Volume 2 Issue 33 | May 10 , 2008 |


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From the Galpoghor Series:

The Story of the Bull

Retold by Kabir Chowdhury

IF the bull loses in that fight Ghafoor will have to stay as a prisoner for five years. On the other hand if the elephant loses the fight you will give him away to Ghafoor. There is no doubt that the bull will be routed by your elephant. Then by the terms of the agreement you will take Ghafoor a prisoner, after which it will be very simple to get hold of his pretty wife." The King nodded his head in-agreement and said, "This sounds like a good plan. Perhaps now she will be mine."

The King had Ghafoor called before him and told him that he wanted the bull to fight the royal elephant. He also told him about the terms and conditions that would govern the fight. Ghafoor quietly listened to the King's words and said, "I can't tell you anything about it now, Your Majesty. Please give me time till tomorrow when I shall come and see you again." The King agreed and Ghafoor came back to his hut in the forest but instead of going in to meet his wife he rushed up to the bull and prostrated himself before him with a sad and dejected look. The bull asked, "Well, what's the matter. Ghafoor? What did the King say?" Ghafoor related to the bull all that had happened in the King's palace. "The bull heard everything and said, "There is nothing to worry about, dear friend. You tell the king tomorrow that I shall fight his elephant on any day that he fixes. There should be a clear line drawn in the battle arena. On one side will stand the elephant will occupy. After that you leave the rest to me.”

Ghafoor went to the King next day and said, "I accept your proposal, Your Majesty. My bull will fight your elephant any day that you suggest. But let us fix the place of the fight today and also the side each of the contestants will occupy prior to the fight." The King said that he had no objection to all that. A plot of land was selected as the field of battle. A line was drawn in the middle of the field dividing it into two equal parts. It was decided that the royal elephant would stand on the southern side of the dividing line and Ghafoor's bull on the northern. Ghafoor personally checked everything, took the measurements of the battlefield and returned to his home in the forest.

When the bull learnt all the details from Ghafoor he immediately rushed to the Bitalang hills. There he met the King of the rats and begged for his assistance. The Rat King heard the bull patiently and then said, "But what can I do about it?" The bull answered, "I am coming to that in a minute. We know that the royal elephant will stand on the southern side of the field. You can send a big army of rats at night, have some holes made by them by removing the earth on that side, keeping just a thin layer over the hollow surface in order to mislead the elephant and trap him in the holes. If you do that I'll be saved." The Rat King answered, "Well, that is simple. I'll see that it is done." Immediately he gave a call to his own band of dedicated rats. In no time a million rats came down running from behind a ridge of the Bitalang hills. The Rat King explained to them what they had to do. And they did their job very nicely, by digging underground tunnels, leaving only a thin layer of earth on top. A million rats noiselessly carried the earth they had dug and threw it into the sea.

In the meantime the bull went home and got ready for the fight. On the appointed day the bull, freshly bathed and with garlands around his neck and horns, went to the Battle ground. Hundreds of men had assembled there to watch the fight between the bull and the King's elephant. The King was also there with his minister and other senior courtiers. The Chief of the Police was there, too. The King's mahout was ready with the elephant on the southern side of the field while Ghafoor stood on the northern side with his bull. Everybody waited eagerly for the fight to begin. Then the King gave the signal. Ghafoor let go of his bull from the northern end, and the mahout let the King's elephant rush at the bull with a wild roar from the southern end of the field. But no sooner had the elephant taken three or four steps than he found the hollow earth cave in. The bull bellowed loudly and ran towards the elephant, but before he could reach him the elephant sank under the earth and died.

All the people who had gathered to see the fight wildly cheered Ghafoor's bull and broke out in a

thunderous applause. They said that the fierce and heroic deportment of the bull had frightened the King's elephant and routed him thus.

Naturally the King felt badly let down. He had the barber called to him and angrily said, “See what you have done. I have become the laughingstock of the people. I have lost a precious elephant. Anyway, that does not matter. But what about the disgrace that I have suffered on account of your stupid advice?” The barber said, “Don't worry, Your Majesty. The elephant is dead. Let it die. Since I have pledged to get for you that beautiful woman I'll redeem my pledge anyhow. And once you get her all your worries and disappointments and unhappiness will vanish.” The King said, “Granted, but up till now you have achieved nothing. Only words, words, words” The barber explained that out of seven sacks full of wily plans only two were exhausted. There were still five sacks to go. The King didn't want to hear about his sacks. He asked, “What shall we do now?” The barber said, “Listen, Your Majesty. This is what you must do. Send for that again and tell him that he will have to excavate a big tank by your palace in the course of a single night and then he will have to fill that tank right up to the brim with milk. Tell him that if he fails to carry out your order he will be executed. I am sure, Your Majesty, he will fail this time, and then the pretty woman will be all yours.” The King thought that this was an excellent plan. So he sent for Ghafoor again. When Ghafoor presented himself before the King he was asked to excavate a big tank within the palace premises and to fill it to the brim with milk in the course of one night. The King added, “If you can't do it the executioner will behead you.” Ghafoor grew pale with fear and anxiety. However, he kept his head and said, “Give me time till tomorrow, Your Majesty. Tomorrow I'll see you and tell you what I propose to do about your royal order.” The King said, “I can't give you much time and I am not interested in hearing your answer. I want the tank to be excavated and filled with milk before tomorrow night is over. If you can't do it you will be beheaded. That's all.”

Ghafoor came back to his hut in the forest with a heavy heart. His eyes brimming with tears he went to the bull and stood before him in silence. The bull looked at his anxiety-ridden tearstained face and said, “What's the new problem, Ghafoor? Has the King abused you or beaten you up? Why do you look so sad and downcast?” When Ghafoor told his dear friend the bull everything in detail the latter said, “So this has upset you. Didn't I tell you that you were my brother and that I would look after you to the best of my ability? As long as I am here you have nothing to worry about, Ghafoor.” The bull's words cheered Ghafoor's heavy heart. His face it up with joy and gratitude. He quietly left the bull without a word, took his meal, and went to bed.

Now the bull didn't go to sleep that night. He went to the Demon King living in his royal cave in the hills and prostrated himself before his feet. When the Demon King saw the angelic bull he said, "What's your problem, nephew? Why do I see tears in your eyes? Tell me quickly what is troubling you and let me see what I can do about it." The bull said, "I am in great trouble, uncle. I have to excavate a big tank in the course of a single night by the orders of a certain King and then I have to fill the tank with milk. Now I don't know how I can do that. In my helplessness and perplexity I have come to you for assistance. What should I do dear uncle?" the Demon King said, "I can have the tank excavated for you, but I am afraid I can't do anything about your milk." The bull said, "Let's have the tank first. I think I'll be able to solve the problem of the milk somehow." The Demon King then advised the bull to go to his King's palace and clearly mark the place where the tank should be excavated. He said to the bull, "I'll send ten million demons and have the tank ready by tomorrow night according to your measurements. Now you go and make arrangements for filling it up with milk.”

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