The Day Dreamer (Indian Folktales – 2)

Once an oil man was going to market with his pots of oil arranged on a flat basket, and he engaged a Santal for two annas to carry the basket. And as he went along, the Santal thought:

With one anna I will buy food and with the other I will buy chickens, and the chickens will grow up and multiply, and then I will sell some of the fowls and eggs, and with the money I will buy goats. And when the goats increase, I will sell some and buy cows, and then I will exchange some of the calves for she-buffaloes, and when the buffaloes breed, I will sell some and buy land and start cultivation, and then I will marry and have children, and I will hurry back from my work in the fields, and my wife will bring me water, and I will have a rest, and my children will say to me, “Father, be quick and wash your hands for dinner,” but I will shake my head and say, ‘No, no, not yet!”

And as he thought about it he really shook his head, and the basket fell to the ground, and all the pots of oil were smashed.

Then the oil man abused him and said that he must pay two rupees for the oil and one anna for the pots. But the Santal said that he had lost much more than that, and the oil man asked him how that could be, and the Santal explained how with his wages he was going to get fowls and then goats and then oxen and buffaloes and land, and how he came to spill the basket.

At that the oil man roared with laughter and said, “Well, I have made up the account, and I find that our losses are equal, so we will cry quits.” And so saying they went their ways laughing.

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