In a small village, there lived a man named Kachak Roy with his wife, Sampari. The couple had no children.
Sampari would work all day, tending their jhum fields and doing all the household chores. Meanwhile, Kachak spent his time drinking the local brew. Short-tempered and irritable, he never let go of an opportunity to belittle her. Even so, Sampari loved him and managed to run the house all on her own.
After a long wait, the couple was blessed with a baby boy. Sampari began spending most of her time taking care of her child.
Sampari spent long hours in fields during the jhum cultivation season. Every day, she left home early in the morning and came back late in the evening. While she was away, Kachak took care of the child.
One morning, a black cat crossed Sampari’s way as she was headed to the jhum fields early in the morning. Believing it to be a bad omen, Sampari started feeling restless. She shared her concerns with her husband and asked him to take extra care of the baby.
After she left home, Kachak began playing his flute. Soon, he was so engrossed in the flute’s melody that he totally forgot about the baby. Since they lived near a thick forest, wild animals often roamed around their house. From a thick bush facing their house, a bear observed the boy playing all by himself. It sneaked into the house and took the boy away.
Completely immersed in playing the flute, Kachak didn’t even notice the missing baby. In the evening, Sampari came back home after a hard day’s work in the fields. When she walked over to the boy’s cradle to feed him, she realized that he was gone.
Kachak couldn’t answer her questions about the baby’s whereabouts. The inconsolable Sampari cursed her husband to be born as a bird in his next life.
‘You will have a long beak and a harsh, coarse voice. You will also feed the mother bird all day while she sits on the eggs to hatch.’
Sampari left the house in search of her baby in the thick woods. Unfortunately, she never made it back. From that day, female hornbills began incubating their eggs. Male hornbills spend the day collecting food until their offspring learn to fly.
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Kalai is passionate about reading and reinterpreting folk tales from all over the country. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org to know more about her.
Folk tale adopted and abridged from Tribal Folk Tales of Tripura by D.K. Tyagi.