|"To his delight,|
he discovered a large fish
in the net." Illustration by
Once upon a time, in India, "a fisherman named Singaram once lived in a small hut, close by the sea."At dawn every day, he would push his small boat out onto the waves and spend the day fishing. One day, though he had baited his line again and again, he could not catch a single fish. Just as the sun was setting, he "discovered a large fish in the net, of a kind he had never seen before." It was nearly as big as he, and colored a rich, rosy red. Most surprising of all was that it spoke, saying, "Kind Sir, if you do take me home, please do not cook me for your dinner. For I can be of use to you." Then the fish told the man that he could take care of the man's cow. The man was quite surprised that the fish even knew he had a cow, let alone that his young cowherd had not presented himself in several days. "Thus, Singaram was only too pleased to accept the fish's offer though he wondered how a fish would lead a cow out to graze." But as he rowed closer to shore, the fish began to shrink. As they stepped onto the sand, the fish was small enough to fit into Singaram's palm. He took it home and showed his family, who marveled at the little red fish. When Singaram put it onto the back of the cow, and "he was surprised to see that the fish began to give the cow instructions and the cow listened." So the fish proved its worth. This life went on for quite some time, until, one day, "the cow went further into the forest than usual," found some especially tasty grass, and ignored the fish's orders to go home. Unfortunately for the cow, the man appeared just then, and began beating it with a stick. That's when the fish called out, "Oh man, do not touch me, or else I will kill you in a matter or moments." At this, the man thought his cow had begun to speak, and trembled in fear. So the fish took advantage of the foolish man, and brought the cow to graze in his best garden every day. And since the cow now fattened itself on the sweetest herbs, its milk began to run rich and strong. Soon it "supplied Singaram with milk by the bucketful." He sold this, and made lots of money. In fact, he made so much money that he built himself a fine, large home. Here he raised his son, who "grew up to become a handsome young man." His father realized that it was time to find "a suitable match" for him, and so he "searched and searched". But none could be found. He lamented about this one night at home. That's when the fish said,"Why do you search for a bride so far away? There's a suitable bride living under your roof in only you care to look!" And that is when "the fish changed into a beautiful young girl." She said,"I am not really a fish.", then told him of the curse she was under. It had been partially broken now that she had been chosen as a bride. She confided in her father-in-law-to-be," I can be a woman by day, but at night I will have to return to my fish form." So the man married his son to the girl who had been a fish. They lived happily together, but the groom very much wished that his bride was a woman at night, and not a fish. So he observed her routine, and learned that "she would take a bath in the sea before turning into a fish. Every night she would carry her fish skin with her. She would leave it on the shore, have her bath, then return to slip into it and become a fish." Now the young man snatched the fish skin, and ran home. There he tossed it into the fire, where it "burnt itself to ashes in a manner of minutes." Just then, his wife came back from the sea, "looking more beautiful than ever, dressed in a gorgeous silk sari." The spell was broken, and they lived happily as man and wife for the rest of their lives.
From: Fairy Tales from India (Hemkunt,1996)