Long ago, in a particular village, an aged couple belonging to the peasant cl dweltass. They were poor as well as childless.
The peasant who was always short tempered grew worse as he advanced in years, and he was always cursing and beating his wife.
“How I wish somebody gave him a good hiding!” the suffering wife thought.
One morning, the peasant awoke, cursed and beat his wife, then went to the woods to cut wood as he was wont to do every day.
He had just left when there was a knock on the door. His wife opened the door and saw the servants from the house of the Zamindar standing outside.
“What do you want?” she asked them.
“Is there a doctor living around here?” they asked her.
“There certainly is,” the wife replied as a thought flashed through her mind. “My husband is himself an expert medicine man. Who is it that is ill, may I know?”
The servants informed her that it was the Zamindar’s daughter who was ill. Several renowned doctors had tried to cure her but failed. And the search was on for the less-known doctors who knew specifics.
“Where is this husband of yours?” the servants asked the peasant’s wife.
“Ah, he has gone to the wood to bring some firewood,” she replied.
“Firewood?” they asked in wonder. “Why should a medicine man go to the woods for firewood?”
“I may as well let you into the secret,” she replied. “Firewood is only a pretext. He goes to the wood to pick rare herbs. You must keep it a secret. He lets no one know that he is a medicine man. He will even deny that he is one if you ask him. He will try to run away from the patient if you take him by force. Apply the rod in such a case, and you’ll get something from him.”
“We’ll remember what you’ve told us,” the Zamindar’s servants said to her. “We know how to handle him. Thanks a lot!”
They soon found the peasant cutting trees in the wood. “Aren’t you the peasant so-and-so?” they asked him.
“yes and no!” the peasant replied sourly. “The answer depends upon why you want to know who I am.” You see, he was short-tempered.
“Well, good man,” the Zamindar’s servants said, “we want urgent help from you. We know that you are a competent person.”
“Maybe,” the peasant replied cautiously, “I’m capable of making legs for cots and stands and things like that.”
“No, no!” they protested. “We know that you are a capable doctor!”
“Then you are entirely wrong,” the peasant said. “No one has ever seen me treat a single patient.”
He wondered whether these queer men were in their right mind.
The servants of the Zamindar were already warned. His denial did not take them by surprise. They also knew what to do.
The peasant was shocked to see the men raise their sticks and hit him.
As they belaboured the poor peasant, the men said, “So you aren’t a medicine man, ah? You have never treated a patient, eh?”
The unfortunate fellow could not stand it anymore. “Lay off!” he shouted. “I’m a doctor, all right!”
“Now you’re talking,” said the servants. They took him straight to the Zamindar.
“You’re welcome, doctor,” the Zamindar said, “I’ve been anxiously waiting for you.”
The peasant was at once led to the patient lying on a cot.
“How do you feel, madam?” the peasant asked the Zamindar’s daughter.
She groaned and said something which the ignorant peasant could not catch.
“She speaks some foreign tongue,” the peasant complained to the Zamindar, “of which I know not a word.”
“Sir,” said the Zamindar, “the fact is that she became dumb all of a sudden. She is to be married soon. All the arrangements have been completed, and I’m in a terrible fix. I do not know what I shall do! What, in your opinion, is the poor child ailing from?”
“Oh,” said the peasant, “she is suffering from what is known as Dumbness.”
“If you happen to know the cause for it…” the Zamindar said.
“Well, it’s like this,” the peasant explained. “You see, the tongue fails to function because the nerves that move the tongue refuse to work. Why they refuse to work is explained in a masterly manner by Valmiki in a single sloka. Do you happen to know Sanskrit ?…. Don’t you? Well, it goes like this.”
Here the peasant began to recite something very rapidly, to the utter amazement of the Zamindar.
When he, at last, paused for breath, the Zamindar said, “That is wonderful. The human body is a great marvel. Very few people know much about it. But, sir, I want to be enlightened on one point. We all know that the heart is on the left side. Then, how can you have pointed to your right side while reciting the sloka when you uttered the word heart?”
“There’s a reason for it,” the peasant replied. “In good old times, the heart was located on the left side of the body, even as you say. But look at these horrid times. Nothing is as it should be.”
“That must be it,” the Zamindar said. “You see, engaged with other things; I’m not very up-to-date in these matters.”
Then the peasant felt the pulse of the patient. “The disease is not too far gone yet,” he told the Zamindar.” Let the patient be fed tiny morsels of cooked rice dipped in milk. That is the diet which suits parrots. And how prettily the parrot’s prattle, sustaining themselves on that diet!”
By now, the Zamindar was convinced that the peasant was no ordinary doctor. He gave him a lot of money and begged him to pay another visit and see the patient.
Returning home from the Zamindar, the peasant saw a young man at his doorstep. “Who are you, my friend?” he asked the young man.
“Sir,” the young man replied, “I hear you are a great doctor. No doubt you’ve already divined that the Zamindar’s daughter is only pretending to be dumb. Only you may not know the cause for it. We’ve been in love for a long time, but her father has chosen another husband for her. That is the real cause of her dumbness. I request you let Zamindar believe that she is ill. That is the only way. To frustrate the marriage.”
“I thought as much,” said the peasant to the young man. “You’ve nothing to fear.”
A few days later, the peasant went to see the patient, accompanied by the young man. At a sign from the young man, the patient sat up in bed and began to speak.
The Zamindar, glad to see her speak again, froze at what she said.
“I’m not going through with this marriage.” the patient told her father. “This is the man I want for a husband, none else! I’ll rather kill myself than marry another!”
In utter panic, the Zamindar turned to the peasant and said, “Oh, doctor! How I wish she were dumb! Can’t you make her dumb again?”
“That’s beyond me,” the peasant replied. “But,” he went on, “I can make you deaf if you want.”
“No, no!” said the Zamindar, horrified. “Let her marry whom- soever she chooses. I’m through with her.”
The peasant returned home and told his wife he had become a successful doctor. His wife was glad that he brought the money. She was still more delighted when she found that he had given up the habit of cursing and beating her. He, too, had been cured!