Saturday, April 20, 2013

Folktale: Gagarbai ti Gagur


"My favourite tale was about the tragedy of a mouse. She was asked by her husband to make khichree, she made it so well, morsel by morsel, she ate it all up. Home came the mouse, mouth salivating, to find his little wife resting. He looked everywhere in the kitchen she asked him to look – in the cooking pot, the frying pan, the mortar and even under the small pestle used for pounding spices – but found nothing. In anger, he threw the pestle at her and her ear lobe fell off. Bleeding, the detached piece of flesh in hand, she went crying to the tailor and asked him to stitch her ear whole.
The tailor asked her to get him some thread from the threadmaker woman, who sent her to the cotton-carder man. And thus she went from one artisan to another, and even to the cotton tree that would yield the cotton and the bullock that would plough the field  for the tree to flower. Finally, she reached a mound asking it for some earth, which she would take to the potter, who would make her a charcoal brazier and, step by step, back to the blacksmith who would provide her with a sickle with which she would cut some grass from a ridge to feed the bullock, and thus onward. With thread in her hand she would go to the tailor who would repair her ear. Then she would wear her gold earrings and leave her cruel husband to go back to her parental home. Alas, that was not to be. Giving of itself to her, the earth mound fell over her and crushed her to death. The story, told in a sing-song style, ended with a song of lamentation by the bereaved mouse. It made me sad but I wanted to hear it again and again, knowing all along that it was just a tale."

From the essay ‘Growing up in a Kashmiri Hindu Household’ by T.N. Madan (The T.N.Madan Omnibus)

Between me and T.N. Madan, our childhood memories are separated by a gap of at least seven decades and yet we share a common favorite in 'tales our grandmothers told'. After reading the description of story in this essay, I knew he was talking about 'Gagri-Gagri'. But in my story the wife was hit by mortar not pestle (Kajwot and not Wokhul). I asked my grandmother if she remembers the story and if she would sing it again. She had no idea what I was talking about. She couldn't remember it. But after nagging her for a couple of days, I was able to get her to recount some of the bits. But not the main song. My Chachi too threw in bits from her childhood memories - an alternative ending in which the wife is reunited with her repentant husband. Yet the main bit eluded me. The favorite part. The tune. It was frustrating. I even came to doubt if the story was ever told to me by my grandmother, maternal, paternal or if was sung to me by some grandaunt, maternal, paternal. How can I forget?  It's the part where the wife asks the husband to look for Khichree all over the kitchen. And then he hit her out of tune.What was that tune?

In the Kashmiri section by Ali Mohammad Lone presented in 'Children's literature in Indian languages' (1982), I found reference to this story. Indeed, in 'The Mouse's Ear' the wife was hit by mortar. That was about it. No further leads. No actual Kashmiri version of the story.

Then, about a year later while listening to my grandmother sing a Kashmiri ditty for an ancient spring ceremony. I remembered it. The two share almost the same sing-song tune. I remembered not the entire story but just my favorite part. I believe it went something like this:



He Mouse: Gagri, Gagri! Kyet chey Khetch'er 
She Mouse: Bohganas tal.
He Mouse: Yet'che na keh

Gagri, Gagri! Kyet chey Khetch'er
Wokhulas tal
Yet'che na keh


Gagri, Gagri! Kyet chey Khetch'er
Kajwatas tal

Narrator: Tyem tul Kaajwot ti la'go'unas Kanas.

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1 comment:

  1. Kashmiri bits of story added by people on FB page of SearchKashmir:

    Seach baye seacho mey sov T kan B gasch soon scheneth. Malounye..

    Dar(earth) ba dar,cxe di kapas(raw of cotton),kapas dimow kaedis,kaoed di phamb,phamb dimow indras(spinning wheel),indeir di paen(cotton Thread),paen dimow setxchas(tailor),sitxch waeti gagray kan,ti karith gaes maaluin....


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