53. The Rain King's Wife
A king's only daughter got bored with her studies one day and called her girlfriends for a picnic in the orchard. The palace kitchen made all the wonderful dishes they wanted to take, and they went to the orchard. They ate their dinner, which tasted like ambrosia. They even chewed their after-dinner betel leaf and betel nut like adults. The rain god thundered and sent down bolts of lightning. The princess looked up and said, “O Rain King, we're having our picnic right now. We've just had our dinner. Instead of now, couldn't you come at night?”
The rain stopped at once. So they also ate their evening meal in the orchard and went home.
The princess went to bed upstairs. That night the rain god removed a few tiles and let himself into her bedchamber. She woke up with a start and asked him, “ Ayyo, who are you?”
He said, “ Arre, didn't you say ‘don't come now, come at night?’ So I'm here.”
“All right, I'm glad you did,” she said. She made him tea, and warmed water for his bath. They had a nice long talk, at the end of which the rain god said, “You've treated me very well. What shall I give you in return?”
“I don't want anything.”
“How come? You must ask for something you like.”
“If you insist. You can bring me a nice silk blouse.”
“That's easily done. I'll get you a blouse.”
And the rain god went the way he had come.
On his way home, he bought a blouse for each of his two wives, Gangakka and Gaurakka, and a third one for the princess. He folded the third one and hid it in the pocket of his shirt, and gave Gangakka and Gaurakka their blouses. While one of his wives was serving him food, the other one rifled his pockets and found the third blouse. “To whom is he taking this?” she thought jealously, took it to the backyard, beat the blouse with leaves of poison ivy, and put it back in the pocket.
The rain god knew nothing about any of this. He tied a note to a crow's neck, tied the blouse piece to its talons, and sent it to the princess that night. The crow perched on her roof and cawed: “Ka! Ka!” She heard the cry of the crow and came out. She found a note in its beak, which she read, and accepted the blouse the crow had brought.
Next morning, when she put on the blouse after her morning bath, she began to itch all over. She went back to the bathhouse and bathed again. Baths didn't help. She was miserable. In disgust, she tore off the blouse from her chest and threw it on the garbage heap. Then she bathed in very cold water, and wore cool clothes and went to sleep.
The rain god came again.
“Why are you lying down?” he asked. “I'm here.”
She didn't so much as stir. She said nothing, didn't say “Ha,” didn't say “Hu,” didn't so much as say “pickle,” not a thing. He tried to talk to her and make her talk. He tried all his tricks. Then he got tired and angry. He said, “Look here, think carefully. If you do this to me, you'll wander like a beggar and eat other people's leftovers for food. Think about it.”
She said not a word. She was furious.
“You won't talk to me, is that it? I'll come as an untouchable—if you lay eyes on me, that would be like talking to me. If you eat the fruit I bring, that would be talking to me. If I come as a donkey and piss, and you smell the stink, that would be like talking to me. You'll see.”
He threatened. He raved and ranted. But she said nothing.
The trees dried up. The ponds went dry.
The rain god brought poverty to her parents. The drought in the kingdom forced them all to leave and wander through the land. They walked and walked in the hot sun. Their feet seemed to be on fire. On the road, there stood a large banyan tree. When they took shelter in its shade, their daughter refused the shade and stood in the horrid sun. Then they came to a melon patch. Huge ripe watermelons lay rolling all over the field. The father went over and brought one. They all ate from it, but she refused to touch it. Farther on, the rain god came as a Madiga (untouchable) cobbler and brought them three new pairs of sandals for their feet. “Why do you walk barefoot in the hot sun? Take these sandals,” he offered. Her parents took them and put them on. She wouldn't touch them.
In the next village, there was a wise old woman. The princess's father and mother shared their troubles with her. She said, “Poverty may strike anyone. Please stay with me,” and gave them room in her hut. They stayed there two days and on the third day found work in the fields.
They brought some millet. The mother said to her daughter, “Spread this grain on the ground and let it dry. I'll come back and grind it in the evening. Watch it.” While she sat watching the grain dry, a donkey came and started eating. It even pissed on the grain. She did nothing. She didn't shoo it, beat it, or chase it away. The old woman of the house said, “What a lout you are! Sitting there, looking on when a donkey is eating and fouling your millet!” The disgusted old woman gathered the millet herself and took it inside.
Next day the rain god came to the door as a bangle-seller, crying, “Bangles, bangles!” She had no bangles on her wrist. She sat there without moving a muscle. The neighbor woman invited her: “Come here, avva. You don't have a bangle on your wrist. Come, wear some, here.” But she didn't move. So the neighbor forced her to sit in front of the bangle-seller and went in to attend to her cooking. The princess and the bangle-seller were left alone. He was waiting for this moment. He grabbed her and vanished with her.
He arrived in another village at another poor old woman's house, asked her to cook for them and feed them for three or four days. She was delighted. “Surely,” she said. “You are like a son. She is like a daughter-in-law.” They stayed there. After four days, the old woman found the couple strange. She asked in some dismay, “What's the matter with you people? You look like husband and wife. You don't talk to each other. You don't say a thing to each other. What's the matter? I worry about you.”
The rain god took her aside and confided in her. “Ask her why she is silent. Listen to whatever comes out of her lips. I'll be upstairs.”
The old woman asked the princess that evening, “Why, what's happened between you that you are silent? Is there anything that you cannot tell me?”
“ Avva, can I tell you anything without any fear?”
“Tell me everything without a fear.”
“ Avva, my girlfriends and I went to the orchard for a picnic. The sky was overcast, and rain darkened the sky. So I said, ‘O Rain God, instead of coming now, couldn't you come tonight?’ And he came to my room that night. He asked me what I wanted. I said, ‘Get me a blouse.’ He got one sewn, and sent it to me with a crow. I put it on. It gave me the most terrible itch. My body itched all day all over. He played a cruel trick on me. So I won't talk to him. I don't want to have anything to do with him.”
He overheard the conversation. He came down, gave the old woman a thousand rupees, and took the young woman home. He called his wives, Gangakka and Gaurakka.
“Who touched the blouse in the pocket of my coat?” he roared.
“Not me, not me,” they said.
“Tell me the truth. Who took it?”
“Not me! Not me! Ask Gaurakka,” said one.
“Not me! Ask Gangakka,” said the other.
They began to accuse each other. The truth came out in their quarrel.
“I don't want either of you in my house. What you did now you'll do again,” said the rain god.
He had them tied to an elephant's legs and dragged through the streets.
Then he returned their wealth and pomp to his new love's parents, and they had a great wedding at their palace.
They are happy there, while we are sitting here.
[NKTT, but cf. Motif D 2126.96.36.199, Rain caused to fall in certain place by rain god (IO); and Motif K 2222, Treacherous co-wife.]