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.”

The Greedy Jackal

There was once a hunter who set out to jungle. As he walked along, he saw a fat boar in the woods. Straightway he drew an arrow as far as his ear, and in a swift motion, shot at the boar. The boar was severely wounded, but angrily charged at the hunter and tore his stomach with a pointed tusk, so that the man fell dead. The boar also, after killing the hunter, died due to the arrow-wound.

Shortly, a starving jackal roaming the forest in search of food, reached this very spot. When he saw a boar and a hunter, both dead, he gleefully thought… “Fate is kind to me, providing this unclaimed store of food. Wise men say that he who has done a good deed in a previous birth is rewarded in this birth even if he does not make any effort. This great feast is certainly the result of some good I have done in a previous birth. Now I must eat in such a way as to have sustenance for many days. I will begin with the sinew wrapped round the bow-tip. I will hold it in my paws and eat very slowly. For the saying goes that sudden wealth must be enjoyed in small doses.”

After these thoughts, he took the sinew in his mouth with its end hanging from the bow. And when the gut snapped, the bow-tip pierced his jaws thus causing him grave injury. And the jackal perished from the pain of it.