Abdul Khafir was a poor fellow who roamed around in the back alleys of Afghanistan. With no noteworthy social standing, Abdul had always been subjected to mistreatment and mockery. Fed up with the disrespect faced in his home country, Abdul decided to travel to India, for he believed that the people there would warmly welcome him.

After an arduous journey which stretched a good few months, Abdul finally got to a small village in northern India. Having come across many Indian villages before, Abdul had picked up some Hindi. He had learned to put together some basic sentences to communicate with the locals.

The village where Abdul arrived was known as Gharauli. Strolling through the main market of Gharauli, Abdul came across a sweet shop that had various delicacies aligned on its counter. Abdul pointed at one of the delicacies and asked the shopkeeper by gesture as to what it was. Delighted at the sight of a customer, the shopkeeper replied, “Khaja!”

Now, khaja had two meanings in Hindi. One was the actual name of the sweet, while the other referred to the imperative form of ‘eat’. Still a novice at Hindi, Abdul was only aware of the second meaning. Thinking that the shopkeeper was offering the sweet basket to him out of the goodness of his heart, Abdul gobbled down the khaja’s, relishing every fold of the savory sweet.

Aghast at Abdul’s outrageous act, the shopkeeper demanded money in return for the now-gone sweets. However, Abdul’s limited Hindi meant that he could not make sense of the shopkeeper’s relentless yelling. Exasperated at his loss, the shopkeeper swiftly involved the local police in the matter.

In those times, there was a rather peculiar procedure to deal with petty thieves. Their head was shaved and then colored black before the thief was made to mount a donkey. They would then be shown around the village to let everyone know about their crime.

Since Abdul had been found guilty of a petty theft, he was in for the same treatment. His thick brown mane was shaved away and his head dyed black. Abdul was then made to sit on top of a donkey and taken through the village. A pair of drummers accompanied him, warning the villagers against this criminal. Sensing the commotion in the village, the villagers began following Abdul. They were mocking and insulting him. Soon, Abdul was led outside the village, following which he continued his journey back home.

Hardly had Abdul recovered from the fatigue of his long, arduous journey that his neighbors, intrigued about the treatment Abdul received in India, began inquiring about his sojourn. Delighted at this attention from his countrymen, Abdul related how warmly he was welcomed and treated in India.

He narrated how he was offered delicious sweets as soon as he entered a village. He then mentioned how he was thereafter personally greeted by the local police before being given a free hair care, which included a haircut and dye.

Listening to Abdul’s misinterpreted ramble, the donkey, who had been the sole eyewitness to the incidents Abdul was mentioning, began braying. The donkey was actually trying to refute the tall claims made by its new owner. However, no one could understand what the poor animal was trying to tell.

Abdul carried on his story. He told his fellow men that he got a free ride through the village on top of this rather motormouth donkey. He fondly remembered the train of villagers that followed him, along with the two drummers that went about announcing his arrival everywhere. He concluded that India was a really great country.

Hearing this conclusion, the donkey decided to stop wasting its energy, for it knew that regardless of Abdul’s nonsensical blabber, India was indeed a great country.

…now that you’re here

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Ananya Susarla, Folk Tale writer at Ameya

Ananya loves to both read and reinterpret folk tales from different parts of the country. Shoot her an email at ananyasusarla2915@gmail.com if you would like to know more about her.

Folk tale adopted and abridged from Story Circus.