The Man Who Traded His Wife
Long ago, when our gods were plenty and the sacrifices untold, when trees were revered and lands- sacred, there in the little corner of a Tangkhul region was a famine struck village where the terraced fields were parched and the grains refused to sprout. But it was neither the gods nor the Mother Nature sulking, it was their own doing.
This village was once a fertile land where grains were harvested at an unimaginable scale. So, one time, their harvest was so bountiful that the village folks decided to live off on the grains for three years without tending their fields anymore.
By the third year, their granaries had emptied up and all they had were fields overgrown with weeds. Their laziness had got the best of them. However, their grasp of the situation was a tad too late as by then, their grains were not fit for planting. Then they reached out to the neighbouring villages for help, but all they got were boiled grains with spite that wouldn’t sprout.
Caught in the middle of this chaos was a poor family of seven who went to bed starved too many a times. The father was the sole breadwinner of the family, his children being of very young age. And the famine had made it really hard for him to find menial works.
Some days he would come home with a handful of rice, and most days none at all. The family had got accustomed to this routine. Then one day, the father surprised them by coming home with a sack of rice! It was welcomed with joyous shouts by the children and a pleased yet surprised gasping from the mother.
Still gaping at the good luck, the mother asked what kind of a job favoured him with a sack of rice. He gleamed when he said that a king from their neighbouring village gave him a job, so they would not have to worry about being hungry anymore. That night, the family had one of the best sleeps in years.
Whether it was the gods compensating them for the sorrows they endured or it was the king’s kindness, the husband brought home a sack of rice every month, sometimes with other food items too. A year went by; the family was happier than ever, healthy and contented.
Then, one morning the husband asked the wife to ready herself in the best attire because the king had invited them to the grand feasting of the erection of a monumental wood- Tarung Kashun. Running a quick bath and adorning herself with the only Kongsang she had, they left for the feasting.
However, unknown to her, a year ago the husband had responded to the search for a sacrificial human in the erection of a monumental wood by a king from a neighbouring village. The deal was to provide food for the family for a lifetime in exchange for his wife during the big feasting day, Tarung Kashun.
Now, as they neared the village, the husband could hear the village folks making merry and readying for the sacrifice. The husband was heartbroken; his heart couldn’t contain his betrayal. But as much as he regretted his trading, there was nothing he could do to save his wife as it was already too late.
So, just as they were reaching the venue, he looked up at her with a heavy heart and sang her a song of his betrayal (as folksong was a way of communication then):
“All these years, my dearest, you know how much I love you. But because I couldn’t bear to see you and our children go hungry, I bartered your life with the king. I sacrificed you for our children, for us”.
As he sang, everything dawned on the wife, of the endless supply of good food. Knowing her fate ended here but not knowing if her sacrifice was worthy, she responded-
“Oh you fine worker, did I not inquire so many times why you were favoured with so much of rice? Did I not inquire where you were working? You really did barter your only wife’s life with the king”.
Just as she finished the song, the village folk took her away. Then they put her in the big pit dug for Tarung. Before the monumental trunk was put into the pit, she sang a song that pleaded that she be the last victim of such sacrificial feast; that this was a forbidden act, by the gods and nature.
After the song, she bowed her head making way for the huge tree trunk to crush her tiny body.
It has been said that the practice of a sacrificial human stopped from this incident.
(A true story from the time of our forefathers)
[PS: This story was originally written for Seihakhon Magazine, an undertaking of a church in Delhi. I hope the story makes you question your actions, if you are also committing an irreversible mistake like the husband while looking for an easy way out. I hope this story inspires you, just as it did to me, to keep your priorities straight and to never stop striving and thriving.]