Umesh is a freelance writer contributing his creative writings on varied subjects in various sites and portals in the internet.
This creative narration is inspired and based on folklore from the Kumaon region in the state of Uttarakhand in India. The state of Uttarakhand is predominantly a hilly region having a Himalayan range in its North and North-Eastern side. On the Eastern side of the state, it has a common boundary with the neighbouring country Nepal. There are many towns in this region and also a large number of villages some of which are located in very isolated and remote places and one has to walk a considerable distance from there before reaching the nearest road available for riding a bus to the other places or the nearest town. Due to limited agricultural activity, most of the people go out in search of jobs and many of them had joined the Indian army and after their retirement either got a house in the nearest town or settled in the village itself. But this story belongs to a time when the population was very less and many villages had few inhabitants and a few houses were there sometimes quite far from each other on the flange of the hills leaving the valleys for agricultural activity.
There are many forests in this region and some of them are very near to these villages and in earlier times these forests were a great source of wood, leaves, fruits, and flowers for various purposes for the villagers. At that time there was no modern facility like electricity, cooking gas, etc and villagers mostly depended on the natural resources around.
Folklore are the tales which people often tell orally. It could be related to some culture or society or any personality of past times. Sometimes it could be the origin of some myth which we still believe today. Folklore is the near cousin of fairy tales though their writers are not known unlike famous fairy tales like Pinocchio, Hansel & Gretel, and Rapunzel etc which were written by the known writers and have got wide acclaim over the globe.
The village from which this story was originated was quite far from the nearest town at that time and there were no motorable or good roads to move here and there and the only way was to walk through the narrow paths full of pebbles and mud and it was difficult to move around especially in the rainy season. This was a very small village like other villages of that time in that region and had a few families dwelling in mud and stone houses with slanted slatestone roofs for getting rid of occasional snowfalls during the winters. Winters were difficult time and the villagers kept a large number of wood pieces to make fire for cooking food and heating water.
One side of the village was gradually dipping down to the valley below where a small river flowed though, in the rainy season, it swelled quite wide. Only during the summer, it was possible to cross it and go to the other side where hills were again rising up in different directions creating a maze of hills and valleys.
The North and Western sides of the village had thick and dense assemblage of pine and other trees which soon merged with the big Jungles extending far to the unknown sides as no path was there through them to walk or travel. There were only two paths to go to other villages and they both went in the South and South East side almost along the river for some time then rising through the flanks and going up to other villages in the region. If someone used them for going to other villages, very rarely one met someone on the way. It looked deserted in those terrains except when some marriage or such ceremony took place between the villages and a group of few people was seen singing and dancing and advancing to the bride's house.
Madhuli was a little girl aged 8 years and lived in this village with her parents. They had some fields nearby where they could make two crops a year and that was sufficient for them and as they had surplus grains with them they could get other items of use for their household by exchanging the grains for those items. Money was almost a rare entity at that time as most of the buy and sell activities of commodities were done in a barter system and everyone knew as in exchange for so much grain what one can get from the faraway village where there were some people coming occasionally for selling the goodies from the world outside. They bought their merchandise on the horses or mules and sold them in exchange for the grains.
Madhuli was the only child and her parents loved her much and took full care. She was a little girl and had learnt only some minor works in the household and most of the time playing with her crude toys made up from some sticks and ropes. The parents used to go to the fields for work and left her alone in the house. Her mother always prepared some sweet items like wheat flour or rice flour pudding for her which she relished much and generally took by herself alone after the parents left for the fields.
The Jackal finds the pudding
One day a Jackal wandering in the nearby pine jungle happened to visit that part of the village. It saw the little girl playing outside the house and just near her on a stool some food was kept and the aroma of that pudding was reaching the Jackal which tempted it to come near and to get the pudding it tried to frighten the little girl. Madhuli was really in terror seeing the Jackal so near to her.
Jackal could see that the girl was fearing it and it stopped near her and told in the most possible soft and sweet voice that it would not hurt the girl if she allowed the food to be eaten by it. Madhuli was immediately ready for the deal and gave the food to the Jackal. Before leaving Jackal told Madhuli that she should not tell this thing to anyone even to her parents.
The nice pudding made Jackal to yearn for more of it and he started to come there in the morning daily and took the pudding from the girl. Madhuli kept quiet and did not share it with anyone.
The parents used to come back from the fields only in the afternoon and then usually prepared food and then only they all had it. Parents did not know that the pudding they kept for Madhuli was taken by the Jackal.
Parents come to know about the Jackal
Parents were observing that Madhuli appeared to be absent-minded at times as if she was pondering over something and her weight also seemed to be reducing. They were worried about her health. They were not able to understand why Madhuli looked pale and had a dried face.
The next day Madhuli's father told her mother that he would go to the fields alone and let her remain in the house and take care of Madhuli. Mother prepared pudding for Madhuli and kept it outside where she was playing. Mother was busy working inside the house when the Jackal came and asked Madhuli for pudding. Mother saw through the window that Madhuli gave the pudding to the Jackal who ate it and soon galloped back.
Madhuli's mother now knew the reason for Madhuli's fear and narrated the story to her husband in the afternoon.
The Jackal gets the lesson
The Pine tree is used for resin-tapping. The resin, locally known in Uttarakhand as Lisa, is used for making turpentine oil after distillation. This resin is very thick and sticky. It is used in many ways in the industry.
Madhuli's father kept a heap of Lisa in place of the usual pudding and next day morning kept it outside and asked Madhuli to play near it. They told her that when the Jackal comes then she should take the plate near him and let it eat the thing. As usual, the Jackal came and asked Madhuli to Give it pudding. Madhuli immediately put the plate near it. The heap of Lisa looked like the jaggery-wheat flour pudding. Jackal started to gulp it down but the Lisa was stuck in the mouth and it was so sticky that Jackal neither could close the mouth nor was able to wipe out or remove Lisa from the mouth.
Jackal was feeling much embarrassed and was running here and there to get rid of the unexpected problem in the mouth but could not get any help or remove it. Finally, it ran back into the forest. It never came back after that and Madhuli became happy to get relieved of that wicked Jackal.
© 2021 Umesh Chandra Bhatt