From the Galpoghor Series:
The Story of the Bull
Retold by Kabir Chowdhury
SHE was so beautiful that it took your breath away. Now the bull bound this beautiful woman and Ghafoor with the bonds of matrimony. The moon and the stars and the sun stood witness to the wedding. Ghafoor was happy beyond words. He lived in peace and joy with his young wife and his friend, the bull. Thus the days rolled by.
Days rolled into months. Months rolled into a year. And then one day the King's barber after cutting the King's hair and shaving the royal beard left the palace for his home. But on this particular day instead of taking his normal route he followed a new route, and after a while found himself passing by a little hut where lived Ghafoor and his wife. Ghafoor saw the barber and recognized him as one by the kit he carried. When he saw the barber's razor peeping out of his kit-bag he felt an immense urge to have his hair cut and his nails pared. So he called the barber and said, “Where are you coming from, oh barber?” The barber said. “I am coming from the palace of the King of this land after cutting the royal hair.” Ghafoor said, “Fine, would you now cut my hair and pare my nails,. See how long my hair has grown. And look at my nails. The nails of my thumbs seem to reach for the sky, and my toe nails seem to reach for the bottom of the earth. Please trim them too, won't you?” The barber said, 'Why not? That's my profession. You pay me for my labors and I shall surely cut your hair and trim your nails.”
So the barber trimmed Ghafoor's nails and cut his hair and shaved his beard. Then Ghafoor said, “Look, barber, my wife's nails are also in no better state than mine. Won't you pare them, too?” The barber said that he would be glad to. Then Ghafoor went inside the hut and said to his wife, “I have got hold of a barber today, dear wife. You have not pared your nails for one full year and they have grown too long. Now you can have them trimmed.” The girl said, “But the barber is an adult male, unrelated to me. How can I show my face to him?” At last they solved the problem thus. The young woman remained inside the hut close by the door and pushed her feet out so that the barber could trim her nails. But as soon as the barber saw her bare feet their matchless beauty struck him like a thunderbolt and he fell down senseless. The only thought that buzzed in his brain as he lost consciousness was the dream of the beauty of her unseen face. If her feet were so beautiful, oh then, how much more beautiful was her face!
Ghafoor was surprised to see the barber faint away. He quickly sprinkled some water on his eyes and face. By and by the barber recovered and sat up. Ghafoor asked, “Well, what happened? Why did you faint like that?” The barber hemmed and hawed and then said, “It is an old disease of mine. Sometimes a fainting fit overtakes me for no apparent reason but it seldom lasts long.”
After a while when the barber felt that he was alright our pretty woman again stretched her dainty feet out from behind the door of her little hut, but again the barber's eyes were dazzled by the beauty of her feet and again the swooned.
Once again Ghafoor revived him by sprinkling cold water on his face and eyes. When the barber found his words he said, “It seems I am really ill today. Let me go home today. I'll come again in a day or two and trim the nails of your wife. Alright?” When Ghafoor nodded yes, the barber left their hut and went away. But in the mean time evil plans had started invading his mind. So instead of going to his home the barber turned back and returned once again to the King's palace. There he went to the King and said, “Sire, are you aware that you have a couple of subjects inside that forest over there?” When the King said that he did not know anything about it the barber said, “I have been to their hut, your Majesty. And would you believe me, Sire, that the wife of that farmer living in their little hut inside the forest is a priceless beauty? I have not seen her face, but I can tell you that her feet hold more beauty than the face of your queen.” The King said, “That's silly and incredible. How can the wife of a poor subject of mine have feet more beautiful than the face of my queen! All right, you must manage to bring that girl here.” The barber said, “How can a poor barber like me manage to bring her here? But I can devise a plan and tell you how to go about it.” The King said, “Well, that will do. Now tell me quickly how I can have that girl here.” The barber said, “Sire, do those subjects of yours pay you any rent?” The King answered, “No.” “That settles it,” purred the barber. “Send your Chief of Police tomorrow and summon the fellow to your court and ask him to pay you the rent that is your due. I am sure he will not be able to pay the rent and that will open up the way to have the girl brought over to court.” The evil advice of the barber made the King lose all sense of justice and fairness. His eyes lit with lust and greed, and he at once dispatched his Police Chief along with some assistants to the little hut inside the forest. Soon the King's men came to Ghafoor's hut. They called aloud, “Open the door at once and come out quickly.” Ghafoor opened the door and came out. When he saw the Police he got very frightened. He humbly enquired, “Who are you, Sirs? What do you want to me, Sirs?” The Chief of the Police said, “We have come from the King. We have come to find out if you pay the King any rent. You know you are living in his State and you have to pay him a rent for this privilege. Do you pay him any rent?” When Ghafoor answered in the negative he was directed to report to the King's palace tomorrow and pay the rent due from him to the King's Treasury.
Ghafoor was quite dismayed at heart, but finding no alternative promised to do as directed. The Chief of the Police then left with his men.
As soon as the king's men were gone Ghafoor ran to the bull and told him about the new trouble that had suddenly sprang up. The bull said that the barber was at the root of all this mischief. He thought for a moment and said, “Since the King has sent for you, I think you should go. Come and see me tomorrow morning before you leave for the royal palace.”
Gradually the night ended Then sun rose on the east And the day dawned. Ghafoor awoke from his sleep and went to his friend. philosopher and guide, the bull. Now, wonder of all wonders, what did the bull do? He placed before Ghafoor a heap of precious jewels and told him to make these over to the King in payment of the rent due from him. Then the bull cautioned Ghafoor. “If the King asks you any questions or tells you to do anything, do not give any clear answer or make any commitment without first discussing the matter with me. Remember this carefully.”
So Ghafoor went to the King's palace with the precious jewels given to him by the bull. On reaching the palace he found himself quickly escorted to the King's presence. Ghafoor greeted the King with humility and reverence. The Chief of the Police who stood behind Ghafoor said, “Your Majesty, this is your subject who is living inside the forest in a little hut.” The King then turned to Ghafoor and asked him if he paid any rent to the Royal Treasury. No sooner had Ghafoor heard the King's words than he brought out his precious heap of jewels and handed it to the King with a deep how. He said, “Here is my humble rent, Sir, and I hope that you will be pleased to accept it.” The King was struck dumb with wonder. So his plan had misfired. He was almost sure that Ghafoor would not be able to pay the due rent and this would make it possible for the King to get hold of his beautiful wife, but now there was no such possibility. The frustrated King asked Ghafoor to wait in his antechamber and angrily sent for his barber. When the barber was told about the payment of the precious jewels by Ghafoor he scratched his head for a second and said, “Well, Sir, I am a barber and I have seven sack full of sly plans. Only one sack has gone, but there are others in store. Now this is what you have to do. Ghafoor has a bull, you know. You tell him that you want that bull to fight your elephant.
To Be Continued
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