The Ogress (The Telugu Tableau Through Translation)

Telugu original1 by: Dr Siri

Translated by: U Atreya Sarma
(With the permission of the original writer)

Dr Siri
In a village, Rajendrapuram, there lived a wealthy man, Veeraiah. But he was miserly and greedy. 
Veeraiah was into money-lending. Whoever borrowed from him, he heavily compounded the interest and collected twice the original loan amount. He was equally usurious whether the borrowers were his kith and kin or others.

“Please heed my words for I am your wife cum well-wisher. To be miserly and greedy doesn’t befit a human. It doesn’t help you in anyway, and you won’t gain anything. On the other hand, you’ll lose a lot, especially respect among the people. You know, everyone in the village is cursing you.” His wife urged Veeraiah so ardently.

U Atreya Sarma
“Who can dare to damn me? Money-lending is not such an easy job. It’s only the defaulters that find fault with me. Why should I care them? If I have become rich, it’s only because I am penny-wise, piling up every coin in a thrifty manner. It’s only those who don’t know the value of money that rattle on about my ways. It’s only my parsimony that has made me well-off. Anyway, I know pretty well what I am and how to conduct myself. You better keep off from doling out free advice.” An irritated Veeraiah blurted out.

Knowing his anger only too well, she couldn’t speak any further. After all, a wife is keen on the welfare of her husband; and it’s only she that has the duty and liberty of offering a word of advice to him. But given Veeraiah’s incorrigible temperament, she fell silent, and he went on scot-free with a redoubled avarice.
***

In the same Rajendrapuram village, there was another money-lender. He was Subbaiah, an inherently good-natured man with a spirit of charity. If he found anyone in a hard situation, he would pronto go to their rescue. Everyone in the village heartily praised him and his positive qualities.

Subbaiah’s wife was Lakshmi. Observing the over-liberal way of his financial transactions, one day she opened up and shared her views with him.

“No doubt, it’s good for every person to be good, but one should not be excessively good. One should not be too meek and diffident, neglecting one’s own genuine interests. Noticing your excessive goodness and gullibility, and taking undue advantage of it, some of the people who have received your help are tending to cheat you. Please think over what I have said, and try to change yourself in a well-balanced way.”

Subbaiah felt that there was truth in what his wife had said, and began trying his best to change his ways.
***

One day, Veeraiah visited Subbaiah’s place, and said, “Subbaiah, I am in urgent need of some money. That’s why I am here for a loan.”

‘Isn’t it strange that an affluent person like Veeraiah has come to seek a loan from me who doesn’t match his riches?’ felt Subbaiah, and he spoke out his surprise.

And Veeraiah responded, “However rich one might be, a day comes when they too would be in dire need. Anyway, I’ve nothing to hide from you. All of my money has stuck in the lending business. The borrowers are not repaying in time. As a result, I am totally out of money. Of course, I am expecting repayment of a loan but only after a fortnight. In the meantime, how to eke out my livelihood? That’s why, I am at your doorstep,” feigning a twinge of discomfiture.

Buying his words, Subbaiah lent Veeraiah the five thousand rupees he had asked for.

The promised fortnight’s time passed by, and then even six months rolled by. Veeraiah didn’t repay the loan. Whenever Subbaiah gently reminded him, he would simply defer it from time to time.

Knowing of this, Lakshmi said to her husband, “Veeraiah borrowed from you not out of any necessity but only as a deliberate ploy to trick you. He is the richest man in our village. How at all can he be short on funds? And how would he approach you, of all people? His was a well-planned strategy. He cashed on your proverbial weakness. Assured that you would never insist on repayment, he wanted to usurp the money for himself with his wonted avarice.”

“Okay. But isn’t there a way of recovering our money?” said, an anguished Subbaiah.

“Why not? Here you’re…” she whispered into his ears.

Subbaiah was so happy with his wife’s smartness.
***

The next day, Veeraiah went to a neighbouring village on a recovery trip. He collected the debts and was on his way back. There was a thick forest between the two villages.

“I have told you a number of times that it isn’t safe for you to go out all alone to such places. At least now, better take someone along with you as support,” advised his wife this time too, but it fell on deaf ears. If he were to heed her advice, he would have to meet the companion’s expenses of travel, board and lodge. The incurable skinflint he was, he ploughed a lonely furrow.

That day, after Veeraiah reached the other village, things got delayed. So, by the time he was in the middle of the forest on his way back, it was very dark. Clutching the sacks of money to his chest, he kept crawling through the wooded patch scarily and creepily, trying to summon up the courage that wasn’t there.

Now, lo! As if from no-where, an ogress pounced on Veeraiah.

Grabbing him by throat, she yelled, “How dare you step into my territory?”

Frightened out of his wits, Veeraiah bowed to the demoness, and said, “Oh, the Ogress Queen! Pardon me, please. I didn’t know this is your domain. Never would I enter here again, I promise. Please let me out.”

“Humph! Because this is your first trespass, I’m forgiving you. If I see you even once again here, I’ll butcher you. Rats! Get lost, never once looking back,” roared the demoness, deafeningly. 
In the flurry of things, Veeraiah dropped his sacks of money like a hot potato, and ran away in fear of his life.
***

The next day, Veeraiah went to the village council and vented out his story, grief, and loss of money. 
Sighting Subbaiah who had just then arrived there, Veeraiah said, “My dear Subbaiah, I had planned to repay you the loan of five thousand rupees, but now you’ve seen my plight! What can I do?” with a feigning pain. He presumed that Subbaiah, the good soul that he was, would willingly write off his loan. Thereby, Veeraiah hoped to be richer by that amount.

Then, Subbaiah walked up to the Panchayat head. “Sir, today morning when I was going to the neighbouring village, I chanced upon these sacks of money in the forest. It’s only after coming here, have I come to know that they belong to Veeraiah,” saying so, he handed over the sacks to the Panchayat chief. Veeraiah jumped for joy, and grabbed the sacks, saying “My goodness! Yes, these are my own. Thank God, I have got back my money!”

“Of course, you have got back yours. But it contains my dues of five thousand rupees too. As you promised just a while ago, please repay my dues,” said a smiling Subbaiah.

This development upset Veeraiah’s applecart. He was on the horns of a dilemma. He couldn’t take back his word, having uttered it in the public. He would otherwise lose his prestige whatever was left of it. So, without a demur, he passed over the amount of five thousand rupees to Subbaiah, though with some sting.
***

Subbaiah was on cloud nine. After returning home, he said, “Oh, Mrs Ogress! Here’s your money!” placing the money in his better-half’s hands.

“Wow, finally, we’ve got back our money!” said Lakshmi, with glee.

But back there, Veeraiah was still sullen that he couldn’t evade the repayment for ever. 
******

1. Original Telugu story titled ‘Rakshasi’ from Rakshasudi Padaraksha (Ogre’s Shoes) – a collection of Telugu stories by Dr Siri. Sashi Ram Publications, Miryalaguda, Dec 2019, pp 110, ₹ 100 / $ 3.
***

Bio: Dr Sirisha Macherla, popular as Dr Siri, hails from Miryalaguda, Nalgonda district (Telangana). A qualified dental physician, she is a prolific and popular writer of children’s literature in Telugu – poetry, short story, novel. She is the judge of many competitions in the field of children’s literature. She is active not only in writing but also in the voluntary service of various types of children including physically challenged. She has brought out collections of stories like – Vennela Pudota (The Moonlit Garden of Flowers); Vendi Nemaleeka (Silver Peacock-plume); Rakshasudi Padaraksha (The Demon’s Shoe); Manchu Ooyala (The Snowy Swing); Vanamlo Virisina Kathalu (The Tales that Bloomed in the Garden); and Aksharalato Aata (Play with the Syllables) a book on word play containing short stories, crosswords, proverbs, and riddles.

Collaborating with the LV Prasad Eye Institute, she produced audio editions of 200 stories for the benefit of the visually challenged children of the two Telugu states. She is a specialist in narrating stories in the schools for the deaf-mute kids and also making them narrate. She has also released 200 animation stories through the Lollipop app.

Besides children’s literature, Dr Siri has published 2 novels, 2 poetry collections, and one collection of short stories. Dr Siri’s achievements in the field of children’s literature won her the Telangana Government Distinguished Woman Award-2018.

Email: ragasri03@gmail.com


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