Once upon a time, there lived a barber called Daapan in a village in Kashmir. He was as poor as a church mouse. He owned a small shop and barely managed to buy two square meals for his mother and himself. One day, he overheard his customers sharing a story about a beast, who could fulfill the wishes of its master. The beast went by the name of Yaach. However, the customer added that, in order to capture the Yaach, one would have to make off with its cap. The customer also stated that Yaach was last spotted by the riverbank.
Daapan returned home that night and narrated the whole incident to his mother. His mother was an old lady, who had been rich back in the day, but had soon plunged into debt due to her husband’s extravagant lifestyle. After hearing Daapan out, she exclaimed that she had heard something similar in her childhood. She said that the Yaach’s cap had to be kept under a jar of water or a mortar and pestle in order to keep it safe. Unable to sleep, he kept tossing and turning in bed all night. The next morning, he had already made his mind to capture the Yaach.
A day later, he went to the riverside and stood the entire day like a scarecrow, with a basket of fish in his hand. However, his efforts did not bear fruit. The following day, he tried the same with a plate of lentils, but to no avail. Finally, that very night, he stood by the river with a bowl of khyecher. The Yaach soon emerged out of the river and began devouring the dish. Daapan stealthily went behind the beast and stole his cap. The mighty beast was now his slave.
Daapan soon became the richest man in the village. He no longer ran the barber’s shop. Now his mother and he could have anything they wished for. They began leading a lavish life. However, amidst his newfound riches, the cap completely slipped his mind.
One day, he went out of the village to see a friend. The Yaach decided to make the most of the opportunity and went to see Daapan’s mother.
The Yaach pleaded with Daapan’s mother to return his cap. The old lady blatantly refused. The Yaach protested by saying that they had amassed enough wealth to ensure an affluent lifestyle for many generations to come. The beast added that it was about time he returned to his family. Convinced by the arguments put forth by him, Daapan’s mother acceded to his request and returned his cap. Daapan came back that evening and was shocked out of his wits when his mother told him what had happened behind his back.
Over the next year or so, Daapan lost all of his riches due to his own ignorance. He was forced to reopen the barber’s shop and had to work day and night to feed his old mother. One day, when Daapan was walking back home late at night, he saw a demon on the road. The demon noticed Daapan and advanced toward him to devour him. Faced with certain death, Daapan immediately pulled out the amulet that his friend had gifted him. With the tables turned on him, the petrified demon asked Daapan to release him. In return for his freedom, the demon handed him a treasure full of riches. Pleased by that stroke of luck, Daapan returned home a happy man.
Soon, rumors about his mysterious riches spread like wildfire. People grew skeptical about his story. They despised and slandered him. Finally, the village sarpanch decided to verify his claim. They sent the sarpanch’s son with him and asked Daapan to summon the demon again. Daapan and the sarpanch’s son went to riverbank and sat on a tree.
Luckily, the demon was feasting with his friends that night. The demon noticed Daapan with another man. Fearing that his previous master had brought allies to recapture him, the demon disappeared into the hills.
Daapan and the sarpanch’s son descended from the tree and distributed the riches equally. That night, Daapan thanked his stars. After all, they had begun to align for him once again.
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Ananya both loves to read and reinterpret folk tales from different parts of the country. Feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to know more about her.