From the Galpoghor Series:
The Story of the Bull
Once upon a time there lived a farmer and his wife. They worked in the field, ate their humble meals and lived happily. Days rolled by, and one day the farmer's wife discovered that she was with child. In course of time she gave birth to a male child. And what kind of a child was it? He was so beautiful that:
Oh, as beautiful as beautiful could be!
If you saw him once
You craved to see him for all eternity.
Soon a year went by. But at that moment a misfortune struck the family. The mother was attacked with anaemia. She grew pale and bloodless and died. The farmer felt the loss of his wife keenly. Now how could he look after his field, his household work, and his young and tender boy? He thought and thought, and then at least decided to marry some nice girl who would look after his home and his boy. So he remarried and said to his new wife, “Look, my dear, you don't have to minister to my needs very much. But take care of my little boy. See that he does not suffer. Bring him up with love and affection as if he were your own son.”
The wife said, “Rest assured my husband. I'll look after the boy carefully and see that he is always happy and contented.” The farmer was very happy to hear this. He gave the boy to the step-mother to bring him up and did not think about the matter any more.
Days and months passed. Things, however, did not go on very smoothly. After all a step-son was a step-son and a step-mother was a step-mother! They said:
When the step-mother spoke
Money dripped from her lips
She watered the tree at the top
While chopping it off at the bottom
As long as the farmer was at home she made a great show of fondling the child and looking after him. But as soon as her husband was away from home she scolded the boy for nothing and hit him mercilessly. She said in exasperation:
“Why did the miserable woman have to leave behind this child when she died? This boy is but a thorn in my flesh!”
A few years went by like this. The child grew into an intelligent young boy. The father called him Ghafoor. When the father worked in the field Ghafoor carried his food from home to the field. He looked after his father's cow and watched her as she grazed.
About this time the farmer's second wife gave birth to a daughter. She became completely absorbed in her own child from then on. She paid no attention to the boy. She gave him only some cast-off broken rice to eat during the whole day and did not care at all whether he went about the house drooping, listless, and always hungry.
But there is a saying that even if there is no one for the poor, there is God for him. The farmer's cow, which Ghafoor looked after and tended, gave birth to a glorious male calf. The newborn calf was divinely beautiful. Ghafoor took both the cow and the calf to the grazing field first and then let them loose. And then he sat under a neighbouring tree, and unable to stand any longer the gnawing pain of his hunger, wept bitterly.
And lo, wonder of wonders! The calf saw Ghafoor's tears from a distance, quickly left off nibbling at the grass, came up to him and said, "What is the matter, dear brother? Why are you weeping? Tell me what is troubling you."
Ghafoor was so amazed to hear the young ox speak out that he stood speechless for a while. He kept on looking at the ox with wide, rounded eyes. The ox asked again, "Well, what is your problem, brother?"
At last Ghafoor somehow recovered himself and said, "What's the use of telling you my sorrows, dear brother ox? You see, I look after you two, I take you to the grazing ground, I make sure that you get nice green grass to eat, but no one ever gives me a square meal. I always go about hungry and half-starved. My step-mother does not care a bit whether I get enough food to eat. On top of it she always scolds me for nothing. I am so miserable, dear brother. But above all, I am so hungry."
When the bull heard this he said, "Don't worry, brother. You look after us, making sure that we get our food; how can we let you go hungry and starved? Well, from now on I'll make sure that you get enough to eat. Now go and get a big clean banana leaf."
Ghafoor went to a banana tree, cut out a clean fresh leaf and placed it before the bull. Immediately the bull lowered his two horns on the leaf and told Ghafoor to hit softy on his horns with a stick. Ghafoor did what he was told and lo! Delicious sweets started to pour out of the bull's horns and covered the whole banana leaf in the twinkling of an eye.
Then the bull said, "Come, now eat your fill and be happy."
Ghafoor, however, was too astonished to do what he was told. Then the bull again urged him to eat. At last the farmer's son took the name of God and tasted the strange sweets, and, by God, he had never tasted anything as delicious as them. He murmured,
"Oh, they are so sweet
Once you taste it
You again crave for it."
The boy ate up all the sweets and when evening feels returned home with the cow and its child, the young bull. When he reached home his step mother placed before him as usual a small quantity of ill-cooked, tasteless food for him to eat. But today his stomach was full of divinely sweet thing and so why should be bother to eat that? He did not eat anything and
went straight to bed. Days passed. One, two, three and then several days went by. The young bull fed Ghafoor the heavenly sweets everyday and soon the step-mother noticed with amazement and a stab of envy that he was growing strong, healthy and handsome, though he almost ate nothing at home, while her own daughter whom she plied with all kinds of food including fish and milk at all hours of the day and night remained lean and thin, and grew pale and paler everyday. What was the mystery behind it? Could it be that Ghafoor secretly drank the milk of the cow he was supposed to look after in the grazing field? She decided to look into the mater and unravel the mystery.
So next day the step-mother called her daughter to her and said, “Look, baby, I would like you to run to the grazing field and see if Ghafoor is properly taking care of the cows or is just idling away his time or playing about somewhere else leaving the cows unattended.”
To Be Continued
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