By C.P. Belliappa
My mother used to tell us this light-hearted story, and I’m sure many of my vintage would have heard it too.However, it’s worth a repeat.Here’s a retelling of the story.
Once upon a time, many decades ago a farmer’s family lived not too far from Gonikoppal town. They had a young servant boy named Ramu, who was unlettered. He did odd jobs. He looked after the cattle and the poultry. He served his master and mistress diligently, who in turn took care of him as a member of the family.
One day, late in the afternoon, the lady of the house beckoned him, handed ten rupees and instructed, ‘Ramu, I urgently need a paav (volumetric measure in vogue those days) of Menasu (Chilli), and a paav of Jeerige (Cumin seed). Now, run to Gonikoppal and get them for me as soon as possible. Don’t forget what I said.’
‘Yes Amma,’ answered Ramu, all set to take off.
‘Wait, tell me what I want you to buy?’
‘Hurry, be back before it gets dark.’
Ramu rushed towards Gonikoppal. As he jogged along, he wanted to make sure he didn’t forget the items he had to buy. So, he kept repeating, ‘Menasu-Jeerige, Menasu-Jeerige…’
By the time he reached Gonikoppal, he was saying ‘Mena-Sujee-Rige, Mena-Sujee-Rige…’
He went to one of the large grocery shops, and asked for one paav of Mena, one paav of Sujee and one paav of Rige.
The shopkeeper frowned. ‘Are you sure you want these items, and a paav each?’
‘Yes, and please hurry. My Amma needs them urgently,’ snapped Ramu.
The shopkeeper measured a paav of Mena (bee-wax) and then a paav of Sujee (needles).
Shopkeeper looked a little perplexed and asked Ramu, ‘What’s the third item you asked for?’
Ramu again repeated to himself – ‘Mena, Sujee, Rige.’ I told you, ‘One of paav of Rige.’
‘Rige? What is that?’ asked the shopkeeper.
‘You should know what it is. You own this big shop,’ retorted Ramu.
The shopkeeper scratched his head. ‘I am sorry we do not have Rige. Please pay for the Mena and Sujee. Try for Rige elsewhere in town.’
Ramu looked quite irritated. ‘What kind of a shop is this, not stocking Rige.’ He paid for the Mena and Sujee and rushed to the next shop.
‘Give me a paav of Rige,’ Ramu told the fat shopkeeper sitting behind the table.
‘Rige? Never heard of Rige. No, we don’t have that item.’ Ramu cursed and trundled to the next angadi.
‘Rige? What in heaven’s name is Rige?’ asked the next shopkeeper looking quite inquisitive.
‘Oh, the shops here are useless,’Ramu cursed again under his breath.
Ramu tried the remaining grocery and bric-a-brac shops and got the same response. Light was fading. He was concerned how his Amma would react. He headed back home full of apprehensions.
It was dusk by the time he reached home. He very apologetically told his Amma that he could not get the third item she wanted. He told her how he had walked the length and breadth of the then one-road-town of Gonikoppal, but to no avail.
‘Amma, I am sorry, none of the shops had Rige. Here’s the balance of three rupees…,’ he blurted.
‘Rige? I didn’t ask for Rige. By the way, what is Rige? Let me see what you have bought.’
By then all the members of the family gathered as Ramu took out the one paav of bee-wax and one paav of needles.
The lady was speechless. The rest of the family guffawed. Poor Ramu looked flummoxed!