|The Bangle Salesman||Veeraswamy Krishnaraj|
The Bangle Salesman
There was once a bangle
salesman, who went from village to village and town to town fitting women
and girls with fashion bangles that came in rainbow colors. They were made
of glass, plastic, silver and gold. Besides, he fitted women with toe rings
( = மெட்டி meṭṭi) made of silver. He specialized only in glass bangles. For
special customers, he had bangles made of single-piece perfectly rounded
bone and ivory bangles and sometimes finely made wooden ones. They were
special-order items and a deposit worth half the retail price was paid
before the order was processed. There was a steady business in selling glass
bangles. He sold shell bangles too. They always break, demand replacement
and generate more income. A woman cannot be found without bangles: It is
atrocious and next to being a widow. The bangle salesman once in a while
sold fragrant homemade soaps, hairpins and shampoos.
Instead of going from house to house to fit the women with bangles, he went
to the village square where elders assembled for village business
transactions. From there, word went out to the village womenfolk about the
arrival of the bangle salesman. He did business in the presence of elders,
children and husbands. Some women to obviate jealousy from their husbands
went through some procedural elements. She pointed out the bangles she
wanted; the salesman put the chosen bangles on the floor; she picked up and
tried them herself without the manipulations from the bangle seller. No, the
husbands did not opt to play the role of bangle fitter. The salesman would
allow breakage of up to two self-fitted bangles, only if the client bought
bangles. If there was no purchase, she had to pay for the broken bangles. If
he was sliding the bangles on to the wrists, and they break, there was no
charge. The women knew the rules.
The four-year-old would not only help his father but play with the village
kids, when time permitted. The headman of the village entertained them for a
meal. He would arrive at about 11AM and leave by 3 PM, so he was back home
for supper. He would never stay outside his home in the dark. He knew his
wife and children worried about him, when he was not home for supper. He
conducted his business within a five-mile radius from his house. If he went
to distant villages, he usually stayed with one of his relatives in the town
and did business in outlying villages. He knew of incidents, when traveling
salesmen were robbed by thugs emerging from the woods and disappearing back
into the thick of the jungle. Those jungles were habitat for carnivores. His
plans were well laid out and he adhered to them strictly. He travelled by a
horse-drawn cart. The cart was well made with good springs between the cabin
and the axle. He did not fit the horse with leather-flap blinkers because he
wanted his horse to have a good view of the road and the surroundings. He
(not It) was a good horse not distracted easily and not needing the
blinkers. Besides, he slept in the cart once in a while. Somebody had to
keep awake on the jungle roads.
When he pulled his cart out of the road, he disengaged the draft horse from
the harness and let it graze nearby. As he was snoozing in the shade under a
Banyan tree, a tiger appeared from the jungle and went for the horse. The
horse took one look, jumped on the hind legs and made itself look towering
over the tiger. The tiger lunged; the horse came down on the tiger with its
full weight and broke one of the tiger's hind legs. The heavy thud woke up
the salesman. Before he could act, the tiger limped back into the jungle.
The horse was calm, seeing the tiger disappear. Salesman thanked the horse,
his stars and the roadside deity for saving him (and the horse) from the
intruding tiger. He thought that the horse might be Hyagriva, the
incarnation of Vishnu (in the form of a horse). He knew the tiger would not
mess with any horse anytime soon.
He put the harness on the horse for the next leg on the journey. The horse
though performing well drawing the cart, he was neighing and grunting with
foam at the mouth. He did not appear weak by any means. It appeared that the
horse was reliving his tiger moment.
He also bought a monkey from a monkey handler as a travel companion, who would screech at the sight of a carnivore when his senses were not in heightened alert. This was a performing monkey, quite strong, hyperalert, domesticated and good with people. The monkey handler had another monkey for his entertainment business. The monkey also would serve to entertain the children, when he went from village to village selling bangles.
Life with the family, horse, and monkey went months without any untoward incident. Children were growing up and going to school and never accompanied their father on his business trips. His wife devoted her life raising the children and had no time to go with him. His reputation as a good man was known around towns and villages.
In another town and another village he stayed and plied his trade as he usually did following his age-old rules: Return home for supper. This time, he stayed with his maternal aunt. His uncle went on occasions hunting for fish with a spear. He was good at it and used to bring home speared fish for his aunt to cook it. The bangle salesman went spearing for fish with his uncle. He became very adept at it.
It was another village to go to gain new clients. Yes, this time as usual the monkey was his travel companion, and the horse was the draft animal. His business was thriving but he never overstayed in a village beyond 3PM or a few hours from his dinner time at home. This was the time, when the villages did not expand and coalesce with other villages and the town. This limitation kept the deforestation under control, where all kinds of animals roamed. He sold his bangles at a good profit and was returning home along a jungle path with loads of cash. The sun was dipping; imminence of dusk was threatening; the birds were returning to the tree-nests; and the melancholy of the night was menacing. This was ominous for him because his business kept him too long in the village, and he could not break away from the villagers. The dark jungle with thick foliage on either side of the road was kindling his primal fears. His fears came true as dark shadows emerged from the edges of the forest on either side of the road. He had cash. He could give it away without any resistance. What would they do to him, the monkey and the horse? Fear paralyzed him. Suddenly the thugs with knives and spears stood their speechless and fell flat on the ground as if they were worshiping a deity (Shastanga Namaskaram = 8-limb prostration). He looked around gingerly and saw the monkey giving a pose of Vara and Abhaya Mudras (A pose up-turned high five position of right palm and down-held left palm, both facing the devotee, a telling by the deity of his or her offer of protection and boon). The thugs were the devotees of Hanuman. Where did the monkey learn this sacred pose? Yes, from the days as the performing monkey. The thugs immediately paid obeisance to the monkey and disappeared into the dark caverns of the deathly moonless night. The thugs saw the monkey as a stand-in for Hanuman in its appearance and pose. The monkey saved the day for the bangle seller.
Days, weeks and months went by with no major incidents. It was business as
usual. The salesman developed a grateful devotion to Lord Hanuman and
performed special puja for the Lord in the local temple. It became a
once-yearly event for him to do puja to Hanuman.
The extended families reached the temple town on seven hills. They prayed
and thanked the Lord for his munificent bequeath of second life for the boy.
Then they came in the temple face to face with Krishna playing his flute on
the river serpent Kalia's hood. They thanked Him for his help in saving the
boy Nanda. Nanda never turned his face towards the bed of Vishnu which is
the ocean snake Sessa with concentric coils (or the Yamuna River snake Kalia).
is the demon killer, meaning she kills the demons in us (Kriya Sakti =
Action power). Darkness of the mind is Tamas and thus the dark demons are
killed by Durga. Once the mind is cleansed of darkness, Durga hands over the
mind to Mahalakshmi, who removes Rajasic Vikshepa (moving of the eyes of the
mind = false perception). Mahalakshmi helps man acquire Will Power (Iccha
Sakti) by worship. Once Tamas and Rajas are dissipated, the mind is
receptive for spiritual enlightenment (Jñāna Sakti). Three days and nights
to remove darkness, three to remove false perceptions, and three to acquire
wisdom: all amount to nine days and nights in the removal of darkness and
false perceptions and attainment of knowledge. The 10th day is Vijayadasami
(= victory on the 10th day).