Folk Tales from Kashmir

Table of Contents

  About the Author
  The Precious Present
  The Devil Outwitted
  Just a Nickname
  The Son-in-Law
  Eh! Oh!
  The Inauspicious Bride
  Himal and Nagrai
  The Haunted Mosque
  The Intruder
  The Burglar's Gift
  The Two Thugs
  The Patwari and the ...
  The Upstart
  Two Brothers
  The Merciful Burglar
  The Clever Lawyer ...
  Counting Ripples
  The Fugitive Fawn
  The Mortal Utensils
  The Hydra-Headed
  The Physician's Son
  The Professional Wedding ...
  The Village Teacher
  The Opium Smokers
  The Drone
  Telltale Narration
  Download Book

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Chapter 21

The Mortal Utensils

The ancient commandment of the Hebrews "Love thy neighbour as thyself" is almost literally practiced on many occasions in villages, towns and cities in the East where neighbourly relations have existed for generations. Most easterners are a fussy people and a wedding or a funeral is not deemed to have been duly solemnized unless a large number of friends, relations, neighbours and acquaintances participate in it. On such occasions kitchens are run on almost a community scale and even a stranger asking for food at any odd hour may not go unrewarded. Every parent advises their young offspring to maintain good and intimate relations with the neighbours as they share the responsibilities and the jubilations of occasions like marriage celebrated on a mass scale and even grief and sorrow. Think of the requirements of a kitchen catering to the needs of 500 people for four days. Besides the consumable articles like fuel or edibles like flour, rice and oil one needs lots of things: furniture, utensils and what not. While there is no way out but to purchase the former, for the latter one can draw upon the co-operative agency of the neighbours built with goodwill, patience and sacrifice for generations, and the neighbour feels proud if his voluntary offer of assistance in any shape is accepted.

A clever man once hit upon a plan to defraud this "co-operative agency." He had some wit about him and set to work boldly. He requested a few of his neighbours to let him have the use of their brassware utensils. The neighbours lent him a few of their utensils each. A couple of days later the utensils were promptly returned. And whoever had lent him anything got a vessel, a brassware cup, a tumbler or a dish besides by way of reward.

"What is this?" asked the neighbours, pointing to the additional vessel.

"Never mind, it is what your utensils have begotten" he said humorously. In Kashmiri, begotten is used in a metaphorical sense also and means profit or interest. As the man seemed to be nonchalant and humorous the "interest" that he paid was accepted with pleasure.

The plan was given another trial with a different set of neighbours and it was established that in the custody of this particular man it was profitable to lend the use of utensils because they always "begot" something. After the interval of a few months it became known that this good neighbour was again celebrating some festivities but on a much larger scale. Before long the need for kitchen pots and utensils arose and the neighbours were only too eager to lend the use of what they owned. On the present occasion all sections of the neighbourhood had to do their bit and the large number of kitchen pots and utensils indicated a festivity on a colossal scale. The neighbours were looking forward to the actual celebrations with great interest.

The celebrations did not come off. The house which was the cynosure of all eyes was quiet as usual. "What is the matter?" discussed the good neighbours. "Why are the celebrations not coming off?" "Perhaps he is in financial troubles," said one. "He may be looking for a loan," said another. "Why, what are we meant for if we don't inquire and render whatever assistance we are capable of?" decided the third.

The neighbours waited upon the gentleman. He was melancholy. "What bothers you, good neighbour, that we may together not overcome?"

"Gentle neighbours," replied he, "my trouble affects you also but with all your goodwill you cannot help me or help yourselves."

"Why, what is this grave loss weighing upon your mind? Unburden your heart, for we can see that you need some relief."

"My gentle friends, my good neighbours, the kitchen pots and utensils borrowed by me have all perished."

"Perished! Why, this is a language we understand not. Please make yourself more intelligible."

"Yes, they perished. They died as any mortal would die."

"But that is astonishing. Whoever has heard of a brassware vessel perishing!" said one.

"And I need my pots, samovars and pans," said another in excitement.

"And I, platters, bowls and dishes," said a third.

"But, gentle friends, it is useless; they are no more."

"How are we to believe it?"

"Exactly as you believed in the past that your vessels begot others."

The party was dumbfounded. This was a cool and calculated plan for which they had never bargained. The fellow made a fortune and they had not the power to touch him.



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