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Friday, January 16, 2015

/ Published by VIRTHLI
Once upon a time, there lived a lovely little girl. Her name was Mauruong. She was the only child, happily living with her parents. But her father had fallen in love with their neighbor whoman who wanted dispose Mauruong’s mother by any means. One day, Mauruong’s parents went to another village in search of grain. On their way back, they had to crosss a very big river by a bridge. When they reached the middle of the bridge, Mauruong’s father pushed Mauruong’s mother into the river and she got drowned. Mauruong was waiting for her parents at the outskirt of their village anxiously. She saw only her father coming. She enquired about her mother but her father did not like to tell her the truth.

One day, during the absence of Mauruong and her father, the woman who fell in love with Mauruong’s father, extinguished the fire in the heart of their house. Mauuong was sent to the house of the woman to fetch fire. The woman said to her, “If your father does not marry me, I shall not give you my fire.” Dumbfounded, she came back home and reported it to her father. As already planned, Mauruong’s father agreed to marry her. The woman also brought her own daughter called Subimtaitawt to live with them.

For sometime all was well. Slowly the step-mother revealed her true nature. She began to ill-treat Mauruong and gave her food fit for pigs only. She gave her dirty, tattered and shabby clothes. As a result, she grew thinner and thinner and looked sick. In sheer despair, Mauruong wandered from place to place. One day, she happened to pass by one river where her mother got drowned. There her mother had turned into a dolphin. When she saw her daughter, she was surprised at her emaciated look. “Why do you look so thin and pale?” she asked.

Mauruong narrated in details about her pathetic and sad story. Her mother was deeply moved. She asked Mauruong to come to the river every day for food. She caught fishes and crabs and prepared nice dishes and offered to her daughter every day. As a result, Mauruong was growing in stature and in beauty gradually. Her step-mother was worried at her changed look and detailed Subimtaitawt to tail her. Her going to the river everyday for food was found out. The step-mother invited the whole villages for fishing in the river with poisonous plants. Dry season came and water was receding. It was the right season for fishing. All the adults carried poisonous plants on their back to the river. Mauruong was worried for her mother. She went ahead and warned her mother of the impending danger. “I will give you danger signal. When I sing, “Mother, down the river, you swim up the river,” and when I sing, “Mother, up the river, you swim down the river.” The mother nodded.

People arrived and pounded the poisonous plants on the bank of the river and dipped into the water. The water turned brownish and was foaming. Small fishes ran helter shelter upside down. The poison spread and began to take tolls. Then, Mauruong started singing, “Mother, up the river, mother down the river.” Her mother ran up and down to escape the danger. “As long as this girl was here, we wouldn’t be able to catch this big dolphin”, said they. So they dragged her away and caught the dolphin. They divided the flesh among themselves and Mauruong collected the bones. She buried it on the river bank. From that day onward Mauruong had been suffering from malnutrition. She grew pale and thin. In sheer despair, she visited the river bank and to her surprise, saw the bones sprouting into a beautiful Phunchawng plant. Soon it was blooming. She visited the tree every day and enjoyed its nectar. Gradually she became normal and her look changed almost every day. Her step-mother was worried again at her changed look. So, she detailed Subimtaitawt to tail her again. At last, it was found that she visited the tree daily and enjoyed its nectar. Once again the step-mother invited the villagers to fell the tree. The villagers cut the tree with axe. As they were cutting, Mauruong cried, “Mother, don’t give away. Mother, don’t give away.” So long as she cried like this it could not fall down. “As long as this girl is with us, we should not be able to fell down this tree”, they said. So, they dragged her away and the tree fell down with a loud thud.

Mauruong’s father had two separate jhum, one for Mauruong and the other for Subimtaitawt. The step-mother gave all the good seeds to her daughter and all the bad seeds to Mauruong. However, Mauruong’s seeds sprouted nicely and she weeded the jhum properly. Subimtaitawt’s seeds did not sprout nicely and she didn’t weed the jhum properly. Monsoon came and the jhum looked green. Whereas in Mauruong’s jhum, all kinds of vegetables such as cucumber, melon, maize, etc grew abundantly.

An inter-village path passed through Mauruong’s jhum. One day, as she was weeding the jhum alone, a group of strangers entered her thatched jhum-hut and took rest. Mauruong offered them cucumber, melon and maize which they relished very much. They were surprised at her hospitality to the strangers. At last, their leader told her purpose of their visit saying, “We are visiting this village in search of a suitable match for our master Vailal*. We are satisfied with you. We shall take you to be our master’s wife, if you agree.” “I have no objection, but I have a step-mother, she also has a daughter and may favour her more than me”, replied she modestly. They all put their heads together as to what to do about it. At last, the leader advanced a proposal, “Alright, we shall go to your house with marriage proposal and if she favoured her own daughter we shall have no objection. We shall carry her by a palanquin and you also should accompany us up to the forest. Then we shall throw her out and carry you in her place.” They all agreed to the proposal. They reached the village and entered the house with the marriage proposal. He step-mother favoured Subimtaitaw and talked of her modesty, industry and all her feminine qualities at the expense of Mauruong. So, they agreed to take Subimtaitawt. They pad the bride-price also. The mother’s joy knew no bounds. They carried Subimtaitawt by a palanquin and Mauruong was following them pretending to see her half-sister off. When they reached a forest, they threw her out and carried Mauruong instead. Subimtaitawt cried and returned home in shame. Her mother’s wrath defied all description.

When Vailal saw Mauruong, he admired her beauty and loved her very much. He brought her cotton thread, spinning wheel and all weaving materials. She was an expert in weaving loin-looms of various designs. They had a very happy conjugal life. The step-mother was thinking seriously as to how she was to take revenge. She sent a nice message to Vailal expressing her joy at their happy conjugal life and her desire to see them. At the same time she reminded him that it was time either for the bridegroom or the bride to visit the bride’s parents some months after marriage. Unaware of the danger waiting for her, Mauruong had to oblige her step-mother’s word.

Unfortunately, her husband could not accompany her for domestic reasons. She reached home and was received by her step-mother openly and warmly, hiding her real feelings. One day she said, “My daughter Mauruong, you have been away for some months. There mayhave been many lice on your head.” So saying she parted Mauruong’s long hair from behind on the elevated open porch. She sat just behind Mauruong and started her feigned search for live. She purposely dropped her comb through the hole and said, “Oh No! I dropped my comb”, and asked Mauruong to go down and pick it up. Unaware of her step-mother’s motive, she went down to pick up the comb. As she was bending to take the comb, her step-mother poured a big potfull of boiling water on her. She collapsed unconsciously and was thrown away presuming her to be dead.

Months had passed. Mauruong did not return to her husband. At last, Vailal sent a group of his men to take her. When they reached home, Subimtaitawt was presented to them saying that she was not Mauruong, but they did not know how to argue because Mauruong was no more. “this is the real Mauruong, your rightful mistress”, insisted the mother. However, in spite of their honest doubts, they had to carry Subimtaitawt. As they were passing through the forest, a bird on the way side chirped, “Whom you’re carrying is not Vailal’s wife, but Subimtaitawt.” As long as they were carrying her, the bird was chirping like that.
They arrived home. When Vailal looked at her, she was a different woman. “Why, your mistress was very different”, he enquired. They also expressed thir doubts. “Let us test her”, one of them suggested. So, they asked her to weave the unfinished loin-loom left by Mauruong. She sat on it, but didn’t know how to handle it. A bird perching on the branch of a nearby tree instructed her, “Turn the one end upside down and the other downside up.” “You bloody bird, what are you saying? Shut up”, she shouted at the bird. Some of Vailal’s men were out hunting in the thick forest. In the silence of the forest where the sound of the running brook along was heard, a peculiar human voice was heard:

“In the old old days,
Vailal’s wife I was;
But now was I,
Tending Sajaw’s baby;
Sleep my baby, sleep.”

She was lulling the baby to sleep on the huge branch of a tree. They cocked their ears/ “Unbelievable”, said they to one another. One of them crawled steadily and had a clearer look and to his surprise she was no other than his old mistress. They took courage and approach her. She narrated her pathetic story from the beginning, how she was thrown away presumed to be dead and that Sajaw chanced upon her and healed her with medicinal herbs and made her a servant. They persuaded her to accompany them right away. But she couldn’t leave Sajaw’s house without his permission as she owed her life to him. So they waited till he returned from jhum. When he came, they told him everything. They gave him two bananas and took their mistress back. When they reached home, Vailal was very happy to see his long parted rightful wife. They thought out a plan to eliminate Subimtaitawt. They told Mauruong of their plan. They prepared two swords, one the real one which was very sharp and the other made from wood which looked sharp outwardly because it was painted white. They were to fight a duel. Subimtaitawt was the one to choose the sword first. Obviously she chooses the wooden sword as it looked better and sharper. Mauruong asked her to strike her first. Subimtaitawt struck her at the shoulder but to no effect. Mauruong’s turn came, she cut her in two.

The servants of Vailal made Sathu out of her flesh. They sent words to her mother in the name of Subimtaitawt that they killed their big pig and made Sathu. Accordingly, Subimtaitawt’s mother went there and brought back three gourds full of Sathu. When she approached home, she shared it with her neighbours telling them that Subimtaitawt had given all these things. Her neighbour widow was also given one gourdful of it. When she poured out, she found to her utter surprise, fingers bones and toe bones of human being. She also found a scar mark which was in Subimtaitawt’s face. “Ah, this scar mark looks like that of Subimtaitawt’s”, she expressed in surprise. When she looked at the toe bones and finger bones, they resembled that of Subimtaitawt’s. She ran to Subimtaitawt’s mother and expressed her doubts. But Subimtaitawt’s mother rebuked her like anything. “What the hell are you talking about? How do you say that it is my daughter’s flesh? I’m cent per cent sure that its pork.” However, she had a lurking doubt about it. So, secretly she examined the flesh and at last confirmed that it was the flesh of her own daughter. She prepared to take revenge and proceeded to the Vailal’s village.

Soon the servants of Vailal saw Subimtaitatw’s mother coming towards them. As she came nearer, she started murmuring and shouted at them, saying, “You scoundrel, you have cheated me that my daughter Subimtaitawt has killed me a pig. But instead, you have killed her and made me carry home her permeated flesh.’ With a sharp sword in her hand, she was running amuck. At this, the servants of Vailal threw their spears at her and killed her. From that time onwards, Mauruong lived with her husband happily and peacefully.

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

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