A Folktale from India: the Brahmin and the Gruel Pot

The following tale is a fable from the Panchatantra, a collection of folktales penned between 300 BCE and 550 CE (the earlier date is preferred by most scholars).

Consider it the Aesop’s Fables of the Far, Middle and Near East. In time, it eventually moved westward to Europe (for instance, the 1480 German edition was one of the earlier books published on a Gutenberg press, which allowed it to go viral in an analog age).

More on the Panchatantra later: Let’s move on to a story, one with parallels across the world (see, for instance, The Milkmaid and her Pail, or the Jewish The Dervish and the Honey Pot).

And we’re off…

The Brahmin and the Gruel Pot:

What’s in a name?

Well, if your name is Svabhâvakripana, a lot. It translates to “unlucky by his very nature”.

Thanks mom and dad.

So, S. as we’ll call him for short, had plenty to live down to.

Live down he did.

S. had managed to beg his way to a big potful of rice gruel. He gorged himself, but he still had a good amount left, which he hung at the foot of his bed.

He stared up at the pot through the night, and his wheels started spinning:

“If,” he thought to himself, “a famine were to strike the land, my pot of gruel could be worth a lot of money.”

“Probably a hundred pieces of silver.”

“With a hundred silver coins, I could afford two goats. A male and a female…”

“Goats reproduce like rabbits. In half a year I’ll be the proud owner of a herd of goats.”

“Then I’ll upgrade. Goats for cows.”

“And then, I’ll swap cows for buffaloes.”

“From goats to cows to buffaloes – and then I’ll get horses.”

“How many horses? Lots of them. I’ll breed them.”

“And then,” he glowed with excitement, “I’ll trade them for gold. Lots of gold…”

“And with my gold, I’ll build myself a real house, a house with four wings.”

S. sat up gleefully.

“And then I’ll marry a nice Brahman girl, and get a proper dowry.”

“And of course she’s going to be sexy.”

“And then, with all our sexy time, she’ll have a baby. A boy…”

“His name will be Somasarman. My boy.”

“I’ll watch him growing up. The wife will do wifey things, and I’ll kick back and read books with the horses.”

“But then that damned kid will want to bounce on my knee, which is really going to harsh my buzz, not to mention the horses’.”

“And what does she do? Nothing. Just goes doing her wifey things.”

“Instead of stopping the little brat, she’s too busy making dinner.”

“That wife of mine is so selfish.”

By now, S. had gone from giddy joy to utter contempt for his future wife.

“I’m going show that shrew. One good kick.”

And with that, he went through the motions of kicking her.

SPOILER ALERT:

One pot of rice gruel was injured in this story.

And the Moral of the Story?

Dreaming is good, but not getting covered in rice-gruel is better.

 

 

 

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