Shyam was getting ready to go out. He flung his nice red gamchha over his shoulder, jingled the loose change in his pocket and shouted to his mother, “Ma, I’m leaving.”
Ma came to the door of their hut, wiping the sweat off with the pallu of her sari.
She scolded him, “Are you going alone? What do I always tell you?!”
“Yes, yes, I know, Ma… Ek se bhalle do! …Ek se bhalle do… better two than one!” Quickly, he looked round, and spying a turtle struggling across the path looking for a nice cool pond, swooped onto it, tied it in his gamchha and waved at his Ma. “See? Now there’s two of us!” he chuckled. “You don’t mind, little turtle, do you? I’ll take you to a cooler spot faster than you can gobble that flower!” and whistling cheerily, he strode off. The turtle, quite content to be given a ride, settled down to sleep.
Now the sun was hot and the road was long, and soon, Shyam grew tired. He found a cool spot beneath an enormous tree, and sat down to rest, not forgetting to untie the little turtle who sat dreaming beside him, cosily tucked into his shell.
The leaves of the tree murmured, and birds cooed lazily in the distance. A cool breeze blew little eddies of dust and leaves around his toes and Shyam soon began to doze.
This tree was home to a lot of creatures, and among them a wicked duo, a snake and a crow, had teamed up and formed a terrible alliance. The snake would bite unsuspecting passers-by, and the crow would peck their eyes out. They saw the dreaming boy, heard him snoring gently, and looked at each other. Neither of them noticed the tortoise. Then, quick as a cricket, the snake bared his fangs and bit the boy who yelped in surprise, and fell unconscious.
The crow cawed gleefully, and hopped up, getting ready to peck his eyes out. Closer and closer he hopped, cautious still in case the boy stirred. He stood beside the boy, cocking his head, inspecting Shyam with his beady eyes, and hopped a little closer when “SQuawwwkkkk-K!” The turtle had caught his throat in an iron grip and, through clenched jaws addressed the snake and said, “Mr. Naag, take back your poison or your friend is dead. This is my friend. He has helped me and I’m not going to let him come to any harm. You can’t do a thing to me. My shell is much too hard!”
Alarmed, the snake hastily took back his poison and fled before he was next. The turtle released the crow as soon as Shyam sat up. I don’t suppose crows taste too good! The turtle spat out a feather or two and told the boy what had happened as the crow flew off, croaking. The grateful boy made sure he found the best pond in the area, said goodbye to the turtle and trotted back home, none the worse for wear. He had had quite enough adventure for one day.
Undoubtedly, better two than one!
Story told by: Hareram Mukhia ,Uchhti village, district Darbhanga.
Collected from: Mother (to illustrate her timely advice)
Written by: Shaiontoni Bose