They were a middle-aged couple, reasonably fond of each other..The man was hard-working and caring. But even in the early years of his life, he has been bitten by the bug of spirituality..
From dawn to dusk, apart from the time he spent to earn his daily bread, it was prayers at home, visits to temples and song and dance in praise of the lord. Of course all these activities, so long as they did not cost much money was tolerable to the lady of the house. But the man would not stop there. He considered all the babas and bhaktas whom he met in the streets as the embodiment of God himself, and it somehow got into head that his bounden duty in life was to bring all such people home for free lunch..
Naturally the duty to prepare food for all these visitors fell to the lot of the lady. And the number was increasing day by day.The lady was not cruel and not at all blasphemous. But she was a realist to the core. She told herself,“ Songs and Bhajans are okey. I can even bear this forced celibacy. But this reckless spending all we have in feeding for free so many persons,( who should have engaged themselves in some proper work and earned their food )is not a good idea at all. Both of us would go paupers, if this continued, and then I am sure no one will be there to invite us daily for free food”
“I should find a way out. The husband is obsessed with his own spiritual practices and nothing else would enter his head. So reasoning with him is ruled out. Something really drastic should be planned to get out of this situation”… thought she..
Like every middle-class Indian housewife, she was very intelligent and possessed a lot of practical wisdom So she kept quiet, not exhibiting any resentment to the way of her husband, and the procession of free-eaters to their house continued, and the number swelled day by day. It is quite natural because when a fellow finds a source for free meals, invariable he shares the information with his idle colleagues.
Usually the man brought his revered guest along with him on his way back from visits to local temples. It so happened that it was a special day of festivities in the temple and the man was held up there with manthrams and bhajans even beyond the mid-day.
During that morning, the bhakta had met a person in the street and had stuck a deal that the latter would visit his house for food in the afternoon. Accordingly, the man presented himself at the house of the bhakta, eagerly looking forward for a sumptuous meal.
The lady of the house duly received the guest with great reverence, as she was well-aware that a guest was equal to or more that God himself by our standards.
The meals could start only after the man of the house arrived. So the lady started a small conversation with the guest to fill the time.
“ Sir, I am sure my husband sent you here promising a full meal.. but what am to say, and how will I say that to you,? I feel really sorry for you. I believe you have been taken in by his pious appearance with a tuft, religious marks all over his body and his chants and songs. But as his wife, only I know his real nature. I am sorry to inform you that even though he would look very normal and pious he has a little madness hidden in his brain. You see the wooden pillar here. You also see the thick rope for tying cattle and the long ulakkai (pestle) kept at the far corner. “
The guest looked around, and saw all the things listed by her.
“Now listen to me sir, my husband brings guests to this house luring them with promise of free meals. But once the guest is here, true to his madness, he forcibly ties the poor hungry man to the pillar with that rope and then gives him a heavy blow with the ulakkai ( long wooden pestle made of some hard wood). In fact my heart bleeds daily seeing some poor man running away for his life, with a deep wound on his head..”
As the conversation progressed, a dark fear took possession of the guest and he had started his flight away from the home even before the lady had finished her words.
The man of the house made his entry just as the guest was making his exist by way of sprint. After the function in the temple, there was a feast and so he could not get any more guests whom he could invite to his house for food.
On arrival, he asked his wife, “ Did anyone come for food today?”
The wife replied “ Yes, one man came here and we were waiting for you to arrive. He looked very normal. But he was looking around the house and saw that rope and ulakkai (club-like pestle), and I do not know why, he was repeatedly asking me that he wanted these two as a gift. As you know, we have only one ulakkai around here and I could not prepare our daily food without it as I have to pound grains every day. I told him that we could spare the rope but not the pestle. But he was insistent that he should have both. When I politely refused to spare the ulakkai, he was very angry and has walked out in a huff. I think you would have met him going out as you entered.”
The man was very upset. “ You wretched woman.. Our guest is our God.. What is there is sparing an ulakkai for him. We will incur the wrath of god for having sent away a hungry guest.“ Saying this, he held up the ulakkai in his right hand and the rope in the left and ran after the guest, who was already sprinting away on the street. He was shouting at the top of his voice..”This is for you, this is for you”
The guest looked back, and saw the man and also heard the shouts. He was convinced that the man was chasing him and if he were caught he would become the victim of the daily ritual of the mad host.
The word spread, and from then there were no guests for free meals .. and the lady had found a solution for a serious domestic problem.
(a tale from Kerala)