Veerawamy Krishnaraj

Indian Python known to swallow small animalsThere lived in Murungur a beautiful nuclear family with two siblings, a ten-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy. The girl shadowed her mother everywhere, when she was not in the school. The boy tagged along behind his father whenever and wherever he went on a work schedule. The parents called the girl Ponnu because she had a golden complexion and the boy Mannu because he was of earthen color. With the arrival of Mannu, Ponnu became his surrogate mother. She carried him on her waist, fed him cereals, pureed vegetables and fruits and changed his rag-diapers.  (This is a common sight in towns and villages that the older sibling becomes the surrogate mother for the younger sibling.)
The parents were laborers with generous annual salary from a Miracutar. They worked hard and lived comfortably.  The Miracutar owned a large of tract of land, paid for building their humble hut, and took care of their medical bills and education of their children.  The Miracutar’s widowed sisters took care of the daily needs of the family and the laborers. They made nutritious porridge called Kuz for the noon meals of the laborers. They were on their own for breakfast and supper.  The laborers had an enormous appetite and ate enough to last more than a day.  (Kuz = 
கூழ் = Thick gruel, porridge, semiliquid food made of Ragi (cereal, Eleusinecoracana)
மிராசுதார் mirācu-tār = Land-owner having absolute rights.
The Miracutar’s house was huge with a central space open to the sky and covered with a grill to prevent birds and feral cats from entering the house. There were rooms opening into the open courtyard from all around. There was a concrete staircase winding its way to an open flat roof, which they used for drying the harvested peanuts and grains.  A guard with a bamboo stick sat on the roof guarding the peanuts so the thieving greedy monkeys with bulging cheek pouches and parrots would not sit down for a free lunch. The workers spread a big tent-net over the roof so the guard could stop watching the marauding monkeys and work more productively elsewhere.  
The laborers flocked to the Miracutar for his generous benefit package.  That made niggardly others jealous of the Miracutar.
Whenever there was a religious festival or marriage in the family, the laborers received open invitation to attend and celebrate the events. They ate what others ate; they sat where they wanted. That day was a welcome relief from the daily lunchtime Kuz they used to eat as laborers.
The parents of Ponnu and Mannu lived on the edge of the village adjoining a forest. They called their part of the village cēri (
சேரி= Permanent labor colony).  It was common for the Cēri laborers to lose their livestock and chickens to the marauding foxes and an occasional Indian Python. The python visits happened once in a few months, but the foxes trotted through the village almost daily in the dead of night.
The Miracutar’s livestock were quartered in enclosed pens with high walls and sturdy gates. There were pens for sheep, cows... The poor bulls were in the open. They gave warnings to other animals of the unneighborly fox sniffing around in the moonless night with a lolling tongue and salivating mouth. They usually formed a circle with their tails in the center and their heads at the border. This ploy they learned from experience. They had a reputation to take on the individual fox with their horns and fling it like a ragged doll.  No one knew how they would handle a pack.
The buffaloes had no fear of the fox and charged it with reckless abandon. Mannu was exploratory by nature. When his sister was not watching, he wandered off deep into the forest and traced his steps back with a homing device known only to him. His parents and sister always worried about a possible fatal encounter with a fox or the infamous python.
During one of his expeditions, he came face-to-face with the python.  He stood stunned and motionless looking at the python in endless coils and its head and face few feet off the ground. The snake appeared bloated, probably from a recent meal. It could be the bulge from a clutch of eggs.

As he stood there oblivious of the imminent danger, the python spoke in Pythonese. Mannu understood every word of the python. He was in his previous life a python and Pythonese was not a strange tongue for him.
Python: “Howdy Mannu. Long time no see, no hear, no nothing. What brings you to my neck of the woods?”
Mannu: “How do you know my name?”
Python: “I heard your sister Ponnu call you, Mannu.”
Mannu: “Do you have any design to choke and gulp me down as your food?”
Python: “No, definitely not. I like you. Besides, I do not relish human flesh.”
Mannu: “I never thought you relished your food. You just swallowed it. ”
Python: “Let us change the subject. I was a Muni (sage) in my previous life and your great, great-uncle. I lived in this forest. I had a pet ram with me. One day, when I took my ritual ablutions in the lake, a humongous python came after me, wrapped itself around me and tried to choke me. Luckily, I shoved the ram into his cavernous mouth and escaped with my life and limbs. Rammed in behind the python’s back-curving teeth, the animal flung a curse on me, ‘You will be a python in your next life.’ That is my story.”
Mannu: “Thanks Great-uncle, for not eating me. It is time for me to go home. My parents and sister are, I am sure, looking for me everywhere.”
Python: “My grandnephew, you are welcome. Let me do you a favor. You hold on to my tail and walk behind me. I leave you at the edge of the forest. Keep this meeting and conversation between us a secret.”
Mannu held the tail; soon he was tired of holding the heavy tail.
Mannu: "Uncle, your tail is so heavy; I just simply cannot hold it."
Python: "That is fine; you can let go of my tail and just walk behind me."
As Mannu was walking behind the python, the amused animals lined up far away on either side of squiggly wiggly python and watched the boy walking behind the snake with no fear. They did not know they were related to each other in the previous lives. They would not go near the python, because they knew of their siblings gobbled up by the python.  The animals nipped the tail of the snake but never had the courage to face it. The animals cheered the boy on, as he dipsy-doodled behind the snake.
The snake and Mannu reached the edge of the forest and it was time to bid goodbye to the snake. As a memento of its meeting with his grandnephew and a parting gift, the python gave the boy a Red Ruby, which he hid in a secret place. The ruby had Mannu’s name engraved on it so no one would blame him for a thief and claim it.
When he grew up to be an adult, he took the Red Ruby to the Department of Registration, Authentication and Documentation to receive a certificate of ownership. The officials saw the Ruby and his name etched on it by laser. Mannu showed his ID papers. They wondered how a poor boy could have a Ruby of value with his name on it. The officials took the Ruby to the director of the department and sought his opinion. The director could not find any one with the same name (Mannu) and there was no record of a citizen's complaint of a missing Ruby. The officials demanded a person other than immediate family to corroborate the veracity of his statement. Mannu was in a quandary.
He obtained an official note and photograph of the Ruby with his name on it he brought the Ruby to the officials. As he was walking out of the office premises, an elderly man approached Mannu and asked him why he looked worried.
Mannu: Yes, I am worried. You are a stranger. How could I trust you with my problem?
Stranger: You are right not trusting strangers. But I am not a stranger to you. I am the same Great Uncle, you met in the forest as python. Only you and I know of our tryst in the forest. You probably know that I am capable of transfiguration.
Mannu: Thank you, Great Uncle. You are God-sent. I have a problem getting documentation of ownership of the Red Ruby, you gave.
Stranger: Don't worry, I will take care.
Mannu and the stranger went to the office. The clerks, officials, and the director received the stranger with welcome hands. What is going on here? So wondered Mannu. He understood that the stranger was known to them. He was a frequent visitor documenting his diamonds and jewels.
Director: Hello Mr. Mannan, what can I do for you today.
Mannan standing with Mannu: Mannu once saved my life from a raging bull by shutting the gate right on time. For that help, I gave him the Red Ruby with his name etched by laser.
Director: Thank you Mr. Mannan for that information. We will immediate issue a certificate of ownership to Mr. Mannu.
The certificate was issued to Mannu promptly. As they left the office, one turn by Mannu, he lost Mannan from his sight. Mannu made copies of his certificate and put the original in the bank vault. Mannu wondered how to make money out of this possession. He lent the Red Ruby to Motion Picture Financiers, who made motion pictures with the Red Ruby as the title of their pictures. Every motion picture sequel with the Ruby theme was a box office hit.
Mannu moved into town, married a wealthy girl and lived off the rental fees from the Red Ruby.
To be continued. Follow the Red Ruby.

                                                   All rights reserved. March 4, 2013 Veeraswamy Krishnaraj