|Illustration by Corr. C.|
Once upon a time in Punjab there lived "a brave girl, Bopaluchi, all alone in a hut " in Northern India. Every morning, she went with all the girls of the village down to the river to fill clay jugs with water. Often, they chatted as they filled their jugs, and one day, the talk turned to weddings. "I will marry a rich raja's son.' said one. ' I will marry a skillful archer like Arjuna.' said another. 'And I will marry a valiant warrior as invincible as Lord Indrus. ' said yet another. But Bophaluchi was silent. She had no parents, and therefore no dowry. How could she get married? When her turn came to dream aloud, she simply said, " I hope the gods will send someone for me." Now, as it happened, a robber was hiding in the brush, listening to the gossip. This bad man followed Bopaluchi home, waited for her to go in, then knocked on her door. When she answered, he told her a lie: I have come from far, far, away to visit my niece, Bopaluchi. I am your mother's brother, your Mama-Ji!" Poor Bopaluchi believed him! And when he told her that he wanted her to marry his son, she immediately wanted to run and share this joyful news. But Mama-Ji was in a big rush to get going. He said, "Why don't you surprise your friends later? You can throw a big party when you return with your handsome groom. " And with that, he threw her onto his horse, and galloped away. The morning air was sweet and Bopaluchi enjoyed the ride. But then she became aware of the song which the" white cheeked Himalayan bulbuls sang. " CAW-CAW-CAW- Beware! Beware! Smell the danger in the air!" But when she asked her uncle if he had heard, he said only that the birds must be afraid of him, and he kept riding. Soon they were deep in the forest and Bopaluchi heard frogs croaking another warning: Ribbit! Ribbit! Ribbit! Beware! Beware! Smell the danger in the air!" But Mama-Ji only said that the frogs were surely afraid of him, and kept on riding. On and on they rode, and the sun set and the sky became black, and it was night. Now the owls were out, and they too called to Bopaluchi: Too whit-too-too, Too-whit-too-too! Beware! Beware! Smell the danger in the air. Again, the robber told the girl not to worry. Now they were in a clearing with a dimly lit hovel. The door opened and an ugly old woman came out. Mama-ji jerked the girl off the horse and threw into the hovel. " Bopaluchi felt weak. Why was her uncle suddenly so rude?" That's when she found out he wasn't her uncle at all. "I am the Fearless Robber of Mumbai!" her proclaimed, "I have not sons, and I am going to marry you!' 'You liar, you cheat! I will never marry you!"said brave Bopaluchi. But the witch cackled, and the robber rode away and left them alone. Now the birds outside began to sing again, saying " You are as witty as you are pretty!" And this helped her to think of a plan. When the witch began to stroke Bopaluchi's thick , black hair, saying how shiny it was, and how she would like it for herself , she lay still. When the witch got a knife and threatened to cut it off, the girl spoke, telling her that she would prepare a magic pudding that would help the old lady's hair grow shiny and full. So the witch brought her rice and sugar, milk and almonds, cardamom and saffron, and the girl boiled a pudding. She added a secret ingredient though: a whole bottle of liquor! Of course the witch was greedy, and of course she ate the whole thing...and fell fast asleep. That's when Bopaluchi climbed out the window and ran, and ran, and ran, all the way back to her own little hut. And when the robber returned, "with a jug of rose sherbet and a box of sweet, golden jalabi" for the bride, didn't he get a surprise? Now, of course he came looking for beautiful Bopaluchi, whose skin was as brown as polished wood, and whose hair was as black as midnight. But she was ready for him. She kept a big bag of white flour and a broom with a thorny handle by her bed. On the night that the robber snuck back into her hut, clever Bopaluchi dusted herself in flour until she was as white as a ghost. She whacked the robber with the broom so hard that he cried like a baby, and ran into the woods, never to be seen again. Now that she had peace and quiet, Bopaluchi lived happily alone for several years. And one day, a handsome young man moved to the village and fell in love with her! He cared not for a dowry, but only wanted this wise and wonderful woman to marry him. The entire village" celebrated her wedding with feasting, music and bhangra dancing. Bopaluchi wore a richly woven, red sari. Her arms were covered with bangles, and a golden ticca, or disc, crowned her forehead." She and her young man lived happily ever after." And if you are ever invited into her house, you may still find the bowl of flour and a long, thorny, broom right beside her bed. "
Notes: This book is a marvelous introduction to India. It is divided into sections about each province, and gives basic demographics.
Montessori Connection 6-12: Fundamental Needs India.
1. Find India on the globe. 2. Find the small island off its coast. This is Sri Lanka, a neighbor of India. It is called The Pearl of the Indian Ocean. 3. Choose either heads or feet to look at in the book. 4. Read the book, looking closely at the pictures. Now try to find: a man with a turban that is pink with white polka dots; a man with flat, white hat; a man with a feather on his hat. Find a woman with a white veil; a woman with a pink veil that goes down to her feet; a woman with no hair at all; and a woman with a white crown. To learn about shoes in India, try the book, Feet and Footwear in Indian Culture, available from Amazon or the Berkeley Public Library. To learn about foods of India, try to make a rice pudding with cardamom and almonds. See if you can find a recipe in Cooking the Indian Way, by Vijay Mandavan.