From the Galpoghor Series:
The Story of the Pine-Apple Girl
(Continued From the Last Issue)
The old witch got really frightened when she saw Anarashi-Kanya. She pleaded with the young man to go away from her place. She said, "The King's men will come any moment in search of that pine-apple. They will kill me, they will kill you, they will massacre the whole village. I don't want all that trouble. You better leave this place at once with your pine-apple and go home. And, look, however hungry or thirsty you may feel on your way home, never, never, touch this pine-apple. Never break this open and taste it. If you do, everything will be lost and undone." The young man said, "Auntie, I'll remember what you have said and act accordingly." So saying he started for his home with the precious pineapple. It was, however, no small distance that he would reach his home quickly. And in addition to the distance there was a scorching heat. He walked on and on and became tired. And then he grew hungry and thirsty. Soon his thirst became almost unbearable. His eyes fell on the pine-apple. There, near at hand, was something tasty and delicious for him to quench his thirst with. He was sorely tempted to cut it open and eat its juicy slices, but he restrained his temptation for quite a while. But his thirst got the upper hand at last and unable to withstand the agony any more, he cut the pine-apple open, and lo, who but the Pine-apple girl quietly stepped out of the fruit and stood before the amazed young man. He looked with awe and wonder at her unearthly beauty and fainted. Just at that moment a fisherwoman was passing by that place with her net to catch fish at a neighboring lake. She saw the strange scene and the evil woman that she was, she rushed to the Pine-apple girl and strangled her to death. Then she dragged her to the nearby lake and threw her into it. Before doing that she took off the Pine-apple girl's clothes and her jewellery and put those on herself; and assuming the role of the Pine-apple girl she quietly stood before the young man waiting for him to revive from his fainting fit. After some time the young man came back to his senses and saw a young woman standing before him dressed like the Pine-apple girl but whom he instantly recognised as a different woman. But he was powerless to do anything about it. So he quietly took the false Pine-apple girl home with him and began to live with her as his wife.
Days rolled by. After a long while the real Pine-apple girl rose from the lake where she was thrown in by the fisherwoman in the shape of a beautiful lotus and began to float on the serene waters of the lake. Many people tried to pluck that lotus from the bosom of the lake but none could go near it. As soon as some one went near the lotus it eluded his grasp and floated away to some other part of the lake. Our young man, in course of time, heard about this strange lotus and went to try his luck. On going to the lake he found that many people were trying to get hold of the lotus but with little success. Our young man watched the scene for a while and then got into the lake and stretched his hand toward the lotus. At once the lotus snuggled into his hands. He took it into his hands tenderly and brought it home. Then he placed it in a pot and told his wife not to touch the pot ever. After this he left home and went to work. Now the fisherwoman's thoughts were all centred in that pot. She wondered what was there inside the pot. She waited for some time and when she saw that her husband had gone far away from home and was not visible any more she stealthily went up to the pot, took off the lid, and saw that inside the pot there lay only a lotus and nothing else. This made her terribly angry. She took out the lotus from the pot, tore it into shreds, and threw the tiny shreds outside their room in a corner of their yard.
Thus passed a long time. Everybody forgot about the flower. In due course the fisherwoman became pregnant with child. She tasted this food and she tasted that food,
but she found
No joy in any dish. One day she discovered a gourd-creeper in the corner of the yard where she had thrown away the torn shreds of the lotus. She saw a gourd there and at once her tongue watered for the taste of that fresh vegetable cooked with fish brought from the bazar. She went up to her mother-in-law and told her about her wish. Her mother-in-law said, "Well, my dear, you are pregnant with child and soon you will be confined. Who knows if you will survive the child-birth and come out alive or die in the process? Do fulfill your wish." So saying she went out and plucked the gourd from the tree; and when her son came back from work she asked him to go to the bazar and get some fish to be cooked with that vegetable. The son did what he was told.
The fisherwoman cut the gourd in fine slices. As soon as fish was brought she prepared the fish, mixed the fish with the vegetable, sprinkled some spices over them, threw some cooking oil in the pot and put the pot on the over When the fire became strong and a sizzling sound began, the gourd started to cry out from inside the pot placed over the oven.
O fisherwoman, woe to thee. Take off the lid, for God's sake, And let me escape.
When the fisherwoman heard these words she became very frightened and gave a piercing shriek. Her mother-in-law came running from the next room and on hearing everything said, "Don't touch that food, my dear. It is possessed by some evil spirit." This further upset the fisherwoman. She quickly threw away all that she had cooked and then felt somewhat calmer.
After this incident many days passed. Now just at the spot where the fisherwoman had thrown away the cooked gourd there rose a big "Bel' tree. Soon it bore a number of fruits. The tree had many branches and gave a nice shade and it was cool under its branches. The fisherwoman often used to put her new-born child under the shade of this tree and go about her domestic chores close by. Often she too came and sat under the tree for a little breeze when it was hot and sultry elsewhere.
One day when the fisherwoman was working inside the house leaving her child in the cool shadow of the Bel tree a big, hard fruit suddenly fell smack on the head of the baby and killed him instantaneously. The mother was working inside and thought that her child was sleeping in peace. After some time on completing her household works she came out-side to her baby, only to find that he was struck dead by a fruit falling from the tree under whose shadow he was lying.
The fisherwoman was overwhelmed with grief at the loss of her son and wept bitter tears. But what was the use? Her tears could not bring her dead child back to life. So at last she stopped crying and buried her son. Then she called in some hired labour had the Bel tree ccut down.
The tree was full of Bel fruits. All who passed by the felled tree took one or two fruits with him.
Now there lived a woman in the neighborhood who made her living by making garlands and selling them to the king's household. As she went by the Bel tree she noticed one particular fruit hanging on to a branch that glowed like gold. She plucked it, took it to her home and kept it in her loft. After that she took her meal and went to bed.
TO BE CONTINUED
(R) thedailystar.net 2007