Ondaa was an extremely poor man who lived in the Sualkuchi village along with his wife and a daughter. In order to support his family, every morning he would go to different places to collect alms.
One day, Ondaa wandered a bit too far in search of some offerings. The sun had gone down and Ondaa was still far from home. He came across a cemetery while walking through the dense forest. It was Amavasya, the new-moon day. The wind made eerie sounds as it went past trees, rustling every leaf along the way. The spooky sight of the cemetery sent chills down Ondaa’s spine. But he didn’t really have much choice. The thought of his wife and daughter waiting for him filled him with courage and he decided to pass through the cemetery.
Meanwhile, the ghosts of the cemetery were in the middle of a kitty party. From rotten-heart bhurji to cooled eyeballs, there were all kinds of ghostly, rather ghastly, delicacies that were being feasted on by the apparitions. The pulwai, or the tiny ghosts, were hopping around the peepal trees, chasing each other. The Taapate, a renowned violinist in the phantom world, was playing a violin whose strings were made of a corpse’s hair and the bow of the corpse’s bones. The elder ghosts were chit-chatting with each other. Bordoisila, the female storm spirit of April, was sharing her plight as she had to visit her husband’s home.
As she shared her story, Ondaa stepped into the cemetery. The ghosts were instantly incensed by the nerve of that foolish mortal being. How dare a human be so insolent as to interrupt the talks of the all-powerful ghosts?! The wind around the cemetery began to pick up pace, so much so that it threw Ondaa off his feet.
Dhamm! Ondaa fell hard on the ground. He knew he had no choice but to pass the cemetery. He summoned all of his courage and shouted at the top his lungs, “Who are all of you? Have you not heard of the almighty Ondaa?! Muk juui taapate de?! (Let me sit near the fire)”. Saying so, he swung the stick in his hand aimlessly.
Hearing him, the ghosts were terrified. They all bowed and cleared the way for him. Moreover, hearing the word “Taapate”, the violinist dropped her instrument and hurried in front of Ondaa. As she stood before him, she said in her cracked voice, “Oh mighty Ondaa, how can this lowly ghost serve you?”
“Serve me? First pay back the loan that you took from me seven years ago…” Ondaa responded in an agitated voice.
“Sir, I do not remember taking any loan from you…” Taapate replied in a humble tone.
“So… you mean to say that the almighty Ondaa is lying?” said Ondaa angrily.
“Nnnn… no… no… not at all sir. If you say so, then I must have taken the loan. Kindly tell me how much must I pay back?” said Taapate as she stuttered with fear.
“Hmmm… Let’s see. By tomorrow morning, you will have to fill the seven pots hanging by the pole that is attached to my ceiling. If you fail to do so, I will beat you so hard that your fellow beings won’t be able to recognize you!” saying so, Ondaa began hitting the ground frantically with the stick.
“Yes… yes I will surely do that.”
After handing his address to her, Ondaa returned back home. As soon as he entered his house, he took seven pots, cracked open their base and hung them by the pole attached to the ceiling. That night, Ondaa’s family slept in the innermost room as he sat below the pots awaiting the arrival of the ghosts.
Soon, Taapate came with all the gold coins she had and began filling the pots. But the hollow pots could barely hold a dime. As Taapate poured and poured the coins into the pots, the coins fell onto the ground until it reached the level of the pots. As dawn was about to break, the sunlight began scorching Taapate. She pleaded, “Oh mighty Ondaa, this is all the wealth that I own. I have no more coins with me. Please be kind to me and let me go…”
“I am very much impressed by your obedience, so I’ll let you go” answered Ondaa.
“Thank you, oh mighty Ondaa, thank you, oh kind Ondaa” saying so, Taapate fled from Ondaa’s house. After all the wealth they had received, Ondaa and his family were no longer forced to lead a life of penury and lived happily ever after.
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Ananya both loves to read and rephrase 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.
Folk tale adopted and paraphrased from Nezine.