Ram's Wife





It is a custom among us Santals that husband and wife do not mention

each other's names; and even if a husband sometimes mentions his

wife's name in a case of urgent necessity, the wife will never speak

her husband's; in the same way a man may not mention the name of his

younger brother's wife or of his wife's elder sister; women again may

not use the name of their younger sister's husband or their husband's

elder brother. Our forefathers have said that if any one breaks this

rule his children will be born deaf or dumb; we believe this and fear

to break through the custom.



There was once a man named Ram who was ploughing his field; when he

got to the end he found that he had not brought the seed with him;

so he called out to his wife, pretending however that he was speaking

to his daughter "Seed, daughter, seed!" And she called back "What

do you want it for? Are you going to sow it?" (eram = will you sow)

and every time he called, she answered "Eram?" At this he lost his

temper and ran up to the house and asked what she meant by speaking

his name, when he told her to bring out the seed for sowing; and

thereupon he proceeded to give her a good thrashing. His wife said to

him "Your name is the same as the word for 'sow,' it is a very fine

name you have got." At this Ram laughed and asked how he could help

having the name which his father and mother had given him. At this

she giggled. "Then why are you hurt by it? You had better in future

take out the seed corn with you and then you won't have to call to me;

if you do I shall answer you as I did to-day."



To the present day people do not use the forbidden words; or if

compelled to they spit on the ground first; even Christian converts do

not like to infringe the rule if many people are present and usually

speak of a person with a forbidden name as the father, or mother of

such and such a child.





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