C The Divorce

: Part I.
: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

There was once a man who had reason to suspect his wife's

faithfulness. He first tried threatening and scolding her; but this

had no good effect, for far from being ashamed she only gave him

back harder words than she received. So he set to work to find some

way of divorcing her without making a scandal. One day when he came

home with a fine basket of fish which he had caught he found that his

father-in-law had come to
pay them a visit. As he cleaned the fish

he grumbled at the thought that his wife would of course give all the

best of them to her father; at last an idea struck him. As he handed

over the fish to his wife he told her to be careful not to give her

father the heads of the mangri fish nor the dust of tobacco, as

it was very wrong to give either of those things to a visitor. "Very

well," she answered; but to herself she thought "What does he mean by

forbidding me to do these things? I shall take care to give my father

nothing but the heads of the fish" for her pleasure was to thwart her

husband. So when the evening meal was ready she filled a separate plate

for her father with nothing but the fish heads. As her husband heard

the old man munching and crunching the bones he smiled to himself at

the success of the plot. When his father was about to leave he asked

for some tobacco, and the woman brought him only tobacco dust which she

had carefully collected out of the bottom of the bag. The old gentleman

went off without a word but very disappointed with his treatment.

A few days later the woman went to visit her father's house, and

then he at once asked her what she meant by treating him as she had

done. "I am sorry," said she: "I did it to spite my husband; he went

out of his way to tell me not to give you the heads of the fish and

the dust of tobacco, and so I picked out nothing but heads for you

and gave you all the tobacco dust I could collect because I was so

angry with him." From this her father easily understood that husband

and wife were not getting on well together.

Time passed and one day her mother went to visit the troublesome

wife. As she was leaving, her daughter asked whether there was any

special reason for her coming. Her mother admitted that she had come

hoping to borrow a little oil to rub on the cattle at the coming

Sohrae festival, but as her son-in-law was not there she did not like

to mention it and would not like to take any without his consent. "O

never mind him!" said the woman and insisted on her mother taking

away a pot--not of cheap mowah or mustard oil,--but of ghee.

Now a little girl saw her do this and the tale was soon all over the

village; but the undutiful wife never said a word about it to her

husband, and it was only after some days that he heard from others

of his wife's extravagance. When it did reach his ears he seized

the opportunity and at once drove her out of the house, and when

a panchayat was called insisted on divorcing her for wasting his

substance behind his back. No one could deny that the reason was a

good one and so the panchayat had to allow the divorce. Thus he got

rid of his wife without letting his real reason for doing so be known.