23. For Love of Kadabu
A man went to his mother-in-law's, in a nearby village, to enjoy the royal treatment a son-in-law usually gets. The mother-in-law lovingly made kadabu (sweet puffs) for him. He loved them, but he felt too shy to eat as many as he would have liked. His mother-in-law placed a platter full of them in front of him, but all he could manage to do was shyly nibble on one or two. But he was thinking all through the meal that he would hurry home, ask his wife to make a lot of these delicious things, and eat them and eat them to his heart's content. He didn't know what they were called, but by careful inquiries he found out that kadabu was the name of the delicacy, and he memorized it. Kadabu, kadabu, kadabu, he muttered to himself all the way home. Unfortunately, on his way, maybe because his attention was not on the road, he slipped and fell. In the shock of the fall, he forgot to say kadabu, and began to say badaku, badaku.
When he reached home, he quickly washed his hands and feet, and called his wife in a hurry.
“Look here, you must make some badakus for me.”
“What's badaku? I have never heard of it.”
“Don't you know what badaku is? Everyone knows what it is.”
“No, I don't. Badaku sounds funny. Badaku, badaku! ” she teased him.
He was balked, vexed, and soon he got very angry. He grabbed a stick that lay in a corner and beat her. Then he slapped her cheeks and boxed her ears. His wife, who had never seen him like this before, ran out of the house weeping aloud and sought the help of a neighbor, an elderly lady, who said to her, “He has no business beating you. I'll come and talk to him. Maybe he's drunk or something.”
The lady brought the young woman back to her house and rebuked the husband roundly. “Have you any sense in your head? You've beaten up the poor girl so badly. Look at her, her cheeks have puffed up like a kadabu! ”
“O, O,” he cried in recognition, jumping up. “That's it, that's it. Kadabu, kadabu, that's what I want.”
It was then that it dawned on his wife that all this fuss was for a kadabu. “Why didn't you tell me so in the first place? Badaku, badaku! ” she screamed at him, and went to work on making kadabus.
She made three big luscious kadabus. She liked them too, as much as he did. So they fought over who should have two. Neither wanted one and a half, so they made a pact. They would both go lie down in the front room, without making a sound. Even if a mosquito bit them or a fly sat on their nose, they would not move a muscle or make any noise. Whoever moved or spoke first would be the loser and get only one kadabu; the silent one would get the other two.
So they both left the precious kadabus behind in the kitchen and lay down silently in the front room. Evening came, night fell, and soon it was the next day.
In the morning, the nosy neighbors noticed no movement in the house. They worried about the couple not waking up as usual. They wondered what had happened to them. They waited a while, then cautiously pushed the front door open. They found the couple on the floor, their eyes closed, unmoving, lying there as if dead. Someone said, “They are dead, poor things.” “The bodies are hardly cold,” said another. But the husband and wife moved not a muscle. So the neighbors proceeded to carry them out to the cremation grounds.
There they piled dry cow dung cakes on the bodies and lighted the funeral pyre. The fire touched the wife's hair first, and she screamed, “ Ayyo, I don't want to burn!”
At once the husband started up in triumph, shouting, “There! You lost. I'm the winner. One for you and two for me!”
The neighbors were scared out of their wits to see the dead come alive, and they fled the place.
The couple shook themselves loose, went home arguing all the way, and ate the kadabus, which had gone quite cold by now.
Types and Motifs
Type AT 1687, The Forgotten Word AT + 1351, The Silence Wager. Told widely both in India (fifteen versions recorded so far) and elsewhere, literally from China to Peru, this tale has been well studied. See Brown 1922; Clouston 1887, vol. 2:23–25.