Tales : The Worship of the Pestle

In India once upon a time there was a man named Ponnan, who was married to a woman named Bindi. Although they were poor, Ponnan was unable to control his generosity, often inviting people to their home for tea or to have a meal. Even people whom he barely knew would be welcomed, and this made life difficult for Bindi, as she had to somehow serve their guests when there was nothing at all to eat in the house.

One day, Bindi happened to look out of the window and saw three very well-fed gentlemen in the distance. She knew at once these were new acquaintances of her husband coming to enjoy themselves, and as this day she had not even a single tea leaf on hand, she was horrified. But then – perhaps divine guidance whispered in her ear – she had an idea. Immediately she ran and got the mortar and pestle that she used to pound rice, and began to make arrangements.

When the three gentlemen arrived and she opened the door for them, they were surprised to see the mortar and pestle inside the door, prepared as if for worship. “How strange,” one of them said. “Does your family worship the mortar and pestle? We have never heard of such a thing.”

“It is my husband,” Bindi replied. “It is an unusual belief, but it is in his family and he will not give it up. It causes no end of problems, because the pestle requires the sacrifice of human blood.”

“Human blood?” said another of the guests. “That is terrible!”

“Oh yes,” said Bindi. “And since those in the neighbourhood who know us refuse to visit us anymore, my husband now invites strangers to the house. Then he hits them on the head with the pestle – just hard enough to draw blood, of course, he doesn’t usually kill them. But then it is me who had to clean it all up.”

But the three gentlemen were not listening anymore. They were already hurrying away from the house as fast as their legs could carry them.

As they ran off, Ponnan arrived at the front door. “Why are they going away?” he demanded of his wife.

“They wanted the pestle, but I refused to give it to them.”

“What? But of course you must give it to them!” Ponnan grabbed the pestle and ran after the men, waving it in the air. “Come back, come back! Here is the pestle waiting for you! I’ll give it to you!”

“No, you won’t!” they shouted in reply, and running still faster, they soon disappeared from sight.

Perhaps word of this incident got around in the neighbourhood, because the number of people willing to enjoy Ponnan’s hospitality diminished sharply. And although Ponnan never once worshipped the mortar and pestle, Bindi would from time to time touch it affectionately and smile to herself.

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