Folk Tales of Kumaon
Buari is a touching story that depicts the predicament of a daughter-in-law who is unappreciated by her spouse. Many hill women suffer a similar fate, but are known to display rare resilience in the face of uncertainty of life.
By Anjali Nauriyal
This story goes back to ancient times when life in the mountains was simple. A father brought up his son adoringly after the death of his wife. He did not want his son to feel the absence of his mother.
But with only the father-son duo in the household, it became a male dominated household, minus any feminine touch. When it was time to find a bride for the son, there was no female to initiate the talks. The son’s lofty or disdainful airs made matters worse.
With great difficulty, the father arranged the son’s union with a beautiful girl living seven villages away. She had the prettiest of eyes with long lashes, full lips and the best of cheekbones.
Soon the wedding took place and the new daughter-in-law was well looked after by the father-in-law. He considered her his daughter, rather than a daughter-in-law. But the son showed a lot of attitude. He was disparaging and arrogant.
Receiving immense love and affection from her father-in-law, the daughter-in-law began sharing her confidential matters with him.
One day she communicated to her father-in-law that she could understand the language of birds and animals and could even have a conversation with them. She easily understood what they spoke to each other.
The father-in-law was dumbstruck. He explained to her that she should not divulge this secret to her spouse. Knowing her secret he would consider her deranged or unsound of mind and drive her out of the house.
It so came about one day, when both husband and wife were asleep in the dead of the night, two Jackals came out of the dark forest and began chattering in their own language. One of the Jackals said to the other that a corpse was lying in the ravine nearby. It was covered with gold coins. If only someone could remove those coins, they could have a feast.
When the daughter-in-law heard their conversation, greed overtook her reasoning and she decided to act in her vested interest. She decided to wake up her husband. But then she remembered her father-in-law’s words. She decided to tell no one, and without waking her husband came out of the house in and disappeared into darkness.
She quickly reached the place that the Jackals had mentioned in their conversation. Though terror-struck greed overpowered her emotions. She quickly collected the coins in the loose end of her saree and without looking back rushed home. But in the process her hands and clothes were smeared in blood. The moment she reached home her husband noticed her nervousness and blood -stained clothes, and asked her where she had been at such an unearthly hour.
Panic-stricken she was forced to disclose everything to him. She took him to the ravine where the carcass was dumped. By now the Jackals had eaten up half the body.
The husband conjectured that his wife was a cannibal. He decided to throw her out of the house that very day.
The father tried to reason with the son, but to no avail. The father-in-law then proceeded to leave the daughter-in-law at her parents’ place. Enroute they halted to rest under a tree. The old man snoozed off. Just then two crows from the daughter-in-law’s village recognized her.
Seeing the sniveling, disconsolate daughter-in-law, they approached her and asked her what was agonizing her. She told them all that had transpired. They then hatched a plan. They told her that two pots of gold were placed near a not far off waterfall in the jungles, with a deadly snake guarding them. If the snake was eliminated, her husband and father-in-law could take all the gold and they would have a feast.
The old man, disturbed by the sound of their conversation, woke up. The daughter-in-law filled him in with their plan. The old man thought it a good idea. He then planned with the daughter-in-law that they should put an end to the snakes and return home with the pots of gold.
When their plan materialized they started for home. On the way the old man felt fatigued. He asked the daughter-in-law to proceed home, saying that he would follow shortly after resting for a while.
The son, who was sitting in the courtyard of his home, saw his wife approaching. He was infuriated, the moment he sighted his wife coming home carrying pots.
He conjectured she had eaten up his father after killing him.
The moment she closed in, he struck her neck with a sickle and slaughtered her.
When the old man returned, he was stunned to see his innocent daughter-in-law dead. So acute was his shock that he dropped dead.
(Dr Anjali Nauriyal, veteran journalist, author, actor and social worker is currently Senior Fellow with Ministry of Culture, GOI)