“Gunvanti ek bahut bholi ladki thee”. I don’t know why I was suddenly reminded of the story that I had read as a kid in “Nandan” (a chindren’s magazine from Hindustan Times Publication) and that started so. It was a story about a girl who had a step-mother. The mother would make her do all the tough work at home and outside, but never taught her how to cook. When Gunvanti got married and her mother-in-law realized that she could not cook, she got very angry. But then she compromised. Since Gunvanti could not cook, she was given the task of getting water from the pond, which was very far, early in the morning. Once Gunvanti got up particularly early. On reaching the pond she started crying thinking of her plight and her mother-in-law’s dissatisfaction on her being unable to cook. There were some fairies still on earth (since the sun was yet to come up). They heard her crying, made friends with her and on realizing her situation, gave her a pouch of powder, which when put in a pot could produce all kinds of tasty dishes. They asked her to come to the pond early every morning so that she could get the powder. Now, Gunvanti was very happy and her mother-in-law very satisfied with the tasty dishes Gunvanti made. But one day Gunvanti got up late and could not meet the fairies. She got through that day somehow, but from next day onwards, for 15 days she could not find fairies again, no matter how early she would go there. She was miserable and her mother-in-law angry once again. Finally when she went their again after 15 days, she met the fairies and it turned out that they came to the earth only on the moon-lit nights (Shukla Paksha). The day she had gotten up late, they had come to the earth the last time and had thought of giving her powder for next 15 days, but it was not to be! She realized that it was not a good arrangement and had risks. Why don’t the fairies teach her how to cook? “O Bholi Ladki! Hum khana khatee hee nahin hain, to pakana kaise janengi.” (O innocent girl! We do not eat; how shall we know how to cook?) was what they said. But then, they thought of another solution. They gave her a shawl, which will make her invisible, when she put it on. She could use it to watch her mother-in-law cook and learn from that. The condition was that no one else should know about the shawl; else the shawl would fly back to the pari-lok (fairy-land). She used the shawl. Soon, she knew things well. Once her mother-in-law was ill and was feeling very weak while cooking. She could not watch from a distance. She suddenly took the “belan” (is there a word in English for it?) from her hand, forgetting that she had her shawl on. The mother-in-law got scared, but soon everything became clear. The shawl flew back to the fairy-land. Gunvanti did not need it any longer anyway. The family was happy thereafter.
Wondering what charm these simple stories have. I read this one when I was 6 or 7 years old and still remember it very well. Don’t know what was the reason, but this one was one of my favourites and I had read it many a times.
Now, mind works with associations. The story invariably reminded of “Nandan” and “Nandan” is so deeply attached to my childhood. I liked the two lines mentioned in the title of this post very much. It had a nice appeal, I guess. “Jo Bachche Nandan Padhte Hain, Jeevan Mein Aage Badhte Hain” (Kids who read Nandan, get ahead it life). Now, by what is meant by “getting ahead” at that stage, it hasn’t turned out particularly wrong for me🙂 So, I remember it still more fondly. Ah! the nice days of childhood. The worst part is that you do not know what you are getting then. You always wish to grow up. I wanted to. And when I grew up, I realized I never should have grown up. It was so painful to realize that the childhood is past now (Bachpan Kaise Beet Jaata Hai – If the link does not work directly, you might need to go to my “Writings Section” and locate this poem dated October 20, 1998).
Tried searching online, but “Nandan” has not yet gone online. Too bad!😦