Once there was a wizened old jogi who lived in a forest. He was very virtuous and kind, and there was no soul who received any harm on account of him. One day it so happened that a party of jogis was chasing a cobra in the forest. Fleeing before his hunters, the cobra came to the old jogi to seek refuge with him and said “A party of jogis is chasing me. Please find a way to hide me.” The jogi asked, “Where can I hide a big, giant snake like you?” The snake replied, “Open your mouth wide and I will go inside your belly. Once those searching for me are gone, I will come out.” The kind jogi trusted the snake’s word. He opened his mouth and the cobra went inside his belly.
The jogis chasing the cobra searched around, and went away when they could not find the snake. The cobra was feeling very cool and comfortable inside the jogi’s belly and did not come out. And the belly grew day by day but the cobra forgot all about his promise and remained inside.
One day the jogi was fast asleep and his mouth was wide open. Deciding to enjoy some fresh air, the cobra extended his head from the jogi’s mouth. It so happened that a cat was sitting close-by, and seeing the cobra’s head protrude out of the jogi’s mouth, she crept near stealthily. Striking like lightning, the cat caught the cobra’s head in her mouth and pulled him out whole. With her sharp claws she killed the cobra in no time.
The jogi had now awakened. Seeing the cobra lying he dead highly commended the cat, and said, “Mother Cat, from today onwards you shall be the snake’s enemy. I grant you the freedom. Now you should leave the forest and go and live among humans. Everyone shall eat your leavings and what you jump over no one will eat.*”
Hearing these words, the cat prepared to depart to live among the humans. At the time of departure the jogi stroked the cat and as the fingers of his fingers were smeared with black colour, the cat’s fur was marked with black lines running across its body. From that day every cat has carried a black line and every cat is an enemy of the snake.
(*The jogi with his blessing effectively raised the cat’s status to that of a person. An animal’s leftovers are not fit to be eaten, but a person’s leftovers can be eaten. In Sindh, if a person crosses over or jumps over food it is deemed unfit for human consumption, but it can be eaten if an animal has jumped over it.)
(Translated from the Sindhi by Musharraf Ali Farooqi)
STORY COLLECTED BY: Musharraf Ali Farooqi
STORY TOLD BY: Muhammad Soomar Sheikh of taluka Badin in Lower Sindh
LOCATION: Sindh, Pakistan