The Reproof

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

A poor man once went to visit his daughter’s father-in-law who was very rich. The rich man was proud of his wealth and looked down on poverty; so he made no special entertainment for his visitor and only gave him rice and dal for his dinner. When they went out to bathe he stood on the bank of the tank and began to boast. “I made this tank; all the land over there belongs to me; all those buffaloes and cattle you see, belong to me; I have so many that I have to keep two men to milk them.”

The visitor said nothing at the time but that afternoon as host and guest sat smoking together they saw a beggar standing in front of the house. The sun was very powerful and the ground was so hot that the beggar kept shifting from one foot to another as he stood out in the sun. Then the poor visitor spoke up and said “It is strange that when you made such a nice house you made the roof without eaves.” “Where are your eyes? Cannot you see the eaves?” asked the host in astonishment. The other answered “I see that you have made a house as high as a hill but if it had any eaves, surely that poor beggar there would not be standing out in the sun; and this morning you must have been mistaken in saying that that tank was yours for otherwise you would have given me fish for dinner; and I think that they were only rocks and tufts of grass which you pointed out to me as your flocks and herds for otherwise you would have offered me some milk or curds.” And the rich man was ashamed and had no answer to make.