Thursday, 11 September 2014

True to words

Situ in his forties was happy with one kid and his rustically beautiful wife. He’d work for a pot-bellied Brahmin of fifty-five, called Narayan. The later had large holdings of land and had so many farm labourers to take care of his cropping. In his village, Bhejikud, people respected him as a rich Brahmin and his presence demanded awe.

The winter had just set in or to say exactly, it was Dewy with its chilling wind and dew drops. Paddy crop ripened by and by, while dew drops bathed them. They would glisten in the soft sunrays of Dewy morning.

Wrapping a shawl around his body and holding a staff, Narayan would walk around his crop fields. In such a morning, Situ followed him to the crop field like his shadow.

‘Situ, this year winter will be more chilling, it seems.’
‘Yes sir,’ he joined his hand in a Namaste position. ‘I also think so.’
‘Paddy has also ripened, look at that huge patch of crop,’ he pointed with his staff. ‘it needs to be harvested as soon as possible.’
‘Why not today sir?’
‘It’s about one and a half acres of land and it needs more labourers, you know...not possible for a single person to mow.’

Situ did a recee of the field and said, ‘I’ll cut all the crops in a day sir.’

‘Huh, nonsense, stop bragging.’ Narayan stared.
‘No sir, I mean it.’ Situ maintained his calmness.
‘That means, from morning till evening, you can accomplish such a stupendous task?’ Narayan cast a quizzical glance.
‘Of course sir.’
‘Think twice, you rubbish.’
‘Okay, if you can do it, I vow to donate this patch of land to you.’
‘Is it sir?’
‘Yes, a Brahmin says it and he’ll never go against his words.’ Narayan punched his staff on the wet soil to emphasise. ‘I say in the name of rising and setting sun, the moon and the stars.’
‘Okay sir, tomorrow morning I’ll start.’
‘Right. Now let’s go...but I still don’t believe, if you can accomplish the huge task.’
‘Tomorrow you’ll I can’t do anything to make you believe.’

Narayan allotted works to Situ and basking in the morning sun returned home. He talked with his wife about Situ and his vow. His wife said, ‘Relax, Situ can’t finish the task in a day.’

On the other hand, at night Situ and his wife sat down after dinner around a fire-pan as their son slept wrapping a Kantha around his body.
‘Siri, you know, I’ve challenged Narayan to cut a big patch of paddy field from morning till evening. And if I’d finish the task during the said period, he’d donate the same patch of land to me!’

‘Is it?’ Siri raked ashes for some amber.
‘Ah.’ Situ breathed comfort as the heat increased. ‘But you’ll have to help me.’

They talked for a longer time and slept. It was dawn, when crows cawed and cock-a-doddle-dos echoed around. He walked towards the pond quivering in the chilling wind. He chattered in cold but managed to finish his morning ablutions. His wife served him a bowl of black tea and fried rice for his breakfast. Finishing his tea, he picked up a scythe and walked to the crop field. The sun had just popped up in the horizon and Situ revered it closing his eyes.

Situ walked into the crop field and stood in a corner. He mumbled some incantations and curtsied the standing yellow crop. He would cut a bundle, lay them on the stubbles and move forward.

At forenoon, his wife came to the field. She would walk with him, shoving small pieces of cake into his mouth. He moved on without stopping his work. Gradually, many villagers gathered on the barricades of the crop field to see Situ cutting paddy plants. Narayan had brought a cane chair and had sat down while a servant held an umbrella over him.

The sun was still smiling, as he progressed towards his goal. He felt pain his hand and waist but still moved on. Time passed and the sun began its journey towards the east as shadow became larger. More and more people gathered around and muttered while some talked with Narayan.

Situ laid the last bundle of paddy on the stubble and looked towards his wife standing with his kid. Their smiles clashed as victory kissed Situ.

Narayan stood stunned and could not say a word for a while. He looked at Situ and the later tried to stand straight but could not. He fell down on the field while the scythe got stuck to his grip. People praised him and ordered someone to bring clarified butter. When they poured the liquid, by and by his grip loosened. It was evening; people lifted Situ to his home and requested his wife to massage mustard oil on his waist.

The next morning, Narayan walked towards Situ’s home. Situ was sitting outside his awning wrapping a tattered shawl. When he saw Narayan, he ordered his wife to bring a rope cot. Narayan sat down and looked at Situ. ‘I’m proud of you my boy. As per my vow, I donate the land to you.’
Situ looked towards him and said, ‘I’m also proud of you sir. Though I’ve won, I can’t be that shameless to obey your order. It was only a challenge and I can’t take land of my master.’

‘But I carry out my promise.’
‘Sir, I can’t take the patch of land from you. I am happy working for you. Better I’ve a suggestion.’
‘Every year, promise to call villagers of Kusum Puri, Gurupali, Rengal Pali, Bhejikud and Baham and feed them from the produce of this patch of land.’
‘Okay, I’m pleased. From the coming full moon day of Magha, I’ll call each and everyone and feed them to their content.’

Seeing Narayan’s vow and Situ’ humbleness, people praised them with flowering words. The feast is still being organised by the progeny of Narayan.

They died as time passed but the story.

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