Old Couple Plants Taro :: Hanuba-hanubi paan thaba
Fungawari Singbul by B. Jayantakumar Sharma

Translation by Akham Gautam Singh *

 Hanuba-hanubi paan thaba
An illustration of Folk tale 'Hanuba-hanubi paan thaba' by Akham Gautam Singh

A long time ago, there was an old and childless couple who lived quietly in their home. In the dense jungle near their house, there lived a troupe of monkeys. Since the old couple had no children or grandchildren, they became to consider the monkeys to be their own children and grandchildren and loved them as such.

One day, as the old couple was planting taro in their garden, the monkeys came. One of them asked, "Grandpa! Grandma! What are you planting?" "Children, we are planting taro." the old man replied to which one of the monkeys said, "That is no way to plant taro! Here, let me tell you how." and started teaching them.

"Grandpa, Grandma! To plant taro, you have to select nice and round taro pieces, peel them thoroughly, put them in a cauldron, cover it up with seven banana leaves and boil them till they are cooked. After that, wrap the boiled taro piece by piece in banana leaves and tie them up firmly with strings so that they do not open up. And then, plant them deep in the ground individually and cover them up with soil. Tomorrow morning, you will see, they will be as tall as your shoulders."

Trusting the monkeys, the old couple did exactly as the monkeys instructed. They chose the biggest pieces of taro, peeled them off nicely, boiled them, wrapped them up separately in banana leaves and planted them one by one in the ground and covered them up with soil.

Then, the monkeys came at night. They dug out the planted taro from the ground and ate them. Having eaten them all, they pulled up the wild taros growing in the marshes and planted them in the places prepared for the taros and they left.

The morning came, the old woman opened the door and when she saw that the taros that they had planted last night were as tall as her shoulders, she could not believe her eyes. Waking up her sleeping husband, she said, "Hey grandpa, wake up and see if you believe your eyes. The taros we planted yesterday are as tall as our shoulders!"

The old man got up and saw it for himself and said, "Grandma, you're right. They are as tall as our shoulders. What they told us is true. So, grandma, let us cook one and see how it tastes."

The old woman pulled out one wild taro and went inside the kitchen to cook it. The old man took a bath and got ready to have lunch. The lunch was prepared and the old couple started eating. After having a few mouthfuls of rice with the taro dish, the old woman asked her husband, "How is it, Grandpa?"

"It is delicious." he replied between huge mouthfuls. But after some time, his throat and mouth started itching badly and he cried out, "Grandma, hentak! Grandma, hentak! (hentak is a condiment made from fish paste which can cure the irritation caused by wild taro)"

The old woman took out some hentak and gave it to the old man. The itching stopped after he ate it. To see if what the old man was saying was true, the old woman also ate two large mouthfuls of the dish.

She also could not bear the irritation and shouted, "Grandpa, hentak! Grandpa, hentak!" The old man gave her some and then the irritation stopped. They got angry realizing that the monkeys had tricked them and started discussing how to take revenge.

"Grandma, I will lie inside and put a shroud over me and I will pretend to be dead. You cry outside loud enough for the monkeys to hear. When they come to ask what had happened, tell them that I died after eating the arum. And ask them to bring my body out in the courtyard. When they come inside, I will thrash the living daylights out of them."

After planning, the old woman went outside in the courtyard and started wailing,

"O, you kind soul,
You died after eating taro,
Come back eating pumpkin!"

Hearing the old woman wail, the monkeys arrived and asked, "Grandma, why are you crying like that?" "Children, your grandpa died after eating taro planted in the way you told us. He is lying inside. Please bring him out in the courtyard." Hearing this, the monkeys felt sad. They went inside, one by one, to bring the old man out.

At this, the old man who was pretending to be dead, jumped up, picked up a large stick lying nearby and started thrashing the monkeys black and blue. They ran for their lives.

The old couple then discussed, "The monkeys would definitely come back again. Where should we hide?" They decided to hide up the bamboo shelf. The monkeys came as the old couple had feared. They entered the house and started searching. Just then, the string binding the shelf broke and they fell on the top of the monkeys along with the shelf. The monkeys got startled and fled.

Thinking that the monkeys would come again, the old couple hid inside a large earthen pot. The monkeys came again. As they were searching for the old couple, the old man felt like passing some wind.

"Grandma, I want to pass some wind." "Do it quietly, Grandpa." And he let it pass quietly. The old woman also felt like passing some wind. "Grandpa, I also feel like passing some wind."

"Do it quietly, Grandma." The old woman tried to do it quietly but it slipped out as a loud bang which startled the monkeys so much that the monkeys ran away. They never returned. And then, the old couple lived happily ever after.

It is bad to lie. Lying and tricking will only bring suffering.

** From Manipur folk tale Book called "Fungawari Singbul" by B. Jayantakumar Sharma

* Akham Gautam Singh is a regular contributor to
This article was posted on August 08 2017

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