There is a myth, at least there was in the times gone by, when my mother was a girl. It is that women do not suffer from the curse of flatulence. She told me this story. In a Goan village, many years ago, folks lived in harmony. There lived amongst them two families who had two sons of marriageable ages. Both of them, it was said, were born on the same day, same time right down to the exact moment of birth. Duly, and dutifully too, their parents arranged their marriages. Their respective wives also had striking resemblance to one another. So striking was their likeness that newcomers to that village believed that they were sisters.
However, the outer similarities did not bespeak of their inner make up and their characters. While one was sweet, the other was bitter; one the very embodiment of womanhood, the other had flaws in her nature not quite in keeping with the norms of feminine temperament. But there was no discord between either because of or in spite of their contrasting natures. In fact, both the girls soon won the trust and affection of all elders in the village.
One day there was a function in one house hold. The newlywed bride (the sweet one) was so adept at all the household work that not only did she help arrangements but cooked, it was said, a meal most delicious. Just as the men folk were busy satiating their appetites, the girl had an irrepressible urge to release pent up intestinal gasses. The girl panicked, for to let go in a hall full of people, all men at that, was the most horrifying predicament. She excused herself and rushed into the confines of a suitable antechamber, but alas! It was a tad late. All heard the most embarrassing sound enhanced by the concentrated quiet of the lunch hour and knew at once its producer. The poor girl ran right out of the dining hall through the passage out into the back yard where the well was. Not looking behind, she rushed on and jumped straight into the well overcome with shame.
In no time she drowned and her soul went directly to heaven. There, in heaven, Indra, the god of thunder was presiding. The celestial court was in session! The guards tried to hold the newly dead girl when she rushed to fall at the Gods lotus feet. The ensuing commotion interrupted the court proceedings. Looking at the lovely girl, puzzled by her young age, Indra asked Chitragupta, the Divine bookkeeper, the cause of her death. Chitragupta told Indra what had happened. He felt sorry that a young girl, in prime of her youth, was overcome with shame because of flatulence. He sent summons to the King of gas, Vayu who presented himself before Indra with folded hands. Indra, revealed the reason for his summons and ordered him never to inflict women. “From now on no woman will entertain you!” said Indra. Vayu accepted the command, and retreated with his Godly dignity.
Indra turned to the girl and smiled. “There!”, he said, :” From now on all women will live a long life bereft of the ignominy and shame of flatulence.” Then he called his treasurer, Kubera, and asked him to bedeck the girl with his priceless ‘abhushanas’ and asked Yama, Death, to bring her back to life and her homestead. Then he blessed the girl and bid her leave.
Down below, on earth, there was commotion near the well. The husband of the girl had jumped into the well. He had dived to look for her body many times but had failed. He dived again. This time, he touched something. So he quickly grabbed it. It was her arm and he pulled her out. The girl was resuscitated and brought home to rest after this tense incident.
Next morning, as though nothing at all had happened, the girl set about her chores. She went to the well to fetch water. There, all the women had gathered. They were restive, dying to know how the girl had managed to not only survive, but how she had come up with such exquisite ornaments of diamonds and gold. They had noticed the dangling diamonds dazzling her face. They all rushed to her with the other girl leading (the bitter one). She was the most curious of them all!
“What happened? Where did you get this? Is there gold at the bottom of the well? – There was a barrage of questions from the curious ladies.The girl calmly told her unbelievable story. No one believed her. They thought that the girl was fibbing in order to avoid telling them the truth. No one believed her, except her neighbour. They both knew each other well enough to know when the other was telling a lie.
After filling their pots the women dispersed. The other girl was thoughtful. She also wanted the diamonds and decided upon a plan. Soon enough an opportunity presented itself. The girl cooked many dishes, all with gas inducing ingredients. Before lunch the girl, with the pretext of tasting the dishes consumed much food. Her belly was tight! She tried hard to release the gas, but in vain! She ate more, and more; tried harder. She kept on trying to fart but it was not to be.
Vayu was a faithful ally of Indra, the king of gods. The girl was getting sadder by the minute, but something happened. Just as she bent to serve her father-in-law, a faintest of farts escaped her. She was elated! She rushed to the well and jumped. She died instantly. Yama’s aides were waiting for her. They escorted her to Indra’s court. Before Indra could ask, the girl putting on a great show of shame and grief told Indra why she had committed suicide at such a young age. He sent for Vayu. His guards returned with the news that Vayu was hospitalized with high fever and inexplicable but severe injuries to his whole body. Indra arranged to visit him with his retinue accompanying him and the girl. Vayu looked very badly hurt. Indra, moved to pity restored Vayu to some semblance of health and asked him what the reason was for breaching his trust.
Vayu sat up with difficulty and told Indra how the girl had coerced him. He told how he had resisted, pointing to his wounds and sobbed uncontrollably. Indra put his hand on Vayu and restored him to full health. They returned to court. He called in Kuber and fired an angry order, “Go at once and fashion ornaments in lead and iron. Don’t waste time designing things of beauty. A token embellishment would do fine!”
When heavy ornaments in lead and iron were brought to court and the girl bedecked with them, Indra said, “Go now back to mortality and toil there till such a time as death does not relieve you!” Quietly Indra’s guard accompanied the girl, deep into the cold waters of the well in the village.
Indra revoked the orders given to Vayu and said, Vayu, my dear friend and ally; I am pleased with your devotion. From today you are free to inflict any stomach that you deem worthy of your grace!” Vayu smiled at his Divine master. He saluted Indra and took his leave.
STORY COLLECTED BY: Vidya Kamat
STORY TOLD BY