Nepali Folk Tales: Bitter But True

There once lived an elderly couple who gave birth to a son in their advancing years. They named him Balram.

When Balram matured, they had an extravagant wedding for him. Balram’s wife was very beautiful. The old couple were glad to have found such a daughter-in-law.

While assured of her beauty, the old man one day decided to learn of her mental abilities. So he called her up and asked –

‘Can you tell me how much we may have spent at your wedding?’

‘I think only 2 mana rice (1 Mana equals 0.56 liter),’ she replied.

The old man irritated with this answer said –

‘I spent so much on your wedding and now you say only 2 manas! You talk as if we didn’t do enough. I don’t want to see the face of a stupid person like you. You go back home. There is no place for a daughter-in-law like you in my house’

The daughter-in-law was astonished to see him react like that. But she didn’t speak a word. The old man decided to take her back himself immediately.

On their way, the old man walked ahead while she followed behind.

They saw a group headed for cremation. The daughter-in-law asked them, ‘Is this a single corpse or a hundred?’

Hearing such a stupid question from her, the old man fumed. He thought what a fool of a woman she was. How can she ask if it was a single corpse or a hundred when she could clearly see only one. I think she really is madcap. But he didn’t speak a word. He kept on walking.

A little further, they saw large cropland. Farmers were harvesting. The daughter-in-law asked-

‘Father, are these crops of last year or of the current year?’

The old man was fed up with her, yet he didn’t speak a word and kept walking. The daughter-in-law kept up with him.

A little further they heard a jackal howl. The old man didn’t bother but she got restless. She understood animal language. The jackal was saying, ‘A corpse is buried here. If anyone would dig it out, I could eat. There’s a diamond ring in the finger of this corpse. Whoever brings it out, will get that ring’

‘It would be great to get hold of the ring. But how? The old man won’t believe it if I tell him about it,’ the daughter-in-law thought to herself.

The old man was tired from the walk. They sat under a peepal tree for a while. The old man took a nap. She took this opportunity and went near the jackal and began digging. After a while, she found both the corpse and the ring. She placed the corpse in front of the jackal and took off the ring.

When the old man woke up and couldn’t see her, he looked around for her. He finally spotted her near the corpse. He nervously thought – ‘Oh my! what kind of daughter-in-law did I get! She is not even afraid to be around corpses. I don’t think I should walk with her.’

So he didn’t say a word and walked on.

Seeing him walk away she ran towards him and walked together.

They stayed over at a place overnight and continued walking the next morning.

They heard a crow cawing. The old man didn’t notice a thing but she understood what the crow was saying:

‘There are two vessels underneath this tree which are full of coins. There’s even a bowl of curd. If anyone dug this place, I would eat the curd and give the coins’

She ran and began digging. After a while, she spotted a vessel. It was exactly the way the crow described. She gave the curd and took the coins.

The old man now was impressed on having gotten such wealth due to his daughter-in-law’s valor. She told him about the crow. The old man felt guilty for thinking she was a nincompoop. He decided not to send her back and they returned.

The old man was curious.

‘Why did you sit beside the corpse,’ he finally asked. She explained everything. She even gave him the ring. The old man started believing her.

After a while, he asked – ‘Why did you ask if that corpse was one or hundred?’

‘One who does well for others is called a hundred corpses after death. One who hasn’t done anything is called a single corpse – that’s why I asked,’ she replied.

‘And what about the harvest?’ he asked.

‘One who collects the harvest of the previous year has no debt to clear. If it is of this years, then there will be debts and investments, that’s why I asked.’

The old man now was happy hearing all this from her. But he still had a question. He asked it –

‘Listen, I spent so much on my son’s wedding. But you said I didn’t spend much. Why did you say that? Do you think the wedding was possible with 2 mana of rice?’

‘There’s a reason I said that. Yeah, you may have spent a lot at our wedding, but I could see only 2 mana of rice spent with all your heart. The rest of your expenses were merely for showing-off. Only the expense out of love and sympathy will give good returns. That’s why I gave such an answer but you didn’t understand,’ she replied.

Hearing such bitter but true words from his daughter-in-law impressed him.

‘She is very intelligent. She is equally virtuous. I thought unnecessary things,’ he said to himself.

After that day, the old man handed all the responsibilities over to her and lived in comfort and peace.