Mother Shandilee’s Bargain

Brihat begins the story; “One day, I sought shelter from a Brahman in the monsoon season. This kind Brahman offered me a space in his house in return for my help in his rituals.

One day I woke early, and heard the Brahman and his wife Shandilee’s discussion. The Brahman told his wife, “My dear, tomorrow will be the winter solstice, a good day for offering gifts to Brahmans. So I will go to the next village to collect the offerings. And you, in honour of the sun, should give some Brahman food to the extent of our ability.”

But his wife snapped at him harshly, saying, “How can I offer anything to anyone in your poverty-stricken house? Aren’t you ashamed to make such a suggestion?”

Surprised by his wife’s response, he stammered: “My dear, my dear, you should not say such things. The learned say that if you share even half of your meal with a needy person, you will get whatever you wish in life. Bearing this in mind, even the poor should give to the right person at the right time though the gift seems small. The giver deserves to be served even if he is poor, but a rich miser is shunned. Excessive greed can only destroy a person, like it happened to the Jackal.”

“How was it?” asked the wife. Then the Brahman told Shandilee the story of the hunter and the greedy jackal.

After listening to the story, Shandilee said: “I have some un-husked sesame seeds in the house. I will make a cake from it and feed a Brahman.” And her husband, having received her promise, left for the next village.

Shandilee softened the sesame seeds in hot water, removed the husk, placed them in the hot sun, and returned to her chores in the house. In this state of affairs, a dog came and peed on the seeds left on the cloth to dry. When Shandilee saw what the dog had done, she felt miserable and thought, “Dear me! See how shrewd fate is, when it has turned against you. Even these poor sesame seeds can’t be given away to anyone now. I will see if I can exchange them for un-husked seeds. For anybody will agree to this bargain.”

So she put her seeds in a basket and went from house to house, saying: “Who cares to exchange sesame un-husked for sesame husked?”

She finally found one house where the lady was delighted by the offer and took the husked seeds in exchange for unhusked. Later, her husband came home and asked: “My dear, what does this mean?” And she told him: “I made a bargain, husked sesame for unhusked.”

He pondered over this and said: “To whom did this grain belong?” On being told about Shandilee, he said: “My dear wife, these seeds are certainly not good. Why should anyone give away good husked seeds for the raw seeds? There must be some reason for it. You had better throw this sesame away.”