the guest could eat. Buddhimati did not like this at all. She begged and pleaded with Vishnu Rao to change his ways. But her begging and pleading had no effect. Day after day he continued to bring unwanted guests. And night after night Buddhimati lay awake trying to think of a way out of the problem.
At last Buddhimati had an idea. And so excited was she about it that once again she lay awake all night. She even began to wait eagerly for the next uninvited guest. She didn't have long to wait. The following afternoon, when Vishnu Rao came home from work, there was another Brahmin
tagging along after him. Both of them were hungry and required food to eat.
Buddhimati smiled broadly and said that lunch is ready and they can eat as soon as they have bathed. Vishnu Rao was puzzled. He looked at his wife and thought to himself that inspite of bringing an uninvited guest his wife did not grumble at all. He too was happy to see her in such a cheerful mood. Vishnu Rao spread out a mat for his guest and went off to take a bath in the river.
The guest settled down on the mat. For a while he heard pots and pans being banged around in the kitchen. Then Buddhimati came into the room. She swept one corner of the room and smeared it with cow dung paste. Next she brought a stout wooden stick, the kind used for washing clothes, and stood it in the corner. She lighted an earthen lamp before the stick and made offerings of rice, plantains and flowers. Folding her hands, she bowed low before the stick and seemed to be saying a prayer.
The Brahmin had never before seen anything like this. He honestly thought Buddhimati had gone out of her mind. 'What on earth are you trying to do?' he asked. Buddhimati simply waved one hand, asking him to be quiet. She continued to perform her pooja before the stick. Finally she turned to the Brahmin and said that she always worship the stick in this manner when her husband brings home a guest.
With his heart sinking he asked the reason behind this strange habit. By way of an answer Buddhimati said simply that if she purified the stick with a pooja, then the gods will forgive her husband for beating up the guest.
The Brahmin jumped up in alarm. Buddhimati went onto explain with folded hands that her husband is slightly mad. Since he loves his guests he does not hurt them much. But the guest had already shot out of the door, earning his chappals in one hand because he didn't want to waste time putting them on. Vishnu Rao was just coming back from the river. He was amazed to see the Brahmin running away. Amazed he asked what has happened. Buddhimati said that the guest got annoyed when she refused to give him the stick used for washing clothes.
Vishnu Rao struck his forehead with one hand and exclaimed that she has displeased a guest. Vishnu Rao grabbed the stick and began to run after the Brahmin, shouting him to wait. The Brahmin looked over his shoulder. Seeing Vishnu Rao running after him, armed with a stick, he ran faster than ever. In a few minutes he had disappeared from view. Vishnu Rao came back a dejected man. He scolded Buddhimati some more for refusing to give the guest what he had asked for. Then he had his meal and forgot all about the incident.
But the Brahmin did not forget. He went around whispering in people's ears asking them never to go to Vishnu Rao's house for a meal. He said that the man will hammer them with a stick. People believed him. They stopped accepting Vishnu Rao's invitations. And that is how Buddhimati finally got rid of unwanted guests.