Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How the Travelers Shared Their Meal

Three men, all traveling from different villages to the spring festival in Pearsing, met for the first time at a large resting place under a shady peepul tree.

The three travelers looked very different sitting together on the big chowtara under the tree; one had a long thin neck, the second had a very narrow chest, and the third had a wooden leg. Although they may have looked different, they shared a common trait which made them very much alike. They were all greedy.

There three strangers soon became acquainted and began talking about the fun they were going to have at the festival. They would win lots of money playing cards and with it they would buy many good things to eat-wine and smoked fish, sweetmeats, spiced eggs, curried chicken with fine rice, guava pickles, chillies, roasted goat…

“Oh, this talk makes me so hungry!” interrupted the man with the thin neck, hoping the others would offer him something to eat. He did not want them to know he had some popcorn in his basket; he might have to share it with them

“well, how do you think I feel?” whined the man with the narrow chest, cautiously fingering some hard-boiled eggs hidden under his vest. “I haven’t eaten since I left my village before sunrise, and I shall have nothing to eat before I get to the mela.”

The man with the wooden leg leaned against the trunk of the tree, pushing his cloth bundle of roasted soy beans behind his back as if to pillow himself more comfortably.

“Ha,” he chortled, waving his wooden leg in the air. “I may not have as much to fill up as you do, but my belly groans for food. If this chowtara were a tea stall, I would buy five glasses of rockshee, a hatful of pounded rice, and an omelet with…”

“Stop!” cried the man with the thin neck. “I can’t stand this talk any longer. Let us see if we can get a chicken form the ironsmith’s house down there in the valley. We can come back here ad cook it together.”

His two companions agreed to at once. So the man with the thin neck went down to the smith’s to bargain for a chicken, the man with the narrow chest climbed the steep hillside to fetch wood form the forest, and the man with the wooden leg went up a trail to the shepherd’s hut to borrow a cooking pot.

In a short while the three travelers returned to the chowtara and began to prepare for the feast.

The man with the thin neck built a small fire while his two companions killed the chicken and cut it up for frying. When the ghee and spices were ready, they dropped the chicken into the pot and squatted around it to watch it cook.

The smell was almost more than they could bear. Each blew long and hard on the coals to make the wood burn faster. They took turns stirring the chicken. Finally no one spoke; all leaned forward eagerly, staring down into the pot in silence. At last the man with the thin neck lost patience.

“I must see if it is done!” he cried. He grabbed the biggest part of chicken, flung it into his mouth, and tried to swallow it whole.

But the piece of chicken was much too big. Try as he would, he could not make it go down nor could he make it come up again. There it stuck in the middle of his throat, and he died.

“See!” the man with the narrow chest shouted to the companion. “He is finished! Now you and I will have a larger share of the chicken. What a luck!” He struck his chest with such a blow of delight that he fell over dead.

The man with the wooden leg jumped up and danced about gleefully. “Tuck-a-brassi!” he shouted. “Now the luck is mine. I can have all the rest of the chicken to myself.”

But as his luck would have it, he slipped on a wet leaf and fell to the ground, striking his head a mortal blow on the big flat rocks of the chowtara.

Waiting behind the peepul tree was a very patient jackal. He trotted cautiously from his hiding place, ate a delicious meal of curried chicken, licked the pot with great care, and strolled off to the mela.


Chowtara – A trail-side sitting platform built of stone; a resting place for travelers with heavy loads

Ghee – The liquid which remains butter has been boiled and cooled

Peepul – A tree, considered by Hindus to be sacred because it is visited by the gods

Rockshee – Distilled drink made of corn, rice, or millet

Tuck-a-brassi – A Magar expression of jubilance, meaning “And what do you know!”

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