(Last Updated on : 01/01/2009)
This is a story from Punjab, a state popular for its fertile land and prosperous farmers. This story shows that how prosperity can make people greedy and get them into serious trouble. It also shows that sometimes, when a man is in trouble, it takes a woman to rescue him. The woman helps him out not by a show of strength but by using her head.
Once upon a time there lived a man called Sher Dil. He was a rich man with acres of farmland and so many heads of cattle he did not know what to do with them. So Sher Dil had engaged a hundred servants to work for him. But Sher Dil was at heart a miser. He hated to spend money feeding the servants and paying their wages.
Sher Dil's wife Gulabo was his exact opposite in temperament. She was patient and good natured and very wise. Whenever Sher Dil grumbled about expenses, she rebuked him saying that the servants worked hard for thgem throughout the year. Hence there was nothing wrong in paying them their deserved wages. On the contrary Sher Dil should be grateful for all that the great Lord has given them. But her words of wisdom had no effect whatsoever on her ill tempered, miserly husband.
One day Sher Dil sat down to do his accounts and sure enough, he soon started grumbling about the expenses that the servants incurred. He said that he will employ only one person for all the work. However his wife protested. Sher Dil had the wicked idea of employing a demon instead of several human beings for the work. The more he thought over this idea, the more he liked it. And Sher Dil made up his mind to visit a sadhu who granted boons to people and put an end to their troubles.
It took Sher Dil two days to reach the sadhu's hut, situated in the middle of a forest. The sadhu sat deep in meditation. At long last he opened his eyes and asked Sher Dil what he had come for. Sher Dil bowed his head and expressed his desire. The sadhu granted his wish. He picked up a stick, closed his eyes and murmured something. Then he drove the stick into the ground. Next minute a thin stream of smoke began to emerge from the top end of the stick. Slowly the stream increased in volume till it became a small cloud, rumbling like thunder. And out of the cloud stepped a huge, blue-coloured demon as tall as a pipal tree. He looked so fierce that Sher Dil felt like running away. But somehow he stood his ground. The demon roared and asked why he has been summoned. When the sadhu explained the cause the demon roared again and enquired whether Sher Dil knew the terms of his employment. He must be kept busy throughout the day and night. The moment he finds no work he will eat up Sher Dil.
Sher Dil burst out laughing and said there is so much of work that he won't have a minute to spare. Then he instructed the demon to take him home. The words were hardly out of his mouth when the demon snatched him up, tucked him behind one ear and went flying across the sky. Afraid of rolling off, Sher Dil clutched the demon's ear with both hands and peeped over it. The earth appeared like a tiny multicoloured ball. Sher Dil closed his eyes for fear. Then suddenly the demon began to descend like an egg thrown up in the air. He touched down at Sher Dil's own doorstep. Sher Dil scrambled off and ran to see his wife. Bursting with excitement he showed his wife what he had found.
Before his wife could say anything in reply, Sher Dil had sacked all his servants and sent off the demon to plough the land. Then he yawned, stretched himself and lay down on his bed for a nice little nap. Sher Dil was in the middle of a rosy dream when someone grabbed him by the shoulder and shook him hard. As he opened his eyes he saw the demon towering over him. He was asking for more work. Sher Dil could not believe his ears. So many acres of land, ploughed up in less than a quarter of an hour! He climbed to his roof and looked around to be sure the land had been ploughed as far as the eye could see. Then he ordered the demon get some manure and mix it with the soil, sow the seed and water the fields.
The demon disappeared and Sher Dil went back to sleep again. But he had barely snored a couple of times when someone shook him again, harder than before and again asked for work. By this time Sher Dil was quite irritated and said him to raise a fence all around his land. The demon left but Sher Dil did not go back to sleep again. From his kitchen window he watched the demon fetch a pile of wood and some tools. His hands flew as one stick after another was cut and shaped and driven into the ground. Before Sher Dil had finished his evening cup of tea the demon was back again.
Sher Dil sent him off to empty out their pond and fill it with fresh water from the river. Night was falling when the demon returned to say that the work had been done. In despair Sher Dil asked him to rest but the demon laughed, a horrible, croaky laugh saying that he never rested. Sher Dil picked up courage enough to say that he wanted to rest till the next morning. In the meantime he asked the demon to guard the fields so no wild animal can get in and trample down the seed.
The demon went away but Sher Dil could not sleep a wink. Just before dawn he woke up his wife and in a tearful state shared his problem. Gulabo comforted him and asked him to leave everything at her discretion. As soon as the sun peeped over the horizon, the demon began to hammer at the door. 'Work,' he yelled. Gulabo opened the door a crack and peeped out. Then she came out of the door. She asked the demon to straighten the tail of a stray dog that often came there looking for food.
The demon bent down, caught the dog's tail by the tip and gave it a good jerk. The tail straightened out. But the moment he let go, it curled up again. The demon caught the tail a second time and stroked it for a good five minutes. But the moment he let go, the tail curled up again. With a frown on his face the demon caught the tail for the third time, rolled it up the other way and held it in position for some time. As soon as he let the tail go it curled up again, back to its original shape.
All this time the dog had been watching patiently as the demon fiddled around with its tail. But suddenly it lost its patience. With a bound it was up and barking at the demon. Round and round they went, the demon dodging and ducking and diving at the tail and the dog snapping and snarling and threatening to bite. This went on for hours. In the end the demon got fed up of trying to catch the dog. He admitted to himself that he cannot do the assigned work. But he was thoroughly ashamed of himself at the same time. He had no courage to face the family. So off he went to hide in the forest that he came from.
With the demon gone, Sher Dil and his wife began to live in peace once again. Sher Dil took back all his servants and gave them a solid feed to start with. And never, never again did he complain about the amount that he had to spend on their food and wages.