Created from Balochi Folktales by Fazal Baloch
Once there lived a man who had three sons. He buried three pitchers full of gold coins in his home. Beside the gold coins he put a pearl into each pitcher. He was too old and eventually passed away. His sons knew about the pitchers. One day, thinking that his brothers were unaware of all the contents, the youngest son secretly stole a pearl from one of the pitchers.
Sometime after their father’s death, the sons decided to distribute their paternal inheritance amongst themselves. When they opened the pitchers, they found one pearl missing. “There must be a thief among us. Father must have distributed the wealth equally,” said the eldest brother. But all of them declared, they had not seen the pearl. At last, they decided to take the matter up with the king.
On their way to the palace, they noticed some footprints on the road. “It must be a woman”, said the eldest brother.
“She must have left her house after a quarrel,” said the middle brother.
“And she must be pregnant”, concluded the youngest brother.
After having covered some distance, they heard a man shouting behind. The man drew close and inquired if they had seen someone around. “Is she a woman?” asked the elder brother.
“Yes, she is,” replied the man.
“Did she leave her house in anger?” Asked the middle brother.
“Yes, she did,” so came the man’s reply.
“Is she pregnant?” asked the youngest brother.
“You are absolutely right. She is pregnant”
“We don’t have any idea where your wife has gone,” they told the man.
The man was shocked. “You know everything about my wife, you must have seen her.”
He warned them that he would drag them to the king’s court. As they were already on their way to the king’s court, they were willing to take up this issue too.
After covering some distance, they came across the footprints of a camel.
“I think there is honey in the basket the camel is carrying on its back,” remarked the eldest brother.
“I think the camel is pregnant.” So guessed the middle brother.
“I believe she is blind in one eye,” said the youngest brother.
In the meantime, a man came up to them and asked them if they had seen a camel.
“Is your camel carrying honey in a basket?”
“Yes, she is,” replied the man.
“Is your camel pregnant?” asked the younger brother.
“Of course, she is,” retorted the man.
“Is she blind in one eye?” asked the youngest brother.
“Yes indeed”, said the man.
“We haven’t seen your camel. Go and search for her yourself,” they told the man.
“How come you know each and every thing about the camel unless you have seen her? You must have stolen my camel.” He warned them that if they did not tell him the truth, he would drag them to the king’s court. As they were already on their way to the king’s court, they agreed to resolve this issue too there.
At the king’s court, the three brothers told the king the purpose of their visit and so did the two men. The king decided to give a hearing to the three brothers though it was late in the evening. At first, he turned to the eldest brother and asked him how he managed to identify the woman’s footprint. He replied: “A woman has a peculiar seating style on the ground. From the marks she left on the ground I assumed that was a woman”.
Then the king asked the middle brother that how he conjectured that the woman was pregnant. He replied: “I noticed the marks of her palms on the ground. She put her hands on the ground to stand up on her feet. I assumed she was pregnant as a pregnant woman always needs support to get up on her feet.”
Then the king turned to the youngest brother and asked him that how he concluded that the woman had left her house after a quarrel. He responded: “From her footprints, it was evident that after every few steps she turned back to see if somebody was following her. Hence, I speculated that she had left her house in rage.”
The king told the man that those three brothers possessed enormous wealth of wisdom and they asked him questions about his wife on the basis of their insight. He thus concluded that they were not the culprits.
Then the king asked the three brothers how they could precisely describe the features of the camel even without seeing it. The eldest brother said: “I noticed bees were buzzing on drops of honey along the track. Thus, I conjectured that the camel was carrying honey in the in a basket”.
The middle brother said: “I observed the branches of the trees along one side of the track were nibbled while the same on the other side remained untouched. Hence I concluded she was blind in one eye”.
The youngest brother, who had surmised the camel was pregnant, said: “A pregnant camel always has a frequent urge to urinate, and I noticed she had urinated at many spots. Thence, I concluded accordingly that the camel was pregnant”.
The man as well as the king were struck by the wisdom and insight of the three brothers. The king told the man to leave the palace and search for his camel.
Then the three brothers requested the king to help them settle their own dispute. The king kept quiet for a while and then said that his daughters would sort that one out. The king had three daughters, and each was wiser and more sagacious than the other. Thus, he put forth the details before his daughters. The eldest daughter said before identifying the thief she would want to determine how wise and shrewd they were.
She sent a messenger to the three brothers to ask them that what would they like to be served at dinner. They said that they wanted to be served pulao with meat. The food was prepared accordingly. The princess sat beside them. When they were done with the food, she asked them if they liked the food.
The eldest brother replied: “It was not too bad”. After a pause he continued, “The meat tasted like that of a dog.” The princess was taken aback. Without saying any word, she got up and strolled out.
She summoned the shepherd and asked him about the very goat. In reply the shepherd said, “At the time of birth, its mother eventually died, and I had it suckled from a bitch”.
Upon hearing this, the princess thought that she might not be able to tackle their problem. Hence, she informed the king that she couldn’t identify the thief.
Thenceforth, the king entrusted the task to the second daughter to detect the thief. She prepared food for them and sent seven loaves, seven pieces of meat and purified butter. She conveyed a message in an encoded language meant for the three brothers: “Seven worlds, with seven stars while the sky is covered with haze.” Midway through, the maidservant ate two loaves and the whole meat and the purified butter and handed over the reminder to the three brothers. She conveyed them princess message as well.
They ate food and asked the maidservant to convey their good wishes and kind regards to the princess. Moreover, they asked her to tell the princess that there were five skies, all clear and without stars. Upon hearing their message, the princess scolded the maidservant and asked her why she had consumed two of the loaves and the entire meat and purified butter meant for the brothers. The princess proceeded to the king and told him that the three brothers were amazingly clever and wise, and it was quite difficult for her to identify the thief among them.
Next day the three brothers went to the king’s court, The king was sitting with his youngest daughter, viziers, emirs and emissaries. The youngest princess turned to the three brothers and addressed them:
“Before trying to identify the thief, let tell me you a tale. The tale goes thus:
“Once the daughter of a certain king was roaming about the garden. The gardener presented her some flowers. The princess asked him what she wanted in return. The gardener replied that he harboured no greed or lust in his heart. He just wanted her to pay him a visit before she would see her husband on her wedding night. The surprised princess looked at the gardener and after a little pause she said that she would surely see him.”
The princess continued, “On her wedding night she told her husband about the promise had made to the gardener and expressed her desire to see him to keep her word. The husband generously granted her permission, and she took the route to the garden. On her way she ran into a thief. He held her hand and told her that he would not let her go unless she gave him all her jewels. The princes pleaded with him that she was on her way to fulfil a promise, and if he would allow her to proceed, she would come back to see him. The thief too granted her permission and waited for her return.
“The princess visited the gardener and told him that she had come to keep her promise. The gardener showered her with prayers and good wishes for keeping her words. He gave her two gold coins as a gift and saw her off with affection.
“The princess made it back to the thief and told him to do whatever he liked to. The thief said that he would never think of robbing someone who kept their words. The princess at last made it back to her bridal chamber where the groom was waiting for her.”
The king, viziers, emirs and emissaries all attentively listened to the tale. When the princess finished the tale, she turned to the three brothers and asked them a question: “Of the three characters of this tale — the bride, the thief and the gardener, who do you think deserves appreciations the most?”
The eldest brother replied: “I think the bridegroom played the significant role in the tale by allowing his newly-wed bride to visit the gardener to keep her promise.”
The middle brother said: “I believe the gardener deserves eulogies as he gifted the princess two gold coins for honouring her promise.”
The youngest brother said: “I think thief’s role is duly praiseworthy because he refused to rob the princess bedecked with costly ornaments.”
After hearing the answers, the princess turned to the king and addressed him thus: “The thief has been identified. The eldest brother is a dignified and well-mannered man. He can never think of stealing something. The middle brother is a decent man with a kind heart. It is the youngest brother who committed the theft. He is obsessed with wealth and riches that is why he praised the thief. His words mirror his mind.”
(This is an assorted version of two Balochi folk tales “Barin Dozz Ke Beet” retold by Ghulam Jan Nawab and “Qeemati Gohar” retold by Wahid Bux Buzdar in Urdu from Shay Ragam’s Balochi version. These two tales are included in “Cher Andaren Neki” by Ghulam Jan Nawab and “Balochi Lok Kahaniyan by Wahid Bux Buzdar.)
Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated many Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters and in the form of books and anthologies.
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