The Banjaran Mother

Long long ago, somewhere in Rajasthan there lived a nomad who owned a big herd of sheep, goats and oxen. Owing to his possession of these cattle, he came to be popularly known as Lakhi Banjara (nomad with ten thousand cattle).

In those days, oxen were the most common and conventional mode of transport and Lakhi Banjara conducted business as a transporter of various good from one province to another.

Lakhi was a big businessman and lived in great opulence. Once, after having bought salt from the Samphar area, he was taking it to Sindh and expected to make a good profit. His wife, the Banjaran and Lakhi were seated on a camel’s back when they noticed a small shepherd boy looking after his sheep as they grazed on the nearby pastures. There was a pond nearby. The shepherd who was thirsty went to the edge of the pond and prostrated himself to lap up water from it. Lakhi Banjaran noticed it and promptly drew his Banjaran’s attention towards the boy saying, “See this is what is called a hereditary characteristic.” “No,” said the Banjaran, “How can it be? After all the boy is not a progeny of the cattle? It is only the impact of the company and not the inheritance.”

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“No, no”, said Lakhi Banjara, “This is now in his blood and can be termed as nothing else but a hereditary characteristic.”

“How can it go into his blood?” objected the Banjaran. “Groomed properly and given proper education he can become an able person. And he can then carry on business just as you do.”

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Lakhi Banjara was hurt at this pointed remarks: “He can transact business like me. What a brainless woman you are!” he retorted.

The Banjaran got irritated at this remark, and threw another missile. “He can not only transact business like you, but also he can become your boss as well and rule over you.”

This was too much for Lakhi Banjara. He said, “O. K. can you do this transformation in this boy by giving him your good company?”

“What not?” replied the Banjaran confidently.

“Go, then let us see how you make an able man out of this shepherd boy”, said Lakhi and helped the Banjaran to get down the camel’s back.

Leaving the Banjaran alone in the wilderness, Lakhi hastened away on his journey. The Banjaran did not despair. She gathered courage and went to the shepherd boy. The boy was taken aback when he saw a Banjaran decked heavily with gold ornaments, coming towards him. But soon his trepidation was over. In the evening the Banjaran took the boy to a nearby village market and got him some new clothes. She then bought fresh groceries and prepared good food for him.

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As time passed, the painstakingly taught him etiquette, the way of intelligent conversation, reading, writing and horse riding. Through many tales, she also made him wiser in worldly matters. He responded warmly and soon, he was a changed man. He was now able to attend the Royal Court and could get nearer high officials there. Every evening the Banjaran reviewed the happenings and gave her comments thus helping the boy grow in all possible direction.

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Once the king planned to go for a hunt. The Banjaran having come to know of it told the boy to accompany the hunt party. In a tiffin box, she packed some sweets and also gave him a container in which he could carry water. During the hunt, while chasing a deer, the king got separated from his party. The shepherd boy, however kept close behind him, when the king got thirsty and felt hungry, the boy offered him what his Banjaran mother had packed for him. At night as the king slept on the saddle of the horse, the boy kept a constant vigil as a result, the king became very pleased with him and asked him what he would like as a reward. After some hesitation, the boy said that he would consult his ‘mother’ and let the king know the next morning.

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Next morning, on the advice of his Banjaran mother the boy asked the king to allow him to serve as incharge of the toll tax. This was a very prestigious position, since any businessman who wanted to take his goods across the border had to seek permission of the incharge. Until all taxes were settled, no trader could across the border. The Banjaran instructed the boy not to allow any one to go across without consulting her.

She knew when Lakhi Banjara would cross the border check post.

Lakhi Banjara came one day. The boy consulted his mother who advised him to keep his case pending for three days. “Try to postpone the matter on one pretext or the other”, she said.

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The boy acted accordingly. Lakhi Banjara got fed up with excessive expenditure on his oxen and men. The delay for him meant loss of money. But the toll tax incharge was not bothered. On the fourth day, the Banjara went to the incharge’s house. He waited for half an hour at the gate when he was asked to enter. The incharge was seated on a high seat. Lakhi Banjara bowed down and saluted him. After two minutes when the incharge tuned towards him, Lakhi lamented, “Sir, I am suffering unprecedented loses due to non-clearance of toll tax, please accept the taxes so that I may proceed on my journey. I am losing valuable business due to this delay. I may get totally ruined if I am not given permission to cross the border immediately. While Lakhi was thus imploring a servant came in and informed that his (incharge’s) mother wanted to be there. At the door was standing the Banjaran.

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As the incharge lowered himself at her feet, Lakhi Banjara was filled with surprise and saw that it was no other but the Banjaran.

“See, this is the effect of good company. This is the same shepherd boy to whom you are begging”.

The Banjara remembered the face of the boy. He apologized to his wife who advised him to give up the cattle and the roaming profession and start some other business. Thereafter they lived happily and earned a great name and fame in the area.

The Banjaran Mother – Rajasthani Folktales

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