29. The Horse Gram Man
A farmer was short of money. So he went to the fair in the nearby town to sell a load of horse gram. He sat at the fair till evening, but no one bought his gram. When he started home with his load, night fell. So he stopped in a temple outside a village and lay down. He had eaten nothing since morning and he was unhappy that he couldn't sell his horse gram. So he tossed about sleeplessly.
Now the local gowda and his lover used to keep a tryst every night at the deserted temple. As usual, she came there in a pretty sari, with fresh-cooked food for her gowda. The horse gram man was lying there. It was dark. She thought he was the gowda, woke him up, asked him to make no noise, and quietly fed him the wonderful meal she had brought. Then silently she joined him and they made love. When it was all over, she quickly got up and left. The horse gram man now had his belly full and also had had his pleasure. He fell asleep happily. The gowda came a bit later and groped around. When the horse gram man spoke up, the gowda realized that this was not a woman but a stranger. So he asked the man to get up and go sleep on the verandah. Then he waited for his woman, who never turned up. He walked up and down restlessly and he too went to the verandah.
When he saw the man sleeping there, he felt like sleeping with the man. So he gently woke up the man and told him what he wanted. The horse gram man said, “All right, but you must go first.” What could the gowda do? His need was great. “All right, you do it first,” he said, bent down, and bared his bottom to the horse gram man, who did it to him. Now it was the gowda's turn. But the horse gram man raised his voice and said, “No, no, this won't do. If you insist, I'll call out and make a scene. I haven't sold a grain of horse gram all day, and there's all this bother at night.” The gowda was a village elder, an important man, a much-respected man. If people heard about this, he would lose face. So he pacified the horse gram man and said, “All right, then, forget this ever happened. Go and sleep in our house. Don't make a scene, please.” Then he called a servant who was fast asleep on a stone platform nearby and sent the horse gram man with him.
The horse gram man came to the gowda's house and lay down comfortably in a front room on the gowda's bed. He couldn't sleep. He moved his hands around and found three bells tied to ropes near the bed. Curious, he rang one.
Now the gowda had three wives. He used to summon them by ringing one of these three bells. As the horse gram man had rung the biggest bell of the three, the gowda's eldest wife came to his bed. She massaged his hands and feet, slept with him, and when she was ready to leave, she whispered, “ Gowda, get me a nice new yellow silk sari.” The horse gram man said gruffly, “Go away. I've not sold a grain of horse gram all day and you want a yellow silk sari. Would a measure of horse gram buy you a silk sari? Yellow silk sari! Go, go now!” She knew at once that this was not her gowda. In shock, she quietly returned to her bed.
The man rang the second bell. The gowda's second wife came, slept with him, and begged him, “ Gowda, get me a nice nose ring.” “Hey, go now!” said the horse gram man. “I haven't sold a grain of horse gram all day. Would a measure of horse gram buy you a nose ring? Go, go.” She knew this was not her husband. If she made any noise, others would know what she had done. So she slipped away quietly.
Then he rang the third bell, a small one. The gowda's youngest wife came to his bed, slept with him, and insisted, “ Gowda, get me some jewelry.” He said, “Go away. I haven't sold a grain of horse gram all day. Would a measure of horse gram buy you a jewel? Go now!” She too knew now that she had made a terrible mistake and quietly left the room. The horse gram man got up quite early, picked up his horse gram, and left for his village, leaving no trace behind him.
The gowda returned home in the morning. When he went for his bath, all three wives attended to him. One massaged his head, another scrubbed his back, the third poured warm water. Just then, he had to fart. He said, “Damn it, it's all that horse gram man's doing!”
His wives thought, “ Ayyo, the gowda knows what we did last night!” They began to quarrel and said, “Not me, Akka the eldest went first!” “No, not me, she the junior one went first!” “No, not me, her!”
The gowda now realized what had happened. The horse gram man had had everyone, him and all his women. Marveling at the man's powers, he got out of the bathhouse.
[NKTT, but cf. Motif K 1317.7, Woman mistakes passer-by for lover. Substitution in the dark; Motif K 1311, Seduction by masking as woman's husband; and Motif N 275, Criminal confesses because he thinks himself accused.]