The Globe of Gold

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[A Humorous Story from the pen of the late Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. Translated by M. S. K.]

On Koylas Peak, beneath the budding Deodars, sat Mahadev and his spouse Parvati, on tiger skins, throwing the dice. The stake was a globe of gold. The fault in Mahadev's play was that he could not win the stake. Had he been able to do so at the churning of the ocean, the poison would not have lodged in his throat.

But Parvati was clever at winning the stake; in proof of which, witness her annual three days' worship on earth. However it might be with the dice, at weeping she was unrivalled, having superhuman capacity in that direction. Thus, if a high throw fell to Mahadev she roused the neighbourhood with her cries, and when a low number fell to herself she would cast at the three-eyed Mahadev a glance calculated to destroy the universe, so that though he got the winning throw, he appeared not to notice it, and lost the stake. This was the invariable result.

So Mahadev consented to bestow upon Parvati the golden ball, which she had no sooner obtained than she threw it down upon the earth: whereupon the five-faced god demanded with a frown, "Why have you thrown away my gift?"

Parvati replied, "Lord! your ball must certainly possess some wonderfully beneficent property. I have cast it down to benefit mankind."

The god made answer, "Lady, no good can result from opposing the laws by which Prajâpati, Vishnu and I have framed the universe. Prosperity can come only from obedience to these laws. A golden ball can serve no purpose. If it have any beneficent property, the laws being broken, it will injure mankind. At your suggestion I have endued it with a special quality. Sit here, and watch how it works."

Kali Kanta Babu was a man of good position, in age about thirty-five, of a goodly presence. Some years earlier he had contracted a second marriage, and he was now on his way to visit his wife, Kama Sundari, a girl about eighteen, now staying at her father's house. His father-in-law was a wealthy man, residing at a village on the banks of the Ganges.

Kali Kanta, fastening his boat to the Ghāt, set out on foot for the house of his father-in-law, attended by his servant, Rama, bearing his portmanteau. Kali Kanta Babu noticed a golden ball lying in the path. Picking it up in astonishment, he found it was indeed of fine gold. Much pleased, he handed it to his servant, saying, "I see this is golden; some one must have lost it. If it is inquired for I will produce it, otherwise, I will take it home with me. For the present, keep it carefully."

In order to conceal the ball in his dress, Rama put down the portmanteau, then taking the golden thing from his master's hand he hid it in his garments. But Rama did not again place the portmanteau on his head. Kali Kanta took it up and placed it on his own head. Rama went on in front, the Babu followed with his load. Presently Rama called out "Hi, you Rama!"

Babu. "What do you wish, Sir?"

Rama. "You are an ill-mannered fellow. Take care that you are guilty of no rudeness in my father-in-law's house. They are gentlefolk."

Babu. "Could I possibly commit any rudeness in your presence?"

In Koylas, Parvati was saying, "My lord! I can't understand this at all. What is this property in your golden ball?"

Mahadev answered, "Its property is exchange of mental personality. If I were to place this ball in Nandi's hand he would think 'I am Mahadev,' and would take me to be Nandi. I should think myself Nandi and fancy Nandi to be Mahadev. Rama thinks, 'I am Kali Kanta Babu,' and takes the Babu to be the servant Rama. Kali Kanta thinks, 'I am Rama Khansama,' and fancies Rama to be Kali Kanta Babu."

When Kali Kanta Babu arrived at the house, his father-in-law was in the inner apartments. But the confusion began outside. The gatekeeper, Ram Din Panre, said, "Hi, Khansamaji, don't sit there, come and sit with us." Whereupon Rama replied angrily, "Go, go you rustic fellow, mind your own business."

The gatekeeper took down the portmanteau from the head of Kali Kanta Babu, who said, "Do not insult the Babu in that manner. He will become angry and go away."

The gatekeeper was acquainted with the son-in-law, but not with the servant, so when he heard Kali Kanta Babu speak thus he thought, "Since the son-in-law speaks of this person as 'Babu,' he must be some great man in disguise." In this faith he addressed Rama humbly, with joined hands, entreating pardon for his fault. To which Rama answered, "Well, well, send some tobacco."

Udbhab Khansama was an ancient servant of the father-in-law's household. He brought a handsomely mounted huka prepared for use, which Rama, reclining among the cushions, began to smoke. Kali Kanta, seeking the servants' rooms, enjoyed his modest hubble-bubble. Greatly amazed, Udbhab exclaimed, "What is this, Sir? why do you do thus?" Kali Kanta replied, "How can I smoke in his presence?"

Udbhab going to the inner apartments, said to his master: "The Jamai Babu (son-in-law) has arrived, Sir, and a gentleman in disguise has come with him. The Jamai Babu honours him so highly that he will not even smoke before him."

The head of the house, Nil Ratan Babu, came out in haste. Kali Kanta, seeing him, prostrated himself in the distance and moved away. Rama, coming forward, took a pinch of dust from Nil Ratan Babu's feet, and they mutually embraced. Nil Ratan thought "The companion is certainly a well-bred man, but why does the son-in-law act so strangely?"

Nil Ratan Babu sat down to address the usual welcoming inquiries to his visitor, but could make nothing at all of his replies. Meantime, lunch having been prepared in the inner apartments, a female attendant appeared to call the son-in-law to partake of it. Kali Kanta said, "Good gracious! How can I take food before the Babu has eaten? Let him be served first, then my turn will come; I will eat in your mess, Ma Thakurun."

The maidservant, hearing herself addressed in this respectful manner, thought to herself, "The Jamai Babu takes me for one of the family! Why should he not? I come of respectable people and show it in my looks. He sees all sorts and can distinguish, not like the stupid people in this house, who don't know a gentlewoman when they see one." So, greatly pleased, the maid, Bindi, went inside and reported that the Jamai Babu's scruple was admirable, that it would not be suitable for him to eat until his companion had eaten, that the friend should be served first.

The mistress thought, "This is some stranger, so let him be served outside, and the son-in-law in the inner apartments." Rama, seeing preparations for his lunch in the outer apartments, was much incensed, thinking "What a strange proceeding is this."

In the meantime the maid called Kali Kanta to lunch. All was ready within, but Kali Kanta, standing in the courtyard, said, "Why should I go in? Give me a little pulse and treacle in my hand to eat here."

The sister-in-law said, "What a lot of funny ways you have learned."

Distressed, Kali Kanta replied, "Why do you make fun of me? Am I a fit object for your sport?"

An elder lady said, "Why an object of sport to us? Go to her who has the right to jest with you." And taking his hand, stumbling as she went, she pulled him into the room.

Kali Kanta's wife, Kama Sundari, was standing there. Kali Kanta, taking her to be the wife of his master, prostrated himself before her. At this, Kama Sundari's lovely face broke into smiles. "What game is this?" she asked. "What new jest have you learned?"

Troubled by these words, Kali Kanta said, "Oh! why will you speak to me thus? I am your servant, you are my lord."

"You are servant, I am master? not for to-day or tomorrow only—so long as I live that relation shall continue. Now eat your lunch."

Kali Kanta. "If anyone has represented me to you in that light he has lied. Humbly I beg of you, as my preceptress, to let me go."

Jest-loving Kama Sundari thought this was indeed a new sort of game. She said, "Dearer than life, I begin to see that you have learned some fine jokes this time," and taking his two hands, she again pulled him towards the seat.

No sooner had she caught him by the hand than he, thinking all was over with him, shouted out, "Help! help I am done for! she is killing me!"

The frightened family came running at these cries. Kama Sundari, at the sight of her mother, sister, and aunt, released her husband's hands, and he, seizing this opportunity, with a long breath, escaped.

The mistress asked her daughter, "What is the matter, Kami? Why has the son-in-law gone in this way? Did you strike him?"

Amazed and wounded to the heart, Kama Sundari answered, "I strike him! why should I strike him—with so evil a fate as mine?" Gradually her voice was lost in sobs. "My evil destiny—some wretch has destroyed me—has bewitched him." These cries attracted a crowd around her. They said, "Yes, you must have struck him, else why should he call out so piteously?" And they called her names—"sinful one," "witch," "ogress," &c., scolding her. The innocent Kama Sundari, thus reproached, went weeping to her room, closed the door, and laid herself down on her bed.

Meantime, Kali Kanta, coming out, saw that a great commotion had arisen. Nil Ratan Babu himself, the gate keeper, and Udbhab, were all belabouring Rama wherever they chanced to find him. Amid the shower of slaps and cuffs raining upon him, Rama kept saying, "Let me go, I never heard of a son-in-law being beaten so; it does not matter to me, but do you want to make your daughter a widow?"

Near by stood Taranga, the maid servant, laughing. She was accustomed to go to the son-in-law's house, and told her master that she recognised the man as being the Babu's servant, Rama. Kali Kanta Babu, seeing the beating going on, paced the courtyard like one distraught, crying, "How dreadful! they are beating the Babu!"

At this, Nil Ratan Babu, yet more enraged, said to Rama, "You, fellow! what have you given the son-in-law to eat to madden him? Beat the rascal with a shoe!"

At this command, as rain follows rain in August, so on the guiltless Rama fell the rain of blows. In the pain of the beating, the ball hidden in his garments fell to the ground. The maid, Taranga, picking it up, offered it to her master, saying, "This good-for-nothing fellow is a thief! See, Sir, he has stolen a golden ball." "Let me see it," said Nil Ratan Babu, taking it from her. Then, letting Rama go, he stood aside, opened the pleated fold of his upper garment, and cast it over his head (like a woman's veil), while Taranga, letting her sari fall from her head, tucked it up like a man's, and was about to beat Rama with the slipper, when Udbhab said to her, "You, woman, why are you again mixing yourself up with this?"

Taranga. "Whom are you calling woman?"

Udbhab. "You!"

Taranga. "You mock at me!" and, with the slipper in her hand, she struck Udbhab. He, greatly incensed, but unwilling to strike a woman, looked towards his master, saying, "See, Sir, the impudence of this woman, she is striking me with a shoe!"

But the master, pulling his veil a little more over his face, with a merry smile, said, sweetly, "Yes, he is striking you; but do not be angry. He is the master, and may do so."

Whereat Udbhab, yet more incensed, replied, "How is she my master? She is a servant, I also am a servant. How can you talk like this? I am your servant; how can I be hers? I don't serve on those terms."

Again, smiling merrily, the master said, in the same gentle voice, "What curious fancies we see in old men! My servant! how can you be that?"

Speechless with amazement, Udbhab thought, "Have we got into a lunatic neighbourhood to-day?" And in his surprise he let go Rama, and remained standing.

At this moment, Gobordhan Ghosh, keeper of the household cows, came up—he was Taranga's husband. He was astonished at Taranga's condition and behaviour, also she took no notice of him: while, on the other hand, the master of the house, seeing Gobordhan, again drew the veil off his face and stood aside. Looking sideways at Gobordhan, he whispered, "Don't mix yourself up in that."

Gobordhan, witnessing Taranga's conduct, became enraged; the master's words did not reach his ear. He went to seize Taranga by the hair, "Vile woman!" he exclaimed; "have you no shame?" Seeing him coming, Taranga said, "Gobordhan! are you also out of your senses? go and feed the cows!"

At this Gobordhan seized her by the hair, and began to abuse her roundly, whereupon Nil Ratan Babu exclaimed, "Heavens! that ill-fated wretch is murdering the master."

Taranga, also becoming furious, said, "Do you dare to touch the person of your master?" and began to strike Gobordhan.

Then the uproar became general. At the sound of it the neighbours, Ram Mukherji, Gobind Chatterji, &c., came up to see what was going on. Ram Mukherji, seeing a golden ball lying about, took it up and gave it to Gobind Chatterji, saying, "See, Sir, what is this?"

In Koylas, Parvati now said, "Oh, my lord! take back your golden ball, only see! Gobind Chatterji has gone into old Ram Mukherji's inner apartments, and taking the old man's old wife to be his own young wife is addressing sportful speeches to her; and Ram Mukherji's scandalised maid servants are beating the intruder with a broom. Meanwhile, old Ram Mukherji, fancying himself the youthful Gobind Chatterji, has gone to Gobind's inner rooms, and is singing songs to Gobind's wife. Should that ball remain a moment longer in the world there will be confusion in every house. Therefore take it back."

Mahadev answered, "Oh, mountain born! what is the fault in my ball? Is this a new condition of things on earth? Do you not constantly observe the old setting the young in order, the young doing the same by the old? The master behaving like the servant, the servant in his master's seat? Do you never see a man behaving like a woman, or a woman like a man? All these things are constantly happening on the earth, but no one seems to see how ludicrous it is. I have for once made it evident to the senses of all. Now, I take back the ball. At my wish each shall return to his own nature, and no one shall remember what has occurred."

Copyright.svg PD-icon.svg This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.

This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.