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How Liar Subraya became Guessing Subraya Durable Link to this entry

In the 1970s they didn't know about "pathological liars" in Rural India, but looking back Subraya the tobacco merchant was surely one.

Subraya would lie without profit.

After eating puris in the morning, if someone in bazar asked him what he ate for breakfast, he'll say Masala Dosa. He would say he bought his footwear in Kumta, although he actually brought them in Sirsi. After paying twelve bucks for a Bangade fish, he'll say he bought two for twenty-five. Nobody believed in what Subraya said, but townspeople made a habit of asking him trivial questions and inducing him to lie.

Subraya's wife Meera finally had it. On their pilgrimage to Kashi, she made her husband take vow at the Vishveswar temple that he would not knowingly lie anymore. Overcome by lifelong guilt, Subraya sincerely took the vow.

But science was against him!

Lying was deeply ingrained in Subraya's DNA, and he became miserable. He couldn't eat or conduct his business. He was like Jim Carrey in the movie "Liar, Liar".

Again, Meera came to rescue. She came up with a clever way for her husband to end the sentence with "I guess" or "I think". Subraya now could say, "It was Masala Dosa, I guess" or "I bought these shoes in Sirsi I guess".

Subraya is long gone now. But his shop is known as "Guessing Subraya's Beedi Shop"


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Mahapundit's Daughter Durable Link to this entry

Mahapundit considered himself a great astrologer. He would try to make up his own theorems. The superstitious people of the town had great faith in his ability to foretell the future.

"You would go abroad" -- he would tell Bhagwat's son, after he secured a first rank for the entire state.

One year, the rains were delayed. "A sacred cow in Sirsi is pregant. Till she delivers, there will be no rain for the region" he declared, so when it eventually rained, we assumed that the cow had given birth.

Anyway, he had a daughter Saras -- probably a truncated form of Goddess Saraswati. She was pretty, and many well qualified Brahmin boys came forward asking her hand in marriage.

Mahapundit ran a calculation -- he declared that there were a lot of obstacles for happy marriage till Saras turned 27. He declined all alliances. But people has so much faith in his ability, that they thought it was for the best.

Meanwhile, Mahapundits futures started going wrong. The retired manager of Canara Bank who was supposed to die fifteen years go is still living. The ailment that plagued the Pai family was not the curse of the Vetal, but AIDS.

Saras is forty-two years old now. Still not married. Mahapundit blames the artificial "cell phone" satellites that are orbiting the earth for his calculation that went wrong.


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Why Kitti Buys So Many Jackfruits Durable Link to this entry

Kitti surely was a child prodigy. He took to music and flute like fish takes to water. All family members who heard him play the flute called him "boy Krishna" and made Kitti's parents proud.

But as Kitti grew up, the Bharatanatyam girls to whom Kitti used to provide accompaniment during performances for a fee -- preferred other flutists. Kitti just couldn't live up to his own expectations and started suffering from a complex.

Then something happened.

Kitti started playing the flute in the Bazar on the mold by Ramesh's Tea Stall. At first the townspeople ignored him, but the cows from all over the neighborhoods started gathering in the Bazar, causing congestion and chaos.

It was just like the cows had followed Lord Krishna as he played his flute!

The words around and it brought much joy and publicity to Kitty's family, and much jealousy to the other flutists of the town.

Then one night Raju and Nagesh on their way back from second show in Jyoti Cinema found Kitti stashing some heavy bags behind Ramesh's cafe.

They appeared to contain jack fruits.

_______________
Hot tip to Rajesh Ramaswamy.


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How to Eat Sesame-seeds Durable Link to this entry

Previously: The story of a shopkeeper asking his employees to chant Tables so they will not steal

Subba the oilman who owned a bullock powered grinder hired a man without arms to guard the sesame seeds as they were being dried in the sun. Subba had deliberately chosen the man so that the worker would not be able to steal the seeds and eat them as he guarded.

Chandamama

Even then after an hour or so later, Subba came to checkup on the employee. "The volume of the seeds looks depleted, have you eaten any?" -- he demanded an answer.

"No Sir! I haven't eaten. How can I eat sesame-seeds without another person's assistance?" the worker defended.

"Well, you might have dipped your fore-arms in water and then used it to pick-up the seeds and eaten them"

The poor worker said he was telling the truth, by swearing on the honor of his mother, his wife, and his kids. Subbu was satisfied.

But the worker now learnt a way to eat sesame-seeds! Instead of water, he used his own saliva. He kept the job for many years. Subba never came to know of it.

_______________
As appeared in Chandamama Monthly, June 1979

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Reciting Mathematical Tables Durable Link to this entry

I went to the Brahmin's shop -- you know the stuff he sells for pooja rituals -- to get some sacred thread.

From inside of the shop, I heard a couple of kids loudly reciting mathematical tables. I was very happy that the brahmin was mentoring neighborhood kids and educating them in his spare time.

"You will have to soon start them with multiplication tables" -- I told the shop-keeper, noticing that the kids were stopping abruptly, and re-starting their recitation.

"Oh, these slum kids, they don't know how to count. I doubt they even go to school. I have these kids engaged in cleaning of Godambi (plump cashew nuts). But I don't want them to eat the cashews, so I have them recite the tables non-stop. If they eat the cashews, I know immediately" -- said the Brahmin.

__________

As told by Shanta Nagaraj, 2003

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Joy of Rolling in Fishmarket Filth Durable Link to this entry

Venkatesh Mahale is a famous connoisseur of my village -- the kind Goruru Ramaswamy Iyengar or R.K. Narayan would immortalize in their books.

The fish-market is possibly the dirtiest part of our town, because there is no sewage and they clean the fish right there.

Anyway, Mahale's daughter got married and went to USA to live with the husband. During the birth of her child, Venkatesh Mahale and his wife traveled to America to help the new couple. But there was no Bangade fish, no Iswan fish, no beedi, no paan and no Madevi (Mahale's mistress) in New Jersey and Mr. Mahale was miserable.

Upon his return, he resumed his ritual of buying fresh fish every morning at the Bunder (harbor). A mischief-monger who was aware of Mahale's boredom in America teased him -- "Did you enjoy America Venkateshmam?"

Mahale pointed to the filth beneath his Walmart Crocs. "I say that there is more joy in rolling in this fish waste than in America!" he declared.

Since then "rolling in fishmarket waste" has become a slang and a unit of measurement of happiness in the neighboring villages.


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Pandu Bal Mohan Krishna Durable Link to this entry

Bal Prabhu was a grocer in my village. His dad Pandu had established the business.

Because Bal was such a common name, and all the Prabhus were merchants, it came common to refer to Bal as Pandu Bal.

Then Bal's son Mohan took over the shop. Naturally, the townspeople referred to him as "Pandu Bal Mohan's Grocery Shop"

The last time I visited my town, I wanted to meet Mohan's son Murali with whom I used to play Cricket. "Oh you mean you want to see Pandu Bal Mohan Murali?" -- they asked me, traversing his name four generations back.

"What have you named your son?" I asked Murali.

"We call him Krishna, but townspeople call..."

"Pandu Bal Mohan Murali Krishna" -- we both said at the same time.

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Friendship of Srinath and Dada Poper Durable Link to this entry

Srinath and Dada Poper became best of the friends during their college years. They understood eachother's personality and character very well and bonded.

After college, Poper became an "Estate Agent" in the islands of Malaya and started earning thousands of Rupees. Srinath remained in Mysore and became a clerk, earning forty Rupees per month.

Eight years later, Poper returned to Mysore for a visit. The friends had kept in touch via letters, and both were keen to see one another. On Sunday morning at 8 o'clock, Srinath decided to call on his friend and Poper decided to call on Srinath. They both knew that time of the week was perfect.

They were both excited about the occasion.

Even though he might be a friend, "it might not be appropriate for me to visit him in my torn clothes" -- Srinath thought and begged and borrowed to appear nice and respectable. He even hired a tonga.

Poper thought --"Srinath is not well off. If I go to his house in my expensive clothing, he might be humiliated", and bought a pair of inexpensive mill cotton clothes.

At the chowk marg (intersection), they ran into each other and heartily shook hands.

"If this guy lives this lifestyle in forty bucks, how will he ever come out of poverty?" -- Poper thought. "No wonder this stingy man accumulated so much wealth" --Srinath pondered.

They had understood eachother's personality and chracter really well!

__________

As told by G.P. Rajarathnam in "Hanigalu", 1973.

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Stories from India - Introduction Durable Link to this entry

Stories from India is a new feature at Kamat's Potpourri that narrates small episodes of middle class sensibilities of India.

These are the most common of the stories -- there is nothing fantastic about them, but their beauty is subtle and deliberate.

Most of them are from my own life experiences and many are stories told to me by others. I have used fictitious names and locations as needed to conceal the identities, yet have provided links and references to real people where relevant and appropriate.

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