Gopal was in great pain. A big battle seemed to be raging in his stomach. Of course, there was nothing unusual about this. With his weakness for good food — sweets in particular — he often did overeat and this was the inevitable result. As long as the pain lasted, Gopal was full of remorse, and made wild promises to eat moderately, but all were forgotten the moment he was well.
This time the pain was worse than anything he had ever experienced before. “It must have been the fish,” Gopal said aloud. “I thought it did not look fresh.”
“Who asked you to eat it?” said Gopal’s wife. “And eight large pieces too! Fresh or not, that’s enough to make anyone sick.”
“Don’t be silly,” said Gopal, “I’ve often taken more than that. If it wasn’t the fish, it must have been the rasagollas.”
“Well, you gobbled up three dozen of those!”
“Oh… Ahh… don’t stand there arguing,” grounded Gopal. “Get me some green coconut water. It’s good for a bad stomach.”
But the coconut water failed to help. The pain remained acute. “Mother Kali have mercy,” prayed Gopal aloud.
“Make me well this once and I shall offer you a buffalo as sacrifice!”
“You really shouldn’t make promises to the goddess unless you mean to keep them!” said Gopal’s wife.
“Of course I’m going to keep my word!” said Gopal indignantly. “Just let me get better, and I shall go to the Kali temple with the biggest buffalo I can lay my hands on.
“Is your stomach ache better?” said Gopal’s wife suddenly.
“You don’t look nearly as pale as you did half an hour ago.”
“You’re right!” said Gopal sitting up. “The pain isn’t so bad now.”
“So Mother Kali seems to have heard your prayers. Don’t forget the buffalo now,” said Gopal’s wife.
Soon Gopal was feeling even better. “Mother Kali,” he said looking out of the window, “things are getting more expensive day by day.” He continued after a pause, “I think a buffalo would cost too much in these hard times! Won’t a goat be enough? A nice, fat goat! I’ll get you one, the moment I’m well. I promise I will.”
Morning rolled into noon. Gopal felt hardly any pain now. But he was weak and a little hungry! He called his wife.
“Surely you’re not going to starve me!”
“How can you even talk of food,” she answered, “when you were writhing in pain a few minutes ago!”
“Just give me a bowl of puffed rice,” Gopal begged.
Goal’s wife made for the kitchen. “Mother Kali!” said Gopal, “Is it fair that you feast on a juicy goat while I am on a diet of dry rice? They say one shouldn’t be greedy. Well, then, shouldn’t you set an example?”
“Here you are!” said Gopal’s wife, placing a bowl of rice before him.
“So little!” grumbled Gopal. “Do get me some more!” “Are you really well?” asked Gopal’s wife.
“Right as rain!” said Gopal. “Now that I think of it, the pain was very mild.”
“Was it?” said Gopal’s wife. “The way you were making promises to Mother Kali…”
“Surely you didn’t think I was in earnest,” said Gopal. “You are a jester’s wife! Don’t you know when I’m joking.”
“Well,” said Gopal’s wife, taken aback, “I wish you wouldn’t mention Mother Kali in your jokes! Aren’t you going to offer her anything at all?”
“Not a buffalo, that’s certain,” said Gopal. “Nor a goat. They are too expensive! I think I’ll ask Mother Kali to catch a sparrow herself and have it! A little exercise is good — even for a goddess!”
“You really are shameless!” said Gopal’s wife angrily, and left the room. Gopal went off to sleep. But he was soon awakened by a sharp ache in his stomach. He sat up! covered in sweat. “Mother Kali!” he said in a complaining voice, “You have no sense of humour! Did you really think that I meant that about the goat and the sparrow? I was merely joking! Just make me well and you’ll have your buffalo!”
(C) Swapna Dutta