TODAY -

The Stepmother : Mama Poktabi
- From a book by N. Bemni Singha -

James Oinam *

Mama Poktabi - Illustration by James Oinam
Mama Poktabi :: An Illustration by James Oinam



Once upon a time there lived a merchant who traded in medicines. When his daughter turned five, the merchant's wife died. The merchant married again. The stepmother pretended to be very kind and loving to the daughter when the merchant was around. But she was really a very jealous and cruel woman.

One day the merchant had to go to a distant land for few days to trade his goods. He asked his wife to take good care of their only daughter. The stepmother told the husband not to worry at all.

But as soon as the father was gone, the stepmother showed her true colours. She made the child do all the household chores from morning to night. And she scolded her when the daughter woke up late because she had been working late at night: 'You eat plate full of rice and yet you can't work a bit.'

The daughter was very beautiful and all the people in the village loved her: 'Look at the girl. She does all the household without any complaint,' the mothers would tell their daughters.

The jealous stepmother could not bear listening to praises showered by villagers on her stepdaughter any longer. She decided to kill her.

So one day, the stepmother took out some paddy from the granary to the courtyard.

'O Girl, Are you listening? Come here and help me pound this paddy,' called out the stepmother from the courtyard.

There was a large wooden pestle and mortar, and some paddy spread out on an old cloth nearby.

She was pounding the paddy put in the hole of the mortar with a long wooden pestle which had iron coated at one end.

'Push in the scattered grain into the hole,' told the stepmother.

The daughter sat near the mortar and pushed in the scattered grains into the hole with her bare hands. The stepmother waited for her opportunity. As the daughter's hand was close enough to the hole, she struck it with the iron-tipped pestle.

'O mother, my hand is hurt,' cried the girl.

'We need to finish pounding the paddy before it is dark. Use your legs,' asked the stepmother.

And so the girl pushed the displaced grains with her legs.

This time also, the cruel stepmother waited for the right time and crushed the girl's legs with the pestle.

'O mother, my legs are broken,' cried the girl.

'Stop yelling. What will the neighbours say? Push in the grains with your head. It is almost done now,' said the stepmother.

Reluctantly the girl agreed to do so.

The stepmother was waiting for this to happen. She struck the girl on the head this time. The girl fell to the ground and died.

The stepmother pretended to cry aloud. The neighbours came rushing to the house. She told them the pestle fell on her head accidentally and died. The neighbours buried the daughter.

Some days later a chilli plant came up on the cemetery where the girl was buried. People were afraid to pluck the chilli growing over a cemetery so it grew wild with lots of green and red chilli dangling on its tender branches.

The neighbours told the stepmother about the chilli plant. They said, 'When someone tried to pluck some chilli, it spoke back. "Please do not hurt me. I have not done anything wrong."' The stepmother knew it was her stepdaughter and went to the cemetery.

She cut it off with the kitchen knife and threw it away. After some days, in place of the chilli plant, a bottle gourd came up.

Again the neighbours told the stepmother about the bottle gourd. And the stepmother came back to the cemetery and cut the fruit and threw it into the river flowing near the cemetery. The bottle gourd that fell into the river now grew into a lotus plant. Beautiful lotus bloomed in the river.

The merchant father who had gone far away had completed his business. He was coming back home by the river, sailing in a boat, when he saw the beautiful lotus and reached out his hands to pluck some for his daughter.

'Please do not hurt me. I have not done anything wrong,' cried the lotus.

'That's my daughter's voice,' recognized the merchant, 'Dear child, what has happened to you? I am your father. Come back to me in your human form.'

The girl was waiting for the father to return. She took human form again and told her father everything that had happened.

They came back home together.

The father banished the stepmother from the house. When the neighbours heard how cruelly the stepmother had treated the girl, they punished her. They shaved her hair and smeared lime and turmeric colour on her head.


Source Details:

Translated from 'Mama Poktabi' story in the collected work Funga Wari, Vol. 3
Author: N. Bemni Singha
Book Illustrator: N. Nongdon Sana
Publisher: Naharol Khorjei Thaugallup Jaribon
Year of Publication: 1999




* James Oinam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at jamesoinam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on May 30, 2018.



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