Saturday, February 1, 2014

Buddhi Man Chaudhary – the fable man

Buddhi Man with little children (c) Nepali Folklore and Folklife
During my travel to Dang, I met an extraordinary old man. Buddhi Man Chaudhary from Palase can go on telling fables for weeks. His stock of stories would never finish.

He has no formal education and he has not written down the stories in notebooks. However, he can retell all the stories which he learnt from his grandfather without any flaw.   

I listened to three of his stories and was overwhelmed by the brilliance of his stories. Two of his stories were related to the Tharus, tigers and their relationship. The thirds story resembled the fables of Panchatantra, the famous story collection compiled by Vishnu Sharma. Each Panchatantra story teaches an important life lesson.

I asked Buddhi Man whether he knew about Panchatantra. But he didn’t even know the “P” of Panchatantra. His collection of stories was handed over to him by his ancestors. 

Although he is witty and sharp, he is aging day by day and there is a dire need to transcribe his stories so that they are not lost for good. The stories would be an important addition to Tharu folklore.   

Below is the story of a monkey, a tiger and a jackal told by him.

A jackal lived with his family in a burrow dug in a hill. The jackal had a wife and many little kids.

As the rainy season approached his wife said, “What have you thought about the rainy season?” “How will we save our kids from the incessant rains?”

The male jackal scouted the woods for a safe place to stay in the rainy season. Luckily he came across a tiger’s den. The tiger had gone for hunting and would not return for the next 12 days. The place was safe and cosy. No water would ever fall in the den, even it rained cats and dogs. It would also save the kids from cold.

The jackal decided to lodge his family in the den. “I have found a nice den,” he said. “But it’s a tiger’s den. If we stay there, the tiger will eat all of us.”

His wife was brave and clever. She took all her kids to the den and started living there. She told her husband, “Let the tiger come, I would think of an idea to chase him away.”

After 12 days the tiger returned. When the jackal saw the tiger coming at a distance, it panicked. But his wife said, “Don’t worry just do what I say.”

Listening to his wife’s idea, the jackal shouted with all his might, “O bravest woman in the world, I can see a tiger coming towards us.”        
When the tiger heard the jackal shouting, he thought that someone more powerful than him had occupied his lair. So, in order to save himself, he ran away towards the jungle.

While the tiger was running for his life, he met a monkey on the way. The monkey asked him why he was running. The tiger narrated the story, to which the monkey convinced him to return home and check upon the occupant.

The tiger returned to his den. The jackal was afraid and thought of running away with his family. But his wife came up with another bright idea.

The jackal once again shouted, “What are the kids crying for?”

His wife replied, “They are asking for tiger meat, go and fetch a tiger.”

Hearing this, the tiger was terrified and ran for his life.

On the way, he again met the monkey. The monkey suggested, “If you don’t feel embarrassed, let’s tie our tails together.” “If it attacks you, you can climb the tree with me.”

When the tiger and the monkey came near the den, the jackal said, “Now there’s no option left, let’s run away.”

His wife told him not to worry. She shouted, “This useless monkey, I told him to come with two tigers, but it came with only one.” “It won’t be enough for my kids. I will need to look for another tiger.”  

The tiger thought the monkey was working for the strange creature and it was dragging him to his death. He better thought to run away rather than becoming a feast for the kids.

As the tiger ran without looking back, the monkey was killed. The jackals lived happily in the den thereafter.

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