A Crooked Gift
The patwari of Chandranagar was a wealthy man. He had extensive lands and numberless cattle. Still, he was never known to part with a copper. He guarded his possessions like a dog.
Now it came about that one of the patwari’s cows became ill and was about to die. Its stomach was bloated, and it could hardly breathe. The patwari was immersed in deep sorrow. He was about to lose not only a cow but also a couple of rupees besides. The pariah would charge two rupees to remove the dead cow.
Two heads are better than one, and it is always better to share one’s sorrow. The patwari discussed the affair with his wife. This lady was as niggardly as her husband. She said, “Let the cow die; we cannot stop it. But try to save the expense.”
“Yes, yes,” said the patwari. “That is my anxiety too.”
The patwari sitting on the pial of his house saw a Brahman beggar come along the street. This man was a new arrival in the village. The patwari was struck with the idea of seeing him.
“O Brahman,” the patwari said, “I am about to send for you when you turned up.” “Well, sir,” the Brahman said, “what is the matter?”
“When I fell ill some time back, I swore to gift away a cow to a Brahman. I have been postponing it until today. Today I decided to give away the cow.
You are a man with kids, and the cow will come in handy for you. Come with me and take away the cow,” the patwari said.
The Brahman was beside himself with joy. He had several kids, and finding milk for them was a job for him. He was only surprised to see the patwari so generous, for he had heard he was a stringent man and avoided asking anything of him.
“I shall be thrilled to receive the gift. Only; today is the eighth day of the moon, and tomorrow is the ninth, both inauspicious days. So I shall take away the cow the day after tomorrow,” the Brahman said.
“No, No,” said the patwari, “you must take it today. I hate postponing things. There is nothing like an inauspicious day to take the gift of a cow.”
The Brahman was sentimental about inauspicious days, but if he refused to take the cow now, the patwari might give her away to someone else. So the Brahman consented.
Both of them went to the patwari’s cattle yard, and the patwari showed the Brahman the dying cow and said, “There’s your cow. Take her away.”
Now the Brahman could see why the stingy patwari was making a gift of the cow. He also understood why the man was in such a hurry.
“Poor thing!” said the Brahman. “It seems to be ailing.”
“Did I say that it was not?” the patwari retorted. “This was the cow I wanted to give away. Sick or dead, it is now yours. I have gifted it to you, and all responsibility of the cow is yours.”
“So be it,” said the Brahman. “One cannot alter another’s luck. Give me a few minutes, and I shall take away my cow.”
The Brahman went about the yard in search of some herb. This Brahman’s father was a highly gifted veterinary physician, and he was aware of some cattle ailments and their cure.
Soon the Brahman picked up some leaves and squeezed their juice into the nostrils of the ailing cow. The cow gave a violent sneeze, and a great lump of mucus dropped out of its mouth, and the cow got up as though there was nothing the matter with her.
The Brahman put a halter around the cow’s neck and, thanking the patwari, departed with the cow. The patwari was speechless with sorrow as well as surprise.
“Such a fine cow!” he wailed before his wife. “And I have simply given it away to that Brahman beggar!” Both wife and husband shed tears over the cow for quite a long time.
Chandamama November 1955 | V Narayanarao