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Sherani Folktales

A Hard Master Outwitted

This story, which is set out in coarse detail in the original, is an interesting local variant of the well-known type of the contest between a crafty master (or mistress) and craftier servant.

There were two Shirani boys, brothers, who lived and laboured together. They grew on bad terms with each other, and there-fore separated. One of them applied to a certain person for employment, and was engaged for five rupees a month and his daily food, but with the following conditions :

  1. The platter on which he was served with food must be returned to the master still completely covered with food, without a single empty space.
  2. Should the servant fail in his work and refuse to do it, the master would slit his nose; similarly, if the master refused to give the servant work, the latter would slit the master's nose.

The servant agreed to these conditions, and on the first day was sent with sheep to. graze. On his return in the evening he was given his food on a platter. He thought that, if he cut a single piece of it, the platter would be bare at some spot, and consequently he ate nothing. Three days passed thus, without his taking any food whatever, and at last he was compelled to give up work and allow the master to slit his nose. The master did so, and dismissed him. He returned to his brother and told him all that had happened.

The brother, who was somewhat the wiser of the twain, told him that he in turn would accept the employment and seek vengeance. He went to the same person and asked for service, and was engaged on the same terms. When the food was given to him on a platter, he took out a good knife and divided the food so cleverly that he could eat all the top portion, while leaving a very thin covering of food which still concealed all the platter. The master then knew the new servant was wise, and would not fail in his bargain.

Next day he was sent to plough the land. He did little or no work, and on his return killed the plough-bullocks. When his master asked why he had done this, he replied that the bullocks could not work properly, and that therefore it was useless to allow such cattle to live any longer. The master then sent him out with the master's son, to take care of the latter while he played. But the servant tormented him. One night the boy awoke and desired to go out, and the master ordered the servant to take him out. But the servant tormented him, so that he returned and went to bed. After a while the son asked his father to go out with him, but the servant was again directed to go with him and treated him as before. Again and again the son asked his father to take him out, but the servant was ordered to drag him out as he was troublesome.

The servant then treated the boy so roughly that he died. The master began to reproach the servant, who replied that he had only obeyed orders. The master could say nothing, but lamented that first he had lost his wife and now his son, and he determined to marry again. So he ordered the servant to search for a suitable bride.

The servant betrothed his master at random, and on the date fixed for the marriage the procession started. The servant informed the father of the bride beforehand that, as his master had got many enemies, his bed should be removed to the seventh (inner) room, and that the food prepared for him should consist half of salt and half of wheaten flour. The bride's father did accordingly. When the master began to eat, he complained that the food was all salt, but he was assured (by the servant) that such was the family custom, and that on this first day such food must be eaten.

After taking some food the master retired to the seventh room, and the door was locked outside, the servant being with him in the room. As the master had eaten so much salt, he became ill, but could not leave the room.... [Next morning the servant held him up to disgrace before the assembled people], and the master, ashamed, made a hole in the wall and escaped. The servant followed him, and the master, enraged at what had happened, dismissed him. The servant, according to the agreement, slit his nose, so avenging his brother, and then left him. Tit for tat!

Source: Sir Lucas King., Sherani Folktales