Sujata loved her kind-hearted husband, Madhav. Although poor, Madhav was a generous man. Every day he would bring guests home for lunch. Often, the couple would go hungry after serving guests.
Sujata told her husband that it was difficult to feed guests when they were struggling to have two meals a day. But Madhav would not listen: “The gods will be pleased when a guest is fed.”
Sujata realized it was impossible to change her husband. She had to do something to discourage guests from dropping in for lunch.
One morning, Madhav asked his wife to cook lunch for three guests he had invited. “You can expect them by noon,” he said.
Sujata wanted to tell Madhav there was not enough rice or dal to cook for three people. But she could not do so since one of his friends visited their house. Madhav told his wife he had to go out with his friend, but he would be back by noon.
Sujata had an idea. She took out the mortar and pestle used for pounding rice. She put some kumkum and haldi on the pestle and placed it in the hall.
The guests came promptly at noon. Sujata invited them in with a smile. They were surprised to see the mortar and pestle being worshipped in their host’s house.
Sujata told the guests that her husband had taken a vow to hit his guests on their heads before serving them the meals. The guests turned pale on hearing this. “Don’t worry. He won’t hit you hard. Just tap on the head” assured Sujata. Then she added, “Three times.” The guests got up and ran out of the house.
Just then Madhav came home. He saw the guests leaving. “Did they have lunch?” he asked his wife.
“No, they left abruptly,” said Sujata.
“Did you speak to them harshly?” asked Madhav.
“They wanted this pestle. I told them I cannot part with it as my mother gave it to me,” said Sujata.
Madhav was upset with his wife. “We must give the guests whatever they ask for,” he said, “I’ll give it to them and bring them back.”
Madhav ran after the guests carrying the pestle, shouting, “Stop, I want to give it you.”
The guests looked back and saw Madhav running after them with the pestle. They thought he was coming after them to hit them with it. They broke into a run.
The whole town saw Madhav with a pestle, chasing the three men. Word spread that Madhav was a generous host, but would hit the guests with the pestle. “Just a gentle tap,” said the townsfolk. Then they would add, “Three times.”
Thereafter, no guests came to Madhav’s house much to the relief of his wife.
Story: Subba Rao | Illustration: Mohandas Marath
Colouring: Snehangshu Mazumder