Neru ‘s Narrow Escape

Photo by Elina Krima

There was once a poor barbar named Neru, in a remote village of Bengal.  He was the laziest man in his village . One morning, well it wasn’t noon yet, it was barely around 11 a.m when his wife’s blaring voice hit him like thunder.
‘DON’T you have the slightest shame?  There’s nothing to eat at home.  HOW will I feed your four children if you don’t go for work? DO you think people will have their haircut , and have a  shave at night?’ went on the rentless rattle.
‘Can’t even sleep peacefully at home. Heaven knows what I did to deserve such  a nagging wife?’ murmured Neru. But as luck would have it, his wife Bela entered the hut right at that moment and heard him. That was the last straw. She burst like a dynamite and made good use of the broom in her hand.
Neru ran out of the room to escape the eruptive volcano spewing fire in every form. The broom like hot lava, would have scorched him , had he not escaped at the nick of time , with his barber’s satchel under his arm.
‘Don’t you dare enter the house without money for food, you lazy sloth,’ his wife spewed, ‘How can you sleep when your children are starving?  Come back with food or don’t come back at all,’ she yelled, blowing like a trumpet.
Neru’s sleep had been murderer by the quiver of sharp words which struck his hapless heart. He had never seen Bela that angry before.  Neru recalled that he had hardly earned anything in the last few days. Food must have been completely exhausted,  otherwise Bela wouldn’t have been so frighteningly furious.
Neru dozed in his usual place under the Peepal tree till noon; and when nobody turned around ,he walked around the village offering his services. Nobody cared for a shave or haircut so late in the afternoon.
Tired and hungry he came back to his place under the Peepal tree.  Now he wondered how on earth, would he return home and feed his hungry children. As a warble emanated from his own tummy, he understood how terribly hungry they all must be.
His wife Bela always managed to feed them well , inspite of his lazy attitude.  He had often seen her making wicker baskets in the afternoon and wondered what she did with so many of them. She was a hard working and good lady,  who worked day and night for her family. 
Neru felt guilty, ‘I have been an irresponsible husband and father,’ he thought. ‘My only redemption is to earn a lot of money and make my family happy. I shall not return home till I earn enough to feed my children well,’ he promised himself. 
As he walked towards the forest , darkness dropped like a curtain as he entered it. The steady chirping of crickets and the occasional call of birds broke the eerie silence of the shadows.
‘I shall try my luck at the next village tomorrow,’ he thought,  ‘but I dare not go back home empty-handed.’ He scratched his head for a possible solution. Right at that moment he saw a big mango tree laden with ripe mangoes.
Plucking some mangoes he ate to his heart’s desire. ‘ It wouldn’t be a bad decision to stay back in this wood. There are enough fruit trees to feed me through the year, but what about  my children?’ he thought sadly, throwing down the half-eaten mango in his hand. Maybe the children did not have any dinner. He cursed himself for his laziness. He decided to face his wife’s wrath with a bundle of mangoes and some money that he would earn the next day.
Looking around he found a huge banyan tree with  thick, broad branches and decided to make it his hotel for the night. 
Selecting a broad comfortable branch he tied himself around it with his gamchha* and went off to sleep in a trice. 
He dreamt that his wife was shaking his khatia,* in order to make him fall off his carpoy. ‘ Stop it! Bela.’ he protested,  unwillingly opening his eyes.
He struggled to remember his whereabouts in his sleepy state. There was unfathomable darkness everywhere. He suddenly recalled that he was actually sleeping on a tree, far from his home. As he cautiously got up and tried to untie his gamchha – his safety belt , the tree gave a sudden shake. Neru would have nearly toppled off the tree, had it not been for his gamchha. 
Now, was that an earthquake?  Or was it some demon shaking the tree?
As the tree gave another strong jerk and Neru moved towards the main trunk and held on to it for his dear life.
‘Yeeeah,han, han ,han!’ came a spine chilling nasal laughter.
Neru looked around in panic to find out the source of the horrifying sound.
He had heard of the various categories of unearthly beings residing in the forest. Many a villager , time and again confronted these terrible beings on their way through the forest. The ones who came out alive never ventured towards the cursed woods again. 
Neru opened his eyes a tinniest bit to see who was aiming for his life. He saw a black shadow, darker than the darkness of the night, with two menacing blazing red eyes and protruding cannie teeth.
Neru gulped down his fear and shut his eyes to ward off approaching death.
‘ You are welcome to the community of crooked ghosts, YIEEHN Hien Hien Hien!’ The apparition let out a blood churning laugh.’ I’ll break your neck to free you from your miserable life. We are the cursed ghosts whose soul has not yet been redeemed. Welcome to our breed, afterlife is fun; YIEHN Hien Hien Hien,’ went the terrifying laugh.
Neru felt a cold waft of air pass by him making him shiver and sweat the same time. The tree shook vigorously as the apparition tried to shake him off the branch.
‘If you are afraid, You’re as good as dead.’ His grandpa used to say. Neru tried to think of a way out from his terrible predicament.
‘ WAIT!’ he commanded with as much power as he could command in his voice.
‘Why do you think I am sleeping in this forest you halfwit? I have come to trap you in my magic box. I am the famous ghost catcher of Baruipur. Hien, hien , hien, hien,’ he imitated the ghost’s laugh.
The dark apparition was taken aback. Never had he seen a victim threaten to catch him. He was finer than air and could pass through anything and everything. Yet this audacious human dared to threaten that he would catch him?
I would turn him into a ghost in a minute and make him see the difference between a man and a ghost, he thought.
He proceeded to shake the man off the branch so that his neck would break with the fall.
‘Stop it!’ Neru ordered. His heart shrinking with fear bur his armour of bravado was still intact. ‘Look here in this box, here is the most fearsome of the ghosts whom I captured in my box.
Your predicament will be the worse. For I’ll keep you in my shoe.’
The ghost was curious, he knew that it was a joke. Nobody could catch a ghost and keep them in a box. But then he did hear of ghost catchers of yore when ghost catchers did exist as did the excessive population of ghosts.
Now-a-days, even ghost had become smart and make their way to heaven or hell without spending much time in between the two worlds.
‘Ere you do that I’ll wring your neck and you’ll join my crowd,’ shriked the ghost, his high pitched voice ringing through the forest.
Neru felt shaken, yet he knew that if the ghost got the slightest hint of his fear, he was as good as dead.
‘Dare you threaten you miserable soul! Look here inside my box and see for yourself whether I have ghosts in my box or not.’ and so saying he opened his barber’s box and took out the mirror.
‘Here is another miserable wandering soul who dared to confront the greatest ghost catcher of all times. Bow down and become my slave to or else you shall be my next prisoner who’s doomed after death. All this wandering through the air shall be nothing more than a dream.’
The ghost cowered and squirmed at the suffocating predicament.
Neru started chanting gibberish hymns to imprison the ghost.
‘Hhrin , Cilng Bhutaye Brichhe!
Hring , Cling Bhutaye Brichhe!
HRING, CLING BHUTAYE BRICHHE! ‘
The perplexed ghost pleaded for forgiveness,
‘O master! I’m your slave. Please do not imprison me. I shall do whatever you wish for…Please Please do not confine me in your magic box.’
Neru shivering inside but calm outside said, ‘So be it! I shall let you roam about, but only on the condition that you will do my biddings at all times. ‘
‘O master! ‘ said the ghost, ‘We ghosts need to do work all the time when we work as slaves. So you would constantly need to give me some task or the other. The moment you fail to give me any work, you would no longer be my master and I would have to wring your neck to free myself. If I ever fail to complete a task – you have the freedom to release me from slavery or imprison me in your box forever . If you are kind enough to free me I would be freed forever.’
Neru felt a wee bit apprehensive about the contract but his immediate concern was saving his neck.
‘OK, as you wish. But for your benefit I am giving you the option of quitting your service voluntarily. I may let you go, if you ask me and I feel it’s OK to do so. So from now you are my master and you shall do my biddings’
‘ As you wish my lord,’ said the ghost obediently.
Neru’s stomach suddenly rumbled reminding him that he had not eaten anything except the mangoes.
‘ What is your name? And what shall I call you?’ asked Neru feeling a wee bit secure, having the situation somewhat under control.
“Master, my name is Bhokaswar. You may call me Bhuku,’ the ghost replied.
Hunger is a great motivator. It motivated Neru to gather courage and order Bhuku to bring in some delicacies for filling the stomach. ‘Err , Bhuku I’d like to have some rasgullas and a few samosas, ‘ Neru ordered with hesitation.
‘As you wish, my master, ‘ Bhuku obeyed and vanished like a whirlwind.
Within seconds he was back with a bundle which he placed on the branch. The branch immediately turned into a wooden floor with a wooden chair and a table. The table was laid with mouth-watering dishes out of which wiffed aromas of exquisite dishes.
Biriyani, korma, roasted chicken, puries, crisp samosas along with a potfull of the softest rasgullas stood in front of him.
Neru dived into a world of exqisite taste that he had never visited before. Gobbling up everything he rolled his hands over his tummy and burped.
‘Ahhh! that’s what I call food, ‘ he said. All his fears had vanished. He felt like a king.
‘Take me home,’ he said.
No sooner were the words uttered, than he found himself in front of his house.
The image of Bhuku stood as a vague shadow behind him.
‘What is your command, master?’ he asked. ‘You must keep me busy, or I’ll have to wring your neck.’
‘ Hmm, you must bring me a thousand gold coins,’ ordered Neru.
In a wiff Bhutu vanished.
It was early in the morning, and the darkness of the sky was being replaced by beautiful red hues by the dawning rays of the sun, when Neru hesitatingly knocked at the door.
Bela opened the door with a grumpy but relieved face and told him to come in.
‘Did you get anything for the children to eat? They’ve hardly eaten anything since yesterday,’ she complained.
Neru handed her the bag with a thousand gold coins. And ordered Bhuku for a large sumptuous meal.
In an instance a big mat with steaming hot food appeared on the floor of the hut , and the children woke up to the aroma of delicious food. They were delighted to see their father and the meal on which they attacked without a word, gobbling down dishes till they were quite full.
A hungry Bela joined them and ate like she had never done before. It had been a long long time since she had a decent meal.
‘What shall I do master?’ came a nasal request from outside where Bhuku stood at the command of his master.
‘Build a palace for me right in front of my hut,’ ordered Neru.
The next day a beautiful palace stood before his hut and Neru moved into the palace with his family.
‘Go and bring nice clothes for us,’ he ordered. And the entire family was dressed in attires fit for kings.
Within a day Neru had all the wealth and luxury that he could wish for. It was becoming increasingly difficult for him to go on ordering Bhuku to do something for him.
Bhuku did everything a the snap of a finger. Neru made him dig a lake. Make a hill with a temple on top of it. Yeild crops in the fields. Everything was done in a presto.
Neru became more and more worried every time Bhutu came back for more work. He suddenly realised that he wouldn’t be able to enjoy his fortune for more than a few days. He would soon run out of tasks and Bhuku would wring his neck.
He became miserable and tired of conjuring up new tasks. Whenever Bhuku came back with that sinister smile of his. He began to tremble with fear. He somehow managed to steady his voice and give the next command. Bhuku always gave that bone chilling nasal, ‘Heeen! heeeeen! heeeeen!’ before flying off into the sky.
Neru’s wife set out a platter of mutton cutlet before him and took a good helping for herself. Neru looked away, living in perpetual terror of having his neck wrung made him giddy with fear.
‘ I don’t feel like having any, you may have it all. ‘ he said miserably.
‘Why ? What’s the matter? This is your favorite dish isn’t it? ‘ she asked softly. The recent opulence has brought out an unique mix of politeness and reverence for him.
Neru remained quite. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. The poor woman would lose her nerves and suffer a breakdown if she knew about the outcome their opulence.
‘Well if you have some problem there is sure to be a solution for it.’ said Bella.
Neru unwillingly disclosed the pact between him and Bhuku, and cried that his end was near as he could hardly create fresh tasks for him all the time.
Bella did not seem to be disturbed at all. She laughed out loud and said, ‘ Your problem is solved. Just make him do all your biddings amd when you are done ask him to…..’
Bhuku arrived just at that moment. Your task is done master , ‘I’ve built roads, dug wells through out the country and filled the coffers to the brim. Give me another task or give me the pleasure to wring your neck. Heen! Heen!’ he sneered.
‘ Well… said Neru uncertainly. I really need to know the number of grains of sand in the Sahara desert. ‘
‘WHHAT! WHY? ‘ exclaimed a perplexed Bhuku. What purpose would that information serve ? he thought. But an order was an order . He would get an army of ghosts to help him out and then he would wring Neru’s neck. His hands were tingling to feel Neru’s neck.
A month went by and then a year. There was incidents of huge sandstorms in the great desert.
A decade went by but still there was no sign of Bhuku.
Then one day Bhuku arrived devastated and tired. ‘Forgive me , master. I could not fulfil your wish no matter how much I tried.’ He was now a shadow of the shadow that Bhuku once was. A throughly broken down spirit of the spirit that he was. He trembled at the prospect of being locked up in Neru’s barber’s tool box.
Neru felt pity for him ,’ I may free you if you promise never to trouble any human ever. ‘ he said sternly.
‘I promise, I give you my word my master, ‘ said Bhuku relieved beyond his dreams.
‘OK. so be it , never come near this country again. ‘Neru ordered.
Bhuku wizzed through the sky as fast as he could and vanished within a second. Neru went inside the palace and thanked Bella for saving his neck. Bella’s tinkling laughter seemed to be the pleasantes

There was once a poor barbar named Neru, in a remote village of Bengal.  He was the laziest man in his village . One morning, well it wasn’t noon yet, it was barely around 11 a.m when his wife’s blaring voice hit him like thunder.
‘DON’T you have the slightest shame?  There’s nothing to eat at home.  HOW will I feed your four children if you don’t go for work? DO you think people will have their haircut , and have a  shave at night?’ went on the rentless rattle.
‘Can’t even sleep peacefully at home. Heaven knows what I did to deserve such  a nagging wife?’ murmured Neru. But as luck would have it, his wife Bela entered the hut right at that moment and heard him. That was the last straw. She burst like a dynamite and made good use of the broom in her hand.
Neru ran out of the room to escape the eruptive volcano spewing fire in every form. The broom like hot lava, would have scorched him , had he not escaped at the nick of time , with his barber’s satchel under his arm.
‘Don’t you dare enter the house without money for food, you lazy sloth,’ his wife spewed, ‘How can you sleep when your children eare starving?  Come back with food or don’t come back at all,’ she yelled, blowing like a trumpet.
Neru’s sleep had been murderer by the quiver of sharp words which struck his hapless heart. He had never seen Bela that angry before.  Neru recalled that he had hardly earned anything in the last few days. Food must have been completely exhausted,  otherwise Bela wouldn’t have been so frighteningly furious.
Neru dozed in his usual place under the Peepal tree till noon; and when nobody turned around ,he walked around the village offering his services. Nobody cared for a shave or haircut so late in the afternoon.
Tired and hungry he came back to his place under the Peepal tree.  Now he wondered how on earth, would he return home and feed his hungry children. As a grumble emanated from his own tummy, he understood how terribly hungry they all must be.
His wife Bela always managed to feed them well , inspite of his lazy attitude.  He had often seen her making wicker baskets in the afternoon and wondered what she did with so many of them. She was a hard working and good lady,  who worked day and night for her family. 
Neru felt guilty, ‘I have been an irresponsible husband and father,’ he thought. ‘My only redemption is to earn a lot of money and make my family happy. I shall not return home till I earn enough to feed my children well,’ he promised himself. 
As he walked towards the forest , darkness dropped like a curtain as he entered it. The steady chirping of crickets and the occasional call of birds broke the eerie silence of the shadows.
‘I shall try my luck at the next village tomorrow,’ he thought,  ‘but I dare not go back home empty-handed.’ He scratched his head for a possible solution. Right at that moment he saw a big mango tree laden with ripe mangoes.
Plucking some mangoes he ate to his heart’s desire. ‘ It wouldn’t be a bad decision to stay back in this wood. There are enough fruit trees to feed me through the year, but what about  my children?’ he thought sadly, throwing down the half-eaten mango in his hand. Maybe the children did not have any dinner. He cursed himself for his laziness. He decided to face his wife’s wrath with a bundle of mangoes and some money that he would earn the next day.
Looking around he found a huge banyan tree with  thick, broad branches and decided to make it his hotel for the night. 
Selecting a broad comfortable branch he tied himself around it with his gamchha* and went off to sleep in a trice. 
He dreamt that his wife was shaking his khatia, in order to make him fall off his carpoy. ‘ Stop it! Bela.’ he protested,  unwillingly opening his eyes.
He struggled to remember his whereabouts in his sleepy state. There was unfathomable darkness everywhere. He suddenly recalled that he was actually sleeping on a tree, far from his home. As he cautiously got up and tried to untie his gamchha – his safety belt , the tree gave a sudden shake. Neru would have nearly toppled off the tree, had it not been for his gamchha. 
Now, was that an earthquake?  Or was it some demon shaking the tree?
As the tree gave another strong jerk and Neru moved towards the main trunk and held on to it for his dear life.
‘Yeeeah,han, han ,han!’ came a spine chilling nasal laughter.
Neru looked around in panic to find out the source of the horrifying sound.
He had heard of the various categories of unearthly beings residing in the forest. Many a villager , time and again confronted these terrible beings on their way through the forest. The ones who came out alive never ventured towards the cursed woods again. 
Neru opened his eyes a tinniest bit to see who was aiming for his life. He saw a black shadow, darker than the darkness of the night, with two menacing blazing red eyes and protruding cannie teeth.
Neru gulped down his fear and shut his eyes to ward off approaching death.
‘ You are welcome to the community of crooked ghosts, YIEEHN Hien Hien Hien!’ The apparition let out a blood churning laugh.’ I’ll break your neck to free you from your miserable life. We are the cursed ghosts whose soul has not yet been redeemed. Welcome to our breed; YIEHN Hien Hien Hien,’ went the terrifying laugh.
Neru felt a cold waft of air pass by him making him shiver and sweat the same time. The tree shook vigorously as the apparition tried to shake him off the branch.
‘If you are afraid, You’re as good as dead.’ His grandpa used to say. Neru tried to think of a way out from his terrible predicament.
‘ WAIT!’ he commanded with as much power as he could command in his voice.
‘Why do you think I am sleeping in this forest you halfwit? I have come to trap you in my magic box. I am the famous ghost catcher of Baruipur. Hien, hien , hien, hien,’ he imitated the ghost’s laugh.
The dark apparition was taken aback. Never had he seen a victim threaten to catch him. He was finer than air and could pass through anything and everything. Yet this audacious human dared to threaten that he would catch him?
I would turn him into a ghost in a minute and make him see the difference between a man and a ghost, he thought.
He proceeded to shake the man off the branch so that his neck would break with the fall.
‘Stop it!’ Neru ordered. His heart shrinking with fear bur his armour of bravado was still intact. ‘Look here in this box, here is the most fearsome of the ghosts whom I captured in my box.
Your predicament will be the worse. For I’ll keep you in my shoe.’
The ghost was curious, he knew that it was a joke. Nobody could catch a ghost and keep them in a box. But then he did hear of ghost catchers of yore when ghost catchers did exist as did the excessive population of ghosts.
Now-a-days, even ghost had become smart and make their way to heaven or hell without spending much time in between the two worlds.
‘Ere you do that I’ll wring your neck and you’ll join my crowd,’ shriked the ghost, his high pitched voice ringing through the forest.
Neru felt shaken, yet he knew that if the ghost got the slightest hint of his fear, he was as good as dead.
‘Dare you threaten you miserable soul! Look here inside my box and see for yourself whether I have ghosts in my box or not.’ and so saying he opened his barber’s box and took out the mirror.
‘Here is another miserable wandering soul who dared to confront the greatest ghost catcher of all times. Bow down and become my slave to or else you shall be my next prisoner who’s doomed after death. All this wandering through the air shall be nothing more than a dream.’
The ghost cowered and squirmed at the suffocating predicament.
Neru started chanting gibberish hymns to imprison the ghost.
‘Hhrin , Cilng Bhutaye Brichhe!
Hring , Cling Bhutaye Brichhe!
HRING, CLING BHUTAYE BRICHHE! ‘
The perplexed ghost pleaded for forgiveness,
‘O master! I’m your slave. Please do not imprison me. I shall do whatever you wish for…Please Please do not confine me in your magic box.’
Neru shivering inside but calm outside said, ‘So be it! I shall let you roam about, but only on the condition that you will do my biddings at all times. ‘
‘O master! ‘ said the ghost, ‘We ghosts need to do work all the time when we work as slaves. So you would constantly need to give me some task or the other. The moment you fail to give me any work, you would no longer be my master and I would have to wring your neck to free myself. If I ever fail to complete a task – you have the freedom to release me from slavery or imprison me in your box forever . If you are kind enough to free me I would be freed forever.’
Neru felt a wee bit apprehensive about the contract but his immediate concern was saving his neck.
‘OK, as you wish. But for your benefit I am giving you the option of quitting your service voluntarily. I may let you go, if you ask me and I feel it’s OK to do so. So from now you are my master and you shall do my biddings’
‘ As you wish my lord,’ said the ghost obediently.
Neru’s stomach suddenly rumbled reminding him that he had not eaten anything except the mangoes.
‘ What is your name? And what shall I call you?’ asked Neru feeling a wee bit secure, having the situation somewhat under control.
“Master, my name is Bhokaswar. You may call me Bhuku,’ the ghost replied.
Hunger is a great motivator. It motivated Neru to gather courage and order Bhuku to bring in some delicacies for filling the stomach. ‘Err , Bhuku I’d like to have some rasgullas and a few samosas, ‘ Neru ordered with hesitation.
‘As you wish, my master, ‘ Bhuku obeyed and vanished like a whirlwind.
Within seconds he was back with a bundle which he placed on the branch. The branch immediately turned into a wooden floor with a wooden chair and a table. The table was laid with mouth-watering dishes out of which wiffed aromas of exquisite dishes.
Biriyani, korma, roasted chicken, puries, crisp samosas along with a potfull of the softest rasgullas stood in front of him.
Neru dived into a world of exqisite taste that he had never visited before. Gobbling up everything he rolled his hands over his tummy and burped.
‘Ahhh! that’s what I call food, ‘ he said. All his fears had vanished. He felt like a king.
‘Take me home,’ he said.
No sooner were the words uttered, than he found himself in front of his house.
The image of Bhuku stood as a vague shadow behind him.
‘What is your command, master?’ he asked. ‘You must keep me busy, or I’ll have to wring your neck.’
‘ Hmm, you must bring me a thousand gold coins,’ ordered Neru.
In a wiff Bhutu vanished.
It was early in the morning, and the darkness of the sky was being replaced by beautiful red hues by the dawning rays of the sun, when Neru hesitatingly knocked at the door.
Bela opened the door with a grumpy but relieved face and told him to come in.
‘Did you get anything for the children to eat? They’ve hardly eaten anything since yesterday,’ she complained.
Neru handed her the bag with a thousand gold coins. And ordered Bhuku for a large sumptuous meal.
In an instance a big mat with steaming hot food appeared on the floor of the hut , and the children woke up to the aroma of delicious food. They were delighted to see their father and the meal on which they attacked without a word, gobbling down dishes till they were quite full.
A hungry Bela joined them and ate like she had never done before. It had been a long long time since she had a decent meal.
‘What shall I do master?’ came a nasal request from outside where Bhuku stood at the command of his master.
‘Build a palace for me right in front of my hut,’ ordered Neru.
The next day a beautiful palace stood before his hut and Neru moved into the palace with his family.
‘Go and bring nice clothes for us,’ he ordered. And the entire family was dressed in attires fit for kings.
Within a day Neru had all the wealth and luxury that he could wish for. It was becoming increasingly difficult for him to go on ordering Bhuku to do something for him.
Bhuku did everything a the snap of a finger. Neru made him dig a lake. Make a hill with a temple on top of it. Yeild crops in the fields. Everything was done in a presto.
Neru became more and more worried every time Bhutu came back for more work. He suddenly realised that he wouldn’t be able to enjoy his fortune for more than a few days. He would soon run out of tasks and Bhuku would wring his neck.
He became miserable and tired of conjuring up new tasks. Whenever Bhuku came back with that sinister smile of his. He began to tremble with fear. He somehow managed to steady his voice and give the next command. Bhuku always gave that bone chilling nasal, ‘Heeen! heeeeen! heeeeen!’ before flying off into the sky.
Neru’s wife set out a platter of mutton cutlet before him and took a good helping for herself. Neru looked away, living in perpetual terror of having his neck wrung made him giddy with fear.
‘ I don’t feel like having any, you may have it all. ‘ he said miserably.
‘Why ? What’s the matter? This is your favorite dish isn’t it? ‘ she asked softly. The recent opulence has brought out an unique mix of politeness and reverence for him.
Neru remained quite. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. The poor woman would lose her nerves and suffer a breakdown if she knew about the outcome their opulence.
‘Well if you have some problem there is sure to be a solution for it.’ said Bella.
Neru unwillingly disclosed the pact between him and Bhuku, and cried that his end was near as he could hardly create fresh tasks for him all the time.
Bella did not seem to be disturbed at all. She laughed out loud and said, ‘ Your problem is solved. Just make him do all your biddings amd when you are done ask him to…..’
Bhuku arrived just at that moment. Your task is done master , ‘I’ve built roads, dug wells through out the country and filled the coffers to the brim. Give me another task or give me the pleasure to wring your neck. Heen! Heen!’ he sneered.
‘ Well… said Neru uncertainly. I really need to know the number of grains of sand in the Sahara desert. ‘
‘WHHAT! WHY? ‘ exclaimed a perplexed Bhuku. What purpose would that information serve ? he thought. But an order was an order . He would get an army of ghosts to help him out and then he would wring Neru’s neck. His hands were tingling to feel Neru’s neck.
A month went by and then a year. There was incidents of huge sandstorms in the great desert.
A decade went by but still there was no sign of Bhuku.
Then one day Bhuku arrived devastated and tired. ‘Forgive me , master. I could not fulfil your wish no matter how much I tried.’ He was now a shadow of the shadow that Bhuku once was. A throughly broken down spirit of the spirit that he was. He trembled at the prospect of being locked up in Neru’s barber’s tool box.
Neru felt pity for him ,’ I may free you if you promise never to trouble any human ever. ‘ he said sternly.
‘I promise, I give you my word my master, ‘ said Bhuku relieved beyond his dreams.
‘OK. so be it , never come near this country again. ‘Neru ordered.
Bhuku wizzed through the sky as fast as he could and vanished within a second. Neru went inside the palace and thanked Bella for saving his neck. Bella’s tinkling laughter seemed to be the most beautiful music that ever rung in his ears. They lived to tell the story of Bhuku to their great grandchildren. And Bhuku got tired of living the life of a good ghost and went straight to heaven.

  • *gamchha – a piece of cotton cloth used as a towel in rural India.
  • * khatia – a makeshift bed made of logs and ropes, also known as charpoy.

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