Sunday, February 27, 2011

King of the Woods

Vinoda lived in a small house on the edge of village Mandedyi with her father, her stepmother and her stepsister. Vinoda’s stepmother disliked her, favoring her true daughter, Saroja.

Soon after her father's remarriage, Vinoda found that all the housework fell to her while Saroja idled her days away. Vinoda's father was a farmer a timid man, and could not bring himself to defy his wife. He did nothin’ fo his daughter.

Vinoda wore Saroja's cast off clothes, and her hands grew red and chapped from scrubbing vessels, washing and milking the cows and working in the farm, while Saroja just enjoyed shopping and food, growing lazy and spoiled.

One year, when the rains were particularly fierce, Vinoda's family ran out of money. Vinoda's stepmother began nagging her father to send Vinoda away, because they could not afford to keep two girls. They did not have enough food in store, the crops destroyed due to heavy rains; it would take another year for good harvest.  Reluctantly, Vinoda’s father agreed. With a very heavy heart he took Vinoda to a hut deep in the woods and left her there.

Vinoda was very frightened. She pleaded to her father (appa)…but all her words were like unsaid to him. The woods were said to be filled with (Bhoota) demons, (Preta) spirits. Vinoda cried her guts out, but she was also practical. She entered the hut with her small bundle and found a Dhikel (fireplace), a mattress and a rusty old pot. Vinoda put away the rice grains, adeye (preparation made by rice, like idli), the knife and Upad (Pickles) her appa (father) had given her. She folded the blanket and laid it near the dhikel (chula /fireplace). Then she collected wood and built a fire.

Vinoda knew the rice and adeye would not last her all the month. So, she decided to collect berries for food in the woods. Vinoda knew she had to live alone all her life and had made up her mind.

By dark, Vinoda cooked ganji for her (semi –cooked rice). She ate it with pickle. Then she lay down near the fire for the night, listening to the wind howl and pretending to herself that she was not frightened of the woods. She was constantly chanting “kumara” (God) the protector’s name.  She was fast asleep.

It was midnight when suddenly a knock came.

Knock … knock… knock.

It echoed hollowly through the dark tent. Vinoda woke with a start, her heart pounding in fear. It came again.

Knock, knock… knock.

Vinoda thought of the Bhoota (demon/restless spirits). She hid under her blanket, praying the thing would go away. She started chanting the mantras. Still the knock continued…

Knock… knock… knock. …..let me in said the voice…it is raining outside.

Vinoda rose, grabbing an axe. She crept towards the door. The wind howled eerily down the chimney. Vinoda swallowed and swung the door open. There was nothing there. Her heart pounded fiercely as she stared out at the darkness and the rain in the light of her small fire. Then she looked down. Vinoda let out a shriek of terror and leapt back, dropping her axe. It was a man without legs!
"Who are you?" Vinoda stuttered, clutching the door with shaking hands.

"I am King Kasha…I look after the woods," he replied.

Indeed, Vinoda saw at once that it was. The body was dressed in a rich gown, with lot of traditional expensive jewelry and ruby, Vinoda was had never seen something like this before, it had heard stories about the wood by her grandmother…

"I am cold, wet and hungry. May I sleep by your fire?" the King asked. Its voice was cold and lifeless.

Vinoda gulped down her horror.

"Of course," she said. She did not have an option but to agree...

He sat next to the fire.

Anger warred with compassion inside her, but compassion won. "I am hungry," said the King. "Can u give me some food?"

Vinoda gave him the ganji (semi cooked rice) left in the pot which was for her breakfast. Vinoda was so scared that she did not want to refuse anything the king asked for…

"I will sleep now," it said. There was no softening in its attitude toward her. Nonetheless, Vinoda made him comfortable for the night, giving him her blanket and sleeping in a cold corner with only her bairas (towel) to keep her warm.

When she woke in the morning, the king was gone. It was no more raining, it was a peaceful sunny day, and where the king had slept was a large trunk, filled with the most beautiful saris she had ever seen. Under the saris lay heaps of gold and jewels.

Vinoda stared blankly at the riches in front of her. Her father's voice roused her.

"Vinoda (Daughter), I have come."

Vinoda forgot the trunk in her joy. She ran into his arms. He had defied her stepmother to come and bring her back to their home.

"Appa, come see!" Vinoda exclaimed as she pulled him into the hut. Her words tumbled over each other as she explained.

Her father took her home. She was honored in her village for her compassion and her bravery. She married rich moneylender’s son soon after her return from the woods.

Hearing Vinoda’s story, and seeing the riches she had received, Saroja went to the woods and spent the night there. But when the King appeared, she was too lazy to serve him. In the morning, her face was full of boils; all her clothes had turned to rags and her possessions to dust.

But Vinoda lived happily ever after.

The moral of the story says –

“If you are compassionate and brave, you will always deserve the best.”

The above is a Folktale,  Suggested Actors  :- Father - Chiranjeevi , Step Mom - Ramya, Vinoda / Saroja  : (child artist) , Bhoota : Voice Over of any popular actor (Rajni Sir's Voice)
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