Posted: 02 February 2007 at 4:50am
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Sukhu and Dukhu
A man had two wives and had a daughter by each of them. Dukhu was the daughter of the elder wife and Sukhu was the daughter of the younger. The man loved his younger wife and her daughter
Sukhu more than the older wife and her daughter Dukhu. The daughters' natures were just like their mothers'. Sukhu was as lazy and ill-tempered as Dukhu was active and lovable. Furthermore, Sukhu and her mother hated the other two and treated them badly anytime they had the chance.
The man took ill, and died in spite of every kind of treatment. The younger wife inherited all his property, and she drove Dukhu and her mother out of the house.
Dukhu and her mother found an empty hut outside town and occupied it. They made a living by spinning thread. One day when Dukhu was spinning outside her hut, the wind blew hard and carried away her wad of cotton. She ran after it but couldn't catch up with it. When she began to cry in desperation, she heard a voice in the wind, "Don't cry, Dukhu, come with me. I'll give you all the cotton you want."
So she followed the wind. On the way, she met a cow, which spoke to her: "Not so fast, Dukhu. My shed is covered with dung. Wash it clean for me, and I'll help you later."
Dukhu drew water from the well and got herself a broom and washed the cowshed clean as clean could be. The wind was waiting for her to finish. As soon as she finished, she went with the wind again. They came to a plantain tree, which stopped her and said, "Where are you going, Dukhu? Can't you stop a minute and pull down all these creepers from my body so that I can stand up straight? It's hard to stand bent down like this all day and all night. Please."
"I'll be glad to do that," said Dukhu, and she tore down all the creepers that were smothering the tree.
The tree said, "You're a good girl. I'll help you some other time."
"I didn't do anything special, really," said Dukhu and hurried on, for the wind was waiting for her.
Next she met a horse and it said, "Where are you going, Dukhu? This saddle and bridle cut into me. I can't bend down to eat the grass. Will you please take them off for me?"
Dukhu took off the saddle and bridle. The horse was grateful and promised her a gift.
The wind said, as they moved on, "Do you see that palace there? That's where the Mother of the Moon lives. She can give you as much cotton as you want." With that, he left her there.
Dukhu walked towards the palace. It seemed deserted. She felt afraid and lonely. She stood there in front of it for a while and then decided to go in. Timidly, step by step, she walked through the rooms. Not a mouse stirring, not a living soul anywhere. Suddenly she heard a noise behind a closed door. She went up to it and knocked softly. A voice said, "Come in."
Dukhu pushed the door open and saw an old lady working at a wheel. She was luminous as if the moon was specially shining on her.
Dukhu bowed to her, touched her feet and said, "Granny, the wind blew away all my cotton. If I don't spin, my mother and I will starve. Will you give me some cotton?"
"I'll give you something better than cotton," said the old Mother of the Moon, "if you are deserving. Do you see that pond out there? Go to that pond and dip in it twice. Only twice, not three times, remember."
So Dukhu walked out of the palace and went to the pond and took a dip. When she rose out of the water, she had been changed into someone very beautiful. When she took a second dip, she was covered with silks, pearls, and gems. Her sari was muslin, and she had gold necklaces so heavy that they weighed her down. She couldn't believe what was happening to her.
When she ran back to the palace, the old woman said, "Child, I know you are hungry. Go to the next room. I've food there for you."
The next room had food of every kind, the best rice, the finest curries, sweets beyond her dreams. After eating her fill, she went back to the old woman, who said, "I want to give you something more," and showed her three caskets, each bigger than the next. "Choose one," she said. Dukhu chose the smallest one and said good-bye to the old woman and left the palace.
As she retraced her steps, she met the horse, the plantain tree, and the cow. Each wanted to give her a gift to take home with her. The horse gave her a young colt of the finest breed; the tree gave her a bunch of plantains yellow as gold and a pot full of old gold coins; and the cow gave her a tawny calf whose udders would never be dry.
Dukhu thanked them all for their wonderful gifts, seated herself on the colt with the pot of gold and the plantains, and found her way home, with the calf walking close behind her.
Her mother, meanwhile, had made herself sick with anxiety, not knowing where Dukhu had gone and when she would come back. She was beside herself with joy when she heard Dukhu's voice call out, "Mother, where are you? Look what I've got!"
When the mother had recovered from her shock of joy, she couldn't believe her eyes. The muslins, the jewels, the gold coins, the plantains, the horse, and the calf---she looked at every one of them over and over. She was speechless.
After a while she found her voice and asked her daughter how she came by all these fabulous things. Dukhu told her the whole story about the wind, the cow, the tree, the horse, and the old Mother of the Moon, and ended by saying, "That's not all. Here's something else she has given me: this casket!"
She then showed her mother the casket. They thought it would be full of more jewels, pearls, gold, and silver. But when they slowly opened it, out of it stepped a most handsome young man dressed like a prince.
"I've been sent here to marry you," he said to Dukhu, without wasting an extra word.
Soon a date was fixed, kith and kin were invited, and a great gala wedding was celebrated. The only people who did not come to the wedding were Sukhu and her mother.
Now, Dukhu's mother was a good woman. Though she had suddenly come into wealth and status, it hadn't gone to her head. She still wanted to be friends with Sukhu and her mother. So she offered Sukhu some ornaments, as they now had heaps of them. But Sukhu's mother was offended. She put her fist to her cheek and hissed, "Why should Sukhu take your leftovers? She's not going begging for jewels! If God had wanted to give my daughter jewels, he would have kept her father alive. My Sukhu is lovely as she is. She needs no ornaments. Only girls who are ugly as owls need fine saris and necklaces to make them look good."
But she didn't forget to make discreet inquiries to find out how Dukhu had come by her great good fortune. Once she learned where Dukhu had gone and how she found the Mother of the Moon, she said to herself, "I'll show her! She is trying to rub her good luck in my face. I'll make my Sukhu a hundred times richer."
Then she brought Sukhu a spinning-wheel and made her spin in the outer yard where the wind was blowing. "Listen to me carefully, Sukhu, my dear," she said. "The wind will blow away your wad of cotton. Then don't forget to howl and wail till the wind asks you to follow it. Be courteous to anyone you meet on the way. Go wherever the wind takes you till you meet the Mother of the Moon."
"I'll do exactly as you say, Mother," said Sukhu and began to spin.
Soon, as expected, a big wind swept away all her cotton, and she began to howl and cry as if someone in the house had died.
"Don't cry, Sukhu, just for a wad of cotton. Come with me. I'll get you all the cotton you want," said the wind.
Sukhu then followed the wind, just as Dukhu had done earlier. She too met the cow, who asked her to clean its shed. But she tossed her head and said, "Clean your stinking shed? Me? Fat chance! I'm on my way to see the Mother of the Moon."
When she met the tree, she said, "I've better things to do than take your creepers down. I'm in a hurry. I'm going to meet the Mother of the Moon."
She was just as insulting to the horse. "You stupid nag, who do you think I am? Your groom's daughter or something?"
They said nothing, but they were hurt. They bided their time.
It was a long way to the palace, and Sukhu was sick and tired of walking. She arrived at the palace in a foul mood. Forgetting her mother's instructions, she burst into the old woman's room and screamed, "The wind has blown away all my cotton. You'd better give me some at once or else I'll break things! And don't take too long about it."
The old woman didn't raise her voice. She said to the young woman quite gently, "Don't be impatient. I'll give you something far better than cotton. But you must do as I say. Do you see that pond through the window? Go out there and take two dips in it. Only two dips, no more, or you'll be sorry."
Sukhu ran to the pond and jumped into it. And it made her a beauty. She dived into it a second time, and she came up covered with silks and jewels. She was beside herself with joy and couldn't stop looking at herself in the water. Then she thought, "If I take one more dip, I'm sure I'll get much more than Dukhu did. The old woman doesn't want me to have more than she gave Dukhu. That's why she asked me not to take more than two dips. But I'm going to do it." And dip she did, a third time. But when she rose from the water, she was grief-stricken to see that her jewels and finery were gone, her nose had grown long as an elephant's trunk, and her body was covered with blisters and boils.
She ran to the Mother of the Moon, white with rage, shaking her head and fists at her. "Look what you've done to me!" she screamed.
The old woman looked at her from top to toe and said, "You didn't listen to me. You dipped in the pond more than twice, and this is what you get for not listening to me. You've yourself to thank for the mess you're in . . . But I've one more thing to offer you."
Then she showed her the three caskets, each one bigger than the next, and asked the young woman to choose one for herself. Sukhu had eyes only for the largest of them and chose it.
Meanwhile her mother was impatiently pacing to and fro in her yard, worrying about her girl not coming home. "When is she going to be back and when can I feast my eyes on all the jewels?" she cried. Suddenly she heard her daughter's voice from behind the bushes: "Mother!"
The mother ran out to greet her but nearly died of shock when she saw 1 what she saw. Her daughter's nose was as long as an elephant's trunk. Her body was covered with boils, not jewels. "What's happened to you? Sukhu, what's happened to you? Why? What did you do?" she cried in despair.
But Sukhu showed her the casket. "The old crone asked me to choose, and I chose the biggest of them!"
The mother thought, "The old woman must be playing tricks. She has some surprise waiting here. She's going to make up for the way she treated my Sukhu." Anxiously, with beating hearts, they opened the casket, and out came a long black snake, hissing angrily. It pounced on Sukhu and swallowed her whole, as a python swallows a goat.
Her mother went raving mad and died soon after.