Once upon a time, an old man and his wife lived in a simple cottage, near the fruit orchard of a rich man. The branch of a pear tree hung right above the cottage yard. At times, some pears would fall into their yard. Every day, they waited eagerly to collect the fallen pears. On days when not even a strong wind could land a few pears in their yard, the old woman would grumble and serve only dry bread to her husband.

One day, the old man insisted that his wife cook khichdi for dinner. Reluctantly, she started cooking a delicious khichdi with some rice, pulses, a lot of butter, and spices. The appetizing smell permeated their humble hut as the husband longingly waited to savor the khichdi.

However, when he asked her to serve the khichri, she compelled him to get another load of wood. The man halfheartedly went into the forest to comply with his wife’s order. Every stick of wood he collected seemed to remind him of the delicious khichri that awaited him back home.

While he was collecting the firewood, a bear turned up. It would not stop sniffing with its black nose as its eyes searched its surroundings for food. It spotted the old man, who was carrying a large bundle of wood, and asked why he had collected so much wood. To this, the old man replied that his wife had cooked a delicious khichdi, which he would only get if he were to take home more wood.

The bear now wanted to taste the khichdi as well. It asked the old man if his wife would serve him that khichdi if he were to collect a big bundle of firewood as well. The old man explained that his wife had made the khichdi with rice, butter, pulses, and saffron. If the bear could fetch half a ton of wood, she might serve it more khichdi. While half a ton of wood sounded huge, the bear agreed to collect it nonetheless for a share of the mouthwatering khichdi. The old man reached the cottage and told his wife about the deal he made with the bear.

The old lady, however, began worrying when she realized that the bear may gobble up the entire khichdi before they even finished eating their first serving. Therefore, they decided to eat the khichdi before the bear arrived with the bundle of wood. Both of them kept eating the khichdi until the cooking pot was empty. Then, to escape from the bear’s wrath, the old woman locked everything in the cottage, climbed up the roof, and sat there with her husband.

After collecting the wood as promised, the bear reached the cottage to get its share of khichdi. Exhausted and hungry, the animal found the brass pot near the fire. However, when it could not find a single piece of pulse or a grain of rice in the pot, it could not keep its rage in check. Only the delicious smell of khichdi lingered. The bear ransacked the cottage and walked away with the brass pot that still smelled of khichdi.

While the bear walked out the cottage, the delicious golden pears overlooking the cottage yard caught his attention. He quickly jumped onto the wall and climbed up the tree.  When it started to collect the big, ripe pears, a sudden thought came to his mind. He could sell the pears and get some khichdi with the money he earned! While picking ripe pears selectively, he also picked pears that were not ripe. As he did not want to waste them, he ate those sour pears.

In the meantime, the old couple who watched the bear from the loft of their cottage, waited patiently for the bear to leave.  The old woman, who would not stop sneezing due to the cold outside, gave her loudest sneeze yet — ”A-h-chc-u!”

The hungry bear mistook it for a gunshot. It dropped the khichdi pot filled with delicious, ripe pears into the cottage yard, and ran into the forest as fast it could. The old couple were elated, having gotten both the bundle of wood and the savory golden pears.

…now that you’re here

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Kalai Selvi, Folk Tale writer at Ameya
Kalai

Kalai is passionate about reading and reinterpreting folk tales from all over the country. Write to her at kalai.muse@gmail.com to know more about her.

Folk tale adopted and abridged from Fairytalez.