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Kashmir has an immensely rich and largely undocumented tradition of storytelling: Read the Kashmiri Folk Tale 'The Goat and Her Children'

This is the full text of the Kashmiri Folk Tale — The Goat and Her Children (Tshawij te Temsind Bacche).
Dapaan, there was once a goat that lived with her old master. In the cold and grey winter, when the grass turned brown and fresh food was hard to come by, her master would feed her scantily. When the smell of the first narcissus filled the air, the goat was filled with hope. Sadly, her old master continued to neglect her, and only fed her some grain here and some fodder there. He was busy with many other things. Soon he forgot to pay attention to the goat. After months of waiting, the goat gave up. She bleated a sigh that sounded like a mix of resignation and regret—a sigh of jera—and left for the mountains.
The determined goat took long strides, but as soon as she started her ascent, she spotted a jackal eagerly waiting behind a rock. Watching her from the corner of his eye, his face lit up in a sly smile and he said, ‘I’ve been waiting for you for a while. Why are you so late, my dear?’
The goat replied, ‘Shalkaka, may I face your demons, I was away for the winter. I stayed hungry and I am weak. Look how my bones peek through my skin! I thought I’d go up the mountains, fatten up and come back to you healthier. I’ve left my old master to go to the pastures to graze. If you wait until autumn, I’ll be fat and tasty. If you eat me then, I’ll be healthy and you shall be fed.’
She is right, the jackal thought to himself, if I eat her now, I eat a skeleton. How will I be full?
‘Okay, leave for now. Autumn will come and I shall be waiting for you,’ said he.
She walked ahead and came across a lion. He too said the same thing to her. ‘I’ve been waiting for you for a while. Why are you so late? I am hungry.’
The goat looked at him with a bowed head and said, ‘Padshah, you have the right, you can eat me whenever you want. But today, look at me. This long winter has been harsh. I’ve shrunk to a skeleton. My meat will not fill your stomach. If you wait till autumn, I’ll be fat all over. If you eat me then you’ll enjoy me and your stomach will also be full.’
‘Okay, leave for now. Autumn will come, and I shall be waiting for you,’ said the lion.
Walking further down, the goat met a bear. The bear also tried to eat her and she got rid of him the same way, pointing to her bony skeleton and promising her return. ‘Can I go any other way but this?’ she said.
Finally, she reached the meadows she longed for. Fresh flowers and cool spring grass welcomed her and she grazed to her heart’s content. A few months passed by idly and spring turned to summer. In summer, she gave birth to four children and with these younglings in tow, she did not think it wise to leave for the winter. Autumn came and went. She found herself a cave for the winter where she fed and raised her children. Spring once again brought with it the fragrance of the narcissus she loved nibbling on, and she fed her children to their hearts’ content. They ate grass and flowers and ran free across the meadows all summer, until the next autumn was close.
The goat was worried. She had raised her children out in the meadows, but she knew she had to go back home to her old master, sooner or later. Not only that, she also had past demons to face on the way. In her heart of hearts, she knew she had raised her children well and gently broke the news to them. ‘The year has come, when we should go back home, my children. You need to see where you belong. You need to know my home, your home—these fields are lovely and free but home, with all its trials and realities is still where you will find peace.’ She continued, ‘We might have some troubles on our way back, though. On the way, a lion, bear and jackal will still be waiting for me—waiting to eat me.’ The children listened. In their youthful fervour, they were adamant that they go ahead. They took it as a challenge upon themselves. ‘Let us go, mother. Let us see what they do.’ She looked at them and thought, ‘My kids have sharp brains and sharper horns.’ One of them had horns with edges like that of a knife. The other had such strength that he could break open a stone with his head. Another could dig a hole in a tree with his horns. And the fourth was clever; he could trap a full beast in his wide horns. So, as the first leaves of autumn browned, mother and children left for home.
They first reached the bear, who was still waiting. ‘Why did you break your promise? You didn’t come last year.’
‘Take a look at my guardians here,’ she flourished and in a chorus her children sang,

Hengal maari hyengav seeth

Shrakal maari sharkaov seeth

Dhakkal maari dhakkov seeth

Tontal wael thoal

Chukhai gaatul te tsal.

The horned one with his horns will hurt you

The knifed one with his knives will slash you

The brash one with his shoves will strike you

And then you’ll be knocked down by the stubborn one.

If you call yourself wise, then run.

Surprised at the angry goat and her children, the bear could only run. Overjoyed by their victory, they marched on. Up ahead came the lion. He was furious and they could see the blood rise to his face.
He saw the goat and was just about to pounce on her when she announced, ‘My king. These kids of mine are fierce and angry, their faces are hard and they are strong. They killed the bear as well. Take one look at these pahalwans.’ And in a chorus they began,

The horned one with his horns will hurt you

The knifed one with his knives will slash you

The brash one with his shoves will strike you,

And then you’ll be knocked down by the stubborn one.

If you call yourself wise, then run.

‘Okay, okay,’ said the lion in a huff. ‘Leave. I am not too hungry today anyway.’
Then they reached the jackal. Before he could even greet the goat, she beckoned to her kids who broke into a chorus,

The horned one with his horns will hurt you,

The knifed one with his knives will slash you,

The brash one with his shoves will strike you,

And then you’ll be knocked down by the stubborn one.

If you call yourself wise, then run.

The jackal was wise. He ran as fast and as far as his feet would take him. Overjoyed, the mother goat and her children walked home. The goat was back after two years and happy to see her old master. The villagers gathered around to welcome her. They coddled her children as they heard her tale—much to their surprise. None of them had left the village, so all they had were stories of this prodigal goat who returned home. Stories they would continue to tell for years to come. And for their tales of adventure, the goat and her kids were rewarded with much food and fodder for as long as they lived.
 
Note: The meanings of some Kashmiri words which have been used in this story are republished here from the “Dictionary of Kashmiri Imponderabilia”, which is an annexe to this book, for the benefit of the readers.
Dapaan (v): ‘It is said’. An expression of the orality of Kashmiri, dapaan is a collection of voices that translate to ‘it is said’. The way to begin any story, fact, or myth. Fact takes a backseat when dapaan is invoked.
Jera (v): A feeling of extreme agitation, being unable to breathe freely when the circumstances are suffocating. Associated actions could be wringing hands, tearing clothes off, or acting with impulsive recklessness after a period of restraint.

Excerpted with permission from The Legend of Himal and Nagrai: Greatest Kashmiri Folk Tales, Retold by Onaiza Drabu, Speaking Tiger Books. Read more about the book here and buy it here.

 

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