Monday, March 2, 2009

Chhura and his enemies

Transcreated by Margaret Ch. Zama


One day Chhura made a trip to Mawnping village only to discover that it was like no other. People did not defecate because they had no anuses, and when asked how he acquired his, Chhura replied, “When we were little, our parents applied a red-hot iron skewer, and then put us all in a big basket which they opened only on the third day.” At this, everyone wanted the same operation performed on their children, and so brought them to Chhura. Chhura followed the procedure he had told them about and asked them to come for their children on the third day. When they did so, they found that only one lone child had survived, but not for long as it too was killed by the rush of parents claiming it.


They then realized that Chhura had duped and made fools of then, so directing their anger at him, they gave chase. But Chhura had foreseen this and hidden himself inside a hollow log. Soon his pursuers reached the place and sat upon the log to rest. In his anger and frustration, one of them hurled his spear at the log exclaiming, “Had this been Chhura, this is how I would spear him!” At this the foolish Chhura replied from inside, “Take care! You might really spear me!” They then arrested him. “Alright,” he said “you may hold me by the elbows as our forefathers did with their captives.” As they did so, Chhura suddenly wriggled out of their grasp and violently flayed about his arms, hitting them in all directions, then made his escape. 


Realising they had been tricked, his enemies now came after him in a large group. Just before they caught up with him, Chhura quickly climbed atop a huge banyan tree. As they collected in a group below deciding on their next course of action, he walked along a branch and flapping his puan (traditional lungi) about him exclaimed aloud, “I am going to fly across to the distance yonder.” At this , his enemies quickly dispatched a group shouting, “Quick! run ahead of him! Run ahead of him!”. Chhura then walked along another branch in the opposite direction and did the same thing. His gullible enemies quickly dispatched another group in this direction.

Now only a handful of them remained and believing that all exits were blocked, they decided to cut down the tree. As they proceeded to do so, Chhura realized the tree was about to fall, so he called out, “Wait! Let me come down and help you with the task.” They did so, and completed the job with his help. They then suddenly came to their senses and firmly got hold of him. But he again tricked them into holding him by the upper lip, and when he suddenly blew his nose they released their hold in disgust. In this way he once again escaped them.

Chhura’s enemies were now angrier than ever and determined to catch him. They lay in wait for him in his jhoom hut, but secretly aware of their plans, he outwitted them into thinking that his hut could respond to his call. When he loudly addressed his hut from a distance, they at first keep silent. Then, as though thinking aloud, he said “How strange that my hut should refuse to respond today. I will call once more and if there is no reply, then it will mean that there are enemies hiding in it, and the hut is afraid to call out.” So he once again called out, and this time, the enemies within were compelled to make response. At this Chhura shouted, “Enemies! Enemies!” and once again evaded them.

Chhura however, was finally caught and imprisoned inside a huge basket which was hung under a bridge. Below flowed a deep river. Before long a merchant belonging to the Pawih clan came to cross the bridge and Chhura called out threateningly, “Pawia, if you don’t release me I shall kill you,” and saying this he brandished his knife from where he was. The man did as he was told. Then Chhura told him, “Why don’t you try out the basket, it is really quite comfortable,” and thus tricking him, imprisoned him in his stead. He then cut the rope from which the basket hung and the poor merchant drowned in the river while Chhura took possession of all his money and merchandise.

Loaded with his treasures, Chhura made his way into the village of his enemies. Everyone was surprised to see him. “How did you manage to escape from your imprisonment and acquire all these riches?” they asked in wonder. He replied, “Well, being a man I tied a big empty vessel round my waist and jumped into the river. As soon as it made the sound ‘bi bi birh birh’, I exclaimed ‘great riches are found! great riches are found!’ and then gathered as much riches as I could from the river bed.”

Excited, and their greed aroused, Chhura’s enemies decided to do the same. All the men tied empty vessels round their waist which they hoped to fill with treasures, and rushed off to the river, with Chhura escorting them. At first no one dared jump in, so Chhura pushed over one of them, and as soon as his vessel started filling with water, it emitted the sound “bi bi birh birh”, and hearing this the rest of them exclaimed “great riches are found! great riches are found!” and jumped into the river without further ado, unwittingly drowning themselves.

Chhura returned to the village alone and when the women inquired about their husbands, he urged them to go and help their men folk who were on their way home with their heavy loads. They all excitedly set off. Meanwhile Chhura went round the village and doused the fire at every home. Only he had a huge fire going and when a widow who stayed behind went to ask for fire, he made her earn it by sleeping with him.

Late in the evening the women returned from their futile errand, tired and cold from the pouring rain only to find their homes cold and without fire. When they asked the widow for fire, she refused them saying, “I earned my fire. Go and do the same.” So it was that all the women had to pay a price to Chhura for their fire. 


Dr. Margaret Ch. Zama is a professor in the English dept. of Mizoram University. She is deeply involved in the transcreation of Mizo folk literature and bringing it to national and international audiences.



2 comments:

Most Ordinary Man said...

at last i found so many folk tales specialy Chhura which is much popular in Mizoram.But i am trying to understand what message gives this story?How can he lives alone in a village without children and Men?Is it he a Idiot or a Madman?Why he wants to see only his clans?It seems that he has no love for other Man and children?Also what Lesson takes Mizo society from such kind of Person?I just try to figure out.Thanks for providing such a Beautiful website dedicated for Mizoram folk story.

Mojo Jojo said...

No, but really! Chhura seems like such a bad person. Was he looked upon as some kind of folktale hero? Sometimes I think they had no concept of good or bad in the good (??!) old days.
But then, the other characters in this story are so dumb, they probably deserved their fate.