Along the banks of the Tungabadra river, lived Abuddhi and his wife Saraswathi. Abuddhi who worked as a farm labourer, was a simpleton with no ambition or enthusiasm. He loved eating and sleeping. Saraswathi, was educated, cultured and a teacher in the local school. She was quite the opposite in many ways.
Saraswathi tried hard to teach him culture, etiquette, and seriousness in life, but all her efforts bore no results.
During Ramanavami in the month of March, a famous pundit was visiting their village to perform the recital of the great epic Ramayana every night. He was a learned man and a master story teller. People would listen to his recital, which included storytelling, singing and dancing, with rapt attention all night. Last Ramanavami, he was sick and could not make it. People of the village grew sad and worried if some curse would come upon them. The village had been brimming with festivities this time, that the Pundit was performing at their village and thanked Lord Rama for breaking the jinx.
Saraswathi truly believed that her husband would benefit from attending the performance, and become useful. She nudged, cajoled, nagged, and forced him to go and listen. He grumbled as usual but decided to humour her. So he went for the recital scheduled in the evening and sat at the back. It was an all night performance but he could not stay awake. He slept through the recital. Early in the morning, when a canto had completed, the pundit ended the closing verses for the day and sweets were distributed to all devotees. Abuddhi, unmindful of all the proceedings, was still snoring. A volunteer stuffed Abuddhi’s open mouth with sweets. He woke up soon after and went home. His wife welcomed him with much delight. She was eager to know how the recital went and how he had felt. Abuddhi said, “it was very sweet”. Saraswathi was very happy to hear.
It took lot more effort to persuade him to go back to the recital the second evening. After much grumbling, he finally went. The pundit was exceptional that evening and even pilgrims from other villages were deeply moved and totally involved. A lot more people meant, he could not find room to lie down and had to sit up all night. A granny, who had brought her grandson, placed the kid on Abuddhi’s shoulder, because she could not find room. That did not deter him and he slept with his mouth wide open like the earlier evening. When the story of the night had come to an end, everyone got up and so did Abuddhi. The boy on his shoulders had left earlier but Abuddhi felt aches and pains, from the weight he had borne all night. When he reached home, his wife was eager to know how it was and he said, “it got heavier and heavier by morning”. She said, “that’s how the story is but pay attention to all details.” She was happy that her husband was finally beginning to feel the emotions and sentiments of the great epic.
On the third evening he felt more sleepy, located a corner quickly and continued sleeping with louder snores. Early in the morning after everyone had left, a dog came that way and pissed into his mouth. The sudden jet of luke warm water woke him up and he ambled home. When Saraswathi inquired about the earlier night’s performance he drew a confused expression and said, “terrible and very salty” wiping his mouth. Saraswathi, now confident that something was not right confronted him. He relented and admitted to have slept all nights. It made her very disappointed and sad.
Saraswathi decided to take matters into her hands. She went along that evening and made him sit at the front row and warned him sternly. The story teller was at his best that evening. His recital made people cry when Sita was abducted by Ravana. Very soon Abuddhi got enraptured in the characters, events and emotions. He listened with rapture to the narration much to the delight of his wife. The story teller went on to recite how Hanuman had taken the big leap from the mountain towards Lanka, carrying Rama’s signet ring to Sita. “When Hanuman was leaping across the ocean, the ring slipped from his hand and fell into the ocean. Hanuman did not know what to do. He was worried, frustrated and stayed motionless, wringing his hands.” Abuddhi who was listening to the story with rapt attention was so moved by Hanuman’s predicament that he jumped and yelled, “Hanuman, I will get it for you.” Then he jumped dived into the ocean found the ring in the ocean floor, brought it back and gave it to Hanuman.
Everyone including Saraswathi were astonished. They thought he had become a special person by the blessings of Rama and Hanuman. Abuddhi became Buddhiman. Ever since, he was respected in the village as a wise man and behaved like one.
This story is part of the series titled, “Stories from far and near” that includes adaptations from Indian folktales, classical poetry and mythology. Copyright © 2012 Sriram V. Ayer. This story may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.