The Panchatantra – Story 47

THE UNGRATEFUL WIFE

In a certain city there lived a Brahmin with his wife. He loved her to distraction, but she was daily quarrelling, with his relatives and making life a hell for him. So he resolved to leave that city and go to a distant place and live in peace, away from his relatives. As they were going along, they had to cross a great sandy waste. In the hot sun his wife was tortured by thirst and cried to him for water. He went to fetch water He had to go a long distance and when he returned after a long time, he found her dead of sunstroke and thirst. ‘ As he loved her dearly he lamented loudly and prayed to God to bring her back to life. A voice from heaven said to him : “If you will give half your remaining life for her, she shall be made alive again for that period.” The Brahmin gladly agreed and cried out, “I give half my life. “The moment he said this, his wife recovered. She drank the water he had ‘brought and then they ate the food they had carried with them and proceeded on their journey. 

By and by they entered a flower garden near another city. The Brahmin said to his wife: “My dear, stay here while I go to the city and fetch some food for us both’. When she was sitting in the garden, she saw a cripple turning a water-wheel and singing with an enchanting voice. When she heard him sing, she fell in love with him and asked him to be her lover, saying that she would commit suicide otherwise. He told her: “I am a cripple. What can you do with me?”. Never mind,” she said “leave it to me.” Thereupon he agreed to be her lover. The Brahmin returned with the food and invited his wife to cat with him. But she said, “Why not give this cripple also some food ? He is hungry”. The Brahmin agreed. After meals, the wife said to the Brahmin: “We have no children. When you go out I feel ever so lonely and I will have nobody to do a bit of work in the house also. So, why not take this cripple with us The Brahmin replied: “That man cannot walk. Who will- carry him? I find it difficult even to carry myself about. How can I carry another?”.

Then she said, “If you will get me a basket we will put him into it and I can carry him.” The foolish Brahmin, infatuated with has wife, agreed to this strange proposal, and brought a basket and she carried the cripple in it. As they were going along they came to a big deep well with a large quantity of water,, and rested on its parapet wall. The wife, aided by the cripple, suddenly pushed the Brahmin into the well. Then the wife put the cripple in the basket and carried him along and proceeded on her journey. 

When they reached a big city ruled over by a righteous king, the police, seeing the woman carrying the cripple in a basket had their curiosity roused and took her and the basket with the cripple to the king. She said “This is my invalid husband. Your Majesty. “Because he was a cripple, his relatives harassed him and even tried to kill him so that they might inherit his property. So , one night, unknown to them, I put him in a basket and travelled to this city.” “You are the noblest woman I ever saw,” said the king. “I regard you as my sister hereafter and grant you two villages as inam in perpetuity”.

The woman rejoiced. Buts just as she was about to leave, her husband, the Brahmin, arrived at the spot. He had been rescued from the well by a wandering Sanyasin who had heard his cries for help some time after the woman had left him. Seeing him, the cunning wife told the king; “Here comes my husband’s principal enemy chasing me.” The king thereupon said : “Kill the fellow.” The Brahmin replied: “O king, before you execute me ask the woman to give me back with interest what I have given her.” The king asked the woman, “What did he give you?”. The woman said: “He gave me nothing.” The Brahmin retorted : “Did I not give you half my life when you fell down dead on that sandy waste in order to bring you back to life?”. Sir, said he turning to the king, “I left my family for her. I gave her half my life and she has, in turn, behaved so ungratefully to me and taken this cripple as paramour and is trying to make you sentence me do death unjustly.” The king questioned the woman sternly, and she confessed. Then he forced her to give back her husband’s debt by saying, “I give back the life loaned to me by my husband”. When she uttered those words she fell down dead. 

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