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Saturday, March 17, 2012

/ Published by Simon L Infimate
SURA was sitting by the side of the fire in the hearth with a disappointed look. But he did not like to disclose his mind to his parents. “Are you not going to taste even a morsel?”, persuaded his mother as she served morning food. “It’s unbecoming of a young man of your age not to take food without proper reason”. Meanwhile his two friends Devanngul and Devanchal entered the house. “See, your friend Sura, he is sitting dumb there without any reason”. So saying she passed two stools to them to sit on. “The reason it not far to seek. If a young man behaves like this, he usually has something special and unusual in mind which is not easy to disclose to the parents”, said Devanngul. “To be frank, he may be interested to get married”, said Devanchal. “That’s right”, came the immediate response from Sura. So, they put their heads together as to who would be a suitable match. Sura’s proposal and her parents’ proposal clashed. At last, Sura’s proposal got through and he married a Misimi girl, Thairawnchang. Since the girl was not the choice of his parents he could not perform the customary ceremonial rites. Sura had younger brother named Nahai who was noted for his cleverness.

On the death of their father they had to divide the household properties between them. After taking their due shares, one mithunwas still left. They did not know how to divide it iTito two. At last, they thought out a plan. One should own the head portion and the other the bottom portion. “You are the younger, choose your portion”, asked Sura. Nahai immediately chose the head portion. Whenever the mithun came home, Nahai gave it salt to lick. Every morning Nahai asked Sura to clean the shed full of dung. One day Sura protested. But Nahai told him that since the dung came out from the bottom side, it was the rightful duties of Sura to clean it. One day the mithun gave birth to a beautiful calf. He was very very happy thinking that he had a rightful claim to it. The mithun was licking the calf clean. Nahai said to Sura, “Look, the calf did not come out from the bottom side, but from the mouth. See it was licking. It was vomiting out its calf”. Sura was dumbstruck. So the calf belonged to Nahai. Meanwhile the calf was looking for the mother’s breast. But Sura prevented it from sucking the breast since the breast was at the bottom side. Nahai was in trouble. So, he proposed to exchange sides. Sura owned the head portion. Whenever the mithun gave birth, the calf belonged to Nahai. One day, Sura tied the mithun by the neck and was dragging it home. “Why are you taking our mithun to your home ?“ cried Nahai.” Sharing is no profit to me, I’m taking my portion,” he replied.

Nahai was very lazy and his house was in bad shape with the roof leaking all over. So, he thought out a plan to exchange his house with Sura’s, One day, he went to Sura’s house. He looked at the roof made of thick thatch and he really coveted it. “0 Sura you are still a bad workman. You don’t know how to make thatched roof. Why do you make it so thick ? As to my roof, I made it in such a way that we used to count stars with my wife and children while lying on our bed. We enjoyed the heavenly bodies every night. As to you, you are shut off completely from this nature beauty just because of faulty construction of your house. If you so desire, I have no objection to exchange our houses”, he said casually. Sura readily agreed. So Sura shifted to the new house with all enthusiasm. As long as there was no rain, all was well. One night there was a heavy downpour of rains. They rushed out of their home bag and baggage and took shelter at the porch of Nahai under heavy rain.

One evening Nahai was in his jhum. Monkeys were eating his vegetables. As he was throwing stone at them, it struck a big hollowed tree down in the bottom of the jhum. A vampire jumped out, “Who is that? Shall I come?“ she cried in anger. Nahai nearly frozed to death in fear. He ran towards home breathlessly But he couldn’t be absent for long because it was weeding time. So he thought out a plan to exchange his jhum with Sura’s. One day he went to Sura’s jhum and the standing young crops were black because of the fertility of the soil. “0, my God Your crop was really hopeless; it was black in colour which means that it will not yield good harvest”, he said with his lips twisted in disgust. “But my crops, they are red in colour which promises good harvest. If you want to exchange, I have no objection”, he said casually. Sura agreed and they exchanged their jhums. Nahai gave a warning! “Don’t throw stone at the big hollowed tree down there.” Sura was interested to see what happened.The next day he went alone to his new jhum with all excitement. He picked up a big stone and threw at the big tree down below producing a big sound. A vampire jumped out and shouted, “Who is that? Shall I come? “ At this Sura said, “Come, come in the size as big as a mithun”. She went up t. meet Sura in the hut. Sura was hiding by the back door with a sharp and long grass leave in hand. As she was entering the hut, Sura caught hold of her from the back and tied her neck with the grass leave. “The sharp, if you move your neck will be cut”, he warned. She dared not move and was trembling with fear. He tied her to a post. She started begging Sura to release her, but he was adamant. “Please set me free and I will give you a small hoe that can weed”, she pleaded. “Can it work by itself? “No, with hands”. “That kind I have”. “I will give you dao that can cut tree,” said she again.
“By itself? ”
“No, with hands.”

“That kind I have” he replied.
“I will give you axe that cut tree.”
“By itself?“ “No, with hands”, said she.
“That kind I have,” said he. She was more helpless. So, at last, she said, “I will give you my wonder tube.” “What’s that?“ asked Sura. “When you strike the one end, cooked rice will come out and when you strike the other end, meat will come out.” “That’s something,” he nodded. “Where do you keep it ?“ On zarluong inside a bamboo hollow,” she replied. He tied her to a post and dashed off to her house in the hollowed tree. He saw her children crying for food. He forced open their mouths, broke their jaws and put mouthful of ashes to their mouths. They all died. He took the wonder-tube home.

Nahai was very jealous of him and was thinking how he could have it from him. One day he went to him and said, “Big brother Sura, we are brothers and in case of emergency we have to help each other.” Sura nodded. When night came Nahai put some tree trunk at Sura’s porch to stumble on. At dead of night, he made a big bonfire in the open air and sounded an alarming bell. Sura sprang up from his bed thinking fire had broken out, took his precious treasure wonder-tube and ran out. But he stumbled on the tree trunk put across his porch and threw it away. Nahai, who was hiding nearby immediately picked it up and said, “Sura threw it away, I’ll have it.” So, he took it and brought it home happily. Sura was dumbfounded. He also thought how to get it back by a trick. He employed the same method Nahai used. He put some tree trunk across Nahai’s doorstep. At night he made a bonfire in the open air and called out, “Nahai, your house is on fire.” But Nahai knew the trick. He got up and ran out with a big stone in hand. He threw it on Sura’s knee. Sura feigned stumbling against the tree trunk. He was reeling in agony.

One day Sura visited another village. He was taught how to whistle. He liked it very much and sang songs in whistle. On his way back he fell down on the slippery path and stopped whistling. He got up but forgot how to continue whistling. He thought he dropped it on the ground. So, he searched every nook and corner just like searching a lost needle. He scratched his head and cursed the ground. After sometimes one Pawi* man came. “What are you searching for? “ he asked. “If I can tell you what I am searching, I will not be in trouble”, he replied. So, the Pawi man also helped him searching what he didn’t know. The sun grew hot and the Pawi man sat under the shade and started whistling. “My God that’s what I am searching for you curse, Pawi fellow! You have taken it from me”, he charged in anger. He took it back and proceeded on his way whistling all the way.

One day he wanted to go to the river for fishing and said to his wife and children, “I am going to the river for fishing.” His wife was very excited with the idea. So he went in the morning. At noon his small children were looking through their window and saw their father wallowing in a small pond just at a stone’s throw from the house. “Down there is our father”, they often cried. “Non sense, your father is in the river fishing,” retorted their mother. Evening came and he returned home with three or four frogs in his bag. His wife took a bowl with water to pour fish on. He poured his bag on the bowl; but the frogs jumped out to the heart and ashes. All are soiled in the ashes and climbed the wall. He grew excited. “Ashes climbing on the wall,” he shouted as he clapped his hands.

One day, one of his children died and he wrapped it with mat and carried it on the shoulder and went to the grave yard for burial. On the way, the corpse slipped through the back. He put an empty rolled mat on the grave and returned. On the way he found the corpse lying on the path. “Ah other children also were dying”, he said as he trampled it under his feet. After sometimes, he touched his ear and felt it was very cold and said”, “I am already dead.” So he went to the grave yard and laid himself in the empty tomb. After sometime, a widow came to the scene weeping over her only son who had died a week ago, crying, “You dead, how are you all? Are you dead or alive?” At this Sura replied, “Some are dead, some are alive.” Terrified, the widow started running home at double speed. He thought that the widow saw some danger, he also started running home.
On his travel, he saw a tiger by the way side. The tiger was following him. When he reached home he told his wife that he had seen a big spotted dog on the way and was following him. “0, my God! That’s not a dog, but a tiger. From now on you have to fear all the spotted colour”, warned his wife. One day he was at home and his wife went to the jhum. She dried her spotted apron in the open air. When Sura saw it, he made a sharp and pointed spear of bamboo and all the daylong he pierced it into pieces. His wife returned home in the evening and saw her apron torn to pieces. “Who did it,” shouted she in anger. “I did it because you said all spotted colours are dangerous”, he replied calmly. Just before she left for jhurn she instructed him, “When the rays of the evening sun fall on the top of the tree down there, you start cooking rice.” He nodded. Evening came and the rays of the sun were falling on the top of the tree. He interpreted the instruction that rice should be cooked at the top of the tree. So, he carried pot, rice, firewood and all and started climbing the tree. He struggled up might and main with little progress. The sun set and his wife came home. She looked through the window and saw her husband still struggling up the tree with heavy loads of utensils on his back. “What the hell are you doing there? she shouted. “I’m going to cook at the tree-top as per your instruction”, he replied.

One day he proposed to visit a village the people of which didn’t have rectum. So he went to that village. In the morning children saw him passing his stools. “Hay, hey” expressed their sheer wonder, and reported what they had seen to their parents. The curious parents gathered together round him and asked him how he had a rectum. “My God, you all don’t have rectum. How do you pass your stools? I will make rectum for your children,” he said. They all agreed and on the appointed morning they brought all their children to him. He made an iron rod and when it became red-hot, he just thrushed the rod into the bottom of the children making a hissing sound, and dumped them into the pit and closed the lid to be enquired only after two days. So many children with new rectum were dumped into the pit with their parents eagerly waiting to pull them up when the right time came. After two days, they expectedly opened the lid, but alas. They were stinking corpses. The villagers were searching Sura in anger but his where about was not known. He had already left. The village crier made a war-cry and in no time all the able bodied men gathered together with daos and spears and made a hot chase of Sura.

When Sura saw them he knew they would overtake him very soon. So, he hid himself inside the hollow of a big tree near the path. The pursuers came and took rest under the shade of the tree. All of them expressed their anger with him and struck standing trees nearby with their sharp daos, grinning their teeth and twisting their lips. One of them said, “If this is Sura, I will strike him like this”, and he struck the tree as hard as he could with his dao. To this, Sura could not but respond and said, “If you strike me like that I will get hurt”. They surrounded the tree and pulled him out. As they were all trying to pounce on him, “you are so many; all of you can’t touch me. So please catch hold of me only in my elbow and in my knees because running out from you is out of question for me”, he pleaded. They obeyed and when they did, he made a violent struggle and ran out. Then they all started chasing him with war-cry. As they were about to overtake him he climbed a tall tree. They were waiting him at the foot. He became helpless again.

However, he was thinking how to outwit them again, “I will fly towards the west”, he declared. So their leader detailed one section to the west. “I will fly towards the east”, he declared. So, he detailed a section to the east point. “I will fly towards the north”, he declared. So he detailed another section to the north point. At last, he found only one or two at the foot of the tree. “Dear friends, now you are so few you will not be able to fell this big tree by yourself; so I will help you,” said he as he dropped down like a falling apple. He ran as swiftly as his weary legs could carry him. But soon they overtook him and caught hold of him by the bank of a big river. They were thinking the method of killing him. Some proposed to kill him outright but some proposed slow death. They preferred slow death so that he could suffer pain long. So, they made a big basket of bamboo and put him inside and hang him by the rope in the middle of the bridge. They left him to die of hunger and thirst.

After some time, a Pawi traveller was crossing the bridge. Sura was very happy at heart to see him. “Ah! You Pawi man, come and release me, or I’ll beat you black and blue”, he shouted at him. Afraid, the man released him. But Sura put him inside the basket in his place and hang him as was done to him. He took all his precious articles and was heading to the same village back. When he reached the village, they all expressed their wonder. “Sura, how did you manage to get out, and where from did you get all these precious articles?“ they enquired in amazement. “As soon as you left me to die, the rope gave away and I fell down to the river ; but to my surprise the riverbed is full of precious things. So, I collected as much as I could and came back to tell you about it”, he said. “How can we dive to the riverbed?“ they enquired. “As to me, I tied an empty vessel around my waist and jumped to the river. When the vessel was full, direct I dived to the bottom,” he said. All the able-bodied men rushed to the river with vessels tied round their waist in search of fortunes. One after another, they dived but no coming back. They all met with watery grave. Asked about their husbands in the evening, “Perhaps, their loads were too heavy that they couldn’t come in time”, Sura dismissed them lightly. The next day, the women went to him again and asked him about their husbands. “They might have reached stinking river by now”, he said by which he meant that their bodies might have rotten. The next day, they went to him again and he replied, “They might have reached bone river,” by which he meant they might all have been but bones. Now they were fully convinced that he had killed them all. So they plotted to kill him. They went to him again and said, “Sura, since our husbands have not yet returned home, we have to depend on you. We depend on you. We are now in short of fire-wood and let us go together to the forest so that you should chop off the fire-wood for us. He agreed readily and they went to the forest, carrying baskets and axes with them. They requested him to climb a tree and to cut down the dry branches. Unaware of any danger, he climbed up, and when he reached the top, they started cutting the tree. He was helpless and the tree was about to fall. Just then an owl was booting from a far off tree. “Listen, women, I heard the cry of your husbands. It seems they were carrying heavy loads on their backs”. Excited, they stopped cutting and listened. All of a sudden he climbed down and ran towards home. They looked at one another helplessly. When he reached home he poured water into their hearth and extinguished all the fire of the village excepting his. There was a heavy downpour on that day. Womenfolk returned home dripping all over. But no fire was to be found. In the meantime, they saw Sura enjoying himself at the fireside. They begged him for fire but he rejected them all. One widow was more aggressive than the others and slept with him for just a spark of fire.


*Pawis: Pawis are one of the leading tribes of Mizoram having now an autonomous district.

Source: Prof.(Dr.) Lal Dena,Hmar Folk Tales, Scholar Publishing House, New Delhi, 1995.
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