Stories For Thing

Escaping by the width of a hair

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There was a rich landlord who was very lazy and miserly. No laborer liked to plough his lands because he was difficult and stingy. Soon his fields were empty, tanks and canals dry and he grew poorer and poorer but he still did not change. One day, a holy man was passing through the village and stayed at his place. When he heard about the landlord’s problems, he smiled and said “I have a solution to your problems. I know a magical mantra. If you repeat it for three months day and night, a Rakshasa will appear and obey all your orders. He will be equal to a thousand laborers.”

The landlord was overjoyed at finding such a simple solution to his problem and immediately asked the holy man to teach him the mantra, The holy man taught him the mantra and the landlord immediately started his penance.

After three months of chanting the mantra day and night, on the first day of the fourth month, a huge Rakshasa appeared in front of the landlord, fell at his feet and asked “What is your order?”. On seeing the frightening appearance of the Rakshasa, the landlord was dumbstruck for a while. Somehow he told the Rakshasa, “I want you to obey my commands and complete the tasks I ask you to.”

The Rakshasa replied, “Of course. That is what I am here for. Ask and it shall be done. However, there is only one condition. I must always have a task to complete. Once one task is finished, there must be others . If I am idle even for one second, I will be forced to eat you.”

The landlord, believing that he had enough work to keep a hundred such Rakshasas busy for years, gleefully agreed. He took him at once to the large tank, which had been dry for years and asked him to repair it and dig till it was deep enough to drown two palm trees. The landlord then went home for the first time in three months, ate well and relaxed at home with his wife who had not seen him so happy for months. That very evening, the Rakshasa returned and said that he had completed work on the tank.

The landlord was surprised but he immediately asked the Rakshasa to remove all the weeds and the stones spread across the surrounding twenty villages and make it ready for cultivation. Since no one had worked over these lands for years, the landlord was sure that this work would take the Rakshasa months, if not years. However, even as he was preparing to go to sleep, the Rakshasa came back and said that the work had been done. Slightly scared at the speed at which things were getting done, the landlord now said ” Then till the fields, sow the rice, irrigate the fields as required.”

Things started getting done faster and the landlord now had to invent new tasks every day.The village had changed in appearance and as the Rakshasa understood the landlord better, he was getting faster and faster. The landlord was now deeply worried and started crying. At this point, his wife asked him why he was so sad. When he explained, his wife asked him to send the Rakshasa over when he was done with all his chores.

That afternoon, the Rakshasa appeared in front of the landlord asking for another chore. He had completed all the tasks of the landlord and was now demanding the next task. As the landlord wondered what to do, he remembered his wife’s request and told the Rakshasa, “I have never found someone as hardworking as you. Now please meet my wife who has a new task for you.”

The wife of the landlord was a person with very curly hair. When the Rakshasa approached her, she handed over a long curly strand of hair, plucked from her head and told the Rakshasa, “I have a small task for you. Take this strand of hair, straighten it and bring it back to me”.

The Rakshasa, slightly irked at the ease of this task, took the curly strand,and went and sat on a branch of a nearby tree to complete the task. However many times he rolled it on his thigh, he found that it refused to stay straight. After numerous useless attempts, he remembered that goldsmiths heat wires in the fire and then hammer them to straighten them. So he quietly sneaked into the nearest goldsmith’s house when he was sleeping and tried to heat the strand of hair. At once it went up in smoke, leaving behind a bit of ash and a bad smell.

The Rakshasa, horrified as to what the wife of the landlord would say when he was unable to return the strand, ran away never to be seen again while the landlord learnt the error of trying to use a shortcut to success.

*This is an old Tamil story I heard as a child from my mother.*

By YunGwan

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