The Share of the Mouse – Part I

The Warli Adivasis say that protecting and conserving Nature isn’t a selfless deed. It is, rather, the only way to protect our own future and well-being. Here is a folk tale narrated by Prof. Pradip Prabhu.

This happened so long ago that most humans have forgotten about it. But it concerns our ancestors when they wanted to plant seeds on Mother Earth.

A young couple cleared a part of the forest near their home just before the monsoons to grow some crop. After much toil, their land was ready for sowing, but they had no seeds yet. The wife told the husband, “The rains will arrive soon and we cannot wait any longer. Why don’t you go to the Gods and request them for seeds? Tell them we’ve worked hard to get everything ready. Make haste!”

Share of the mouse.

Photo sourced from traditional Warli painting

So the husband left for the land of the Gods with a spring in his step. “What brings you here young man?” the Gods asked as he came within sight. “I am looking for seeds to plant in the clearing I have made in the forest,” said the man. The Gods reminded him that they lived up in the heavens and had little to do with seeds. They apologized for not being able to help but assured him that he had a better chance of finding seeds on Earth.

He returned to Earth, a worried man, and as he walked around wondering what to do, he came across a monitor lizard. He asked the wizened old creature for advice. “Dada, since you are old and wise, you must know where I can find seeds to sow in the clearing I’ve made.” The lizard’s furrows turned deeper as he thought hard, but he replied, “Sorry young man. I live among the rocks and don’t know about seeds. Why don’t you ask my friend the crab who lives among plants?”

The man reached the water’s edge, and the crab looked up and asked what was troubling him. The man told the crab about his distress and asked if he had any seeds to spare. The crab said that he had no seeds, but he supposed the inquisitive boar who loved to dig might have some.

The man walked away in anticipation and soon heard the boar’s grunts. He told the boar of his qualms and asked if he had any seeds. The boar replied, “If you were in want of roots and tubers, I’d help you at once, but if it’s seeds, only the raja of the forest might know how to help you.”

The man began to lose hope and was more worried than ever as the rains wouldn’t wait. He made his way to the tiger and told the raja of the favour he desperately needed. The tiger said, “I wish I could be of help, but I am a hunter. However, I know the squirrel carries many seeds to her burrow. She’s sure to know.”

The man finally felt hopeful.

To be continued…

 

Traditional Warli painting. Each one a story in itself.

As narrated to Nanditha Chandraprakash

Edited by Dominic D’Cruz