Birkay puffed some air into the blowpipe and sparked the embers to life. It was the most important day of his life, and he couldn’t afford to mess it up. Niru’s father was coming to dinner. Birkay had taken pains to discover his meat preference and scouted out the best mutton cut of the day in the village mart.
Ahh! If only her father agreed, Niru would be his!
She had exchanged glances with him at a friend’s wedding. He was unsure if her playful smile indicated consent. Still, her lithe, supple, dancing figure and glowing proud face had captivated his infatuated heart.
Over the next few days, he pleaded for information about her. Whoever knew them said that he should give up the idea of marrying Niru. Her father would never favor a tippler like him, however well he might earn. The list of rejected suitors who had offered the old man tongba, was long.
‘Strange! What would a man have against tongba, of all things,’ Birkay wondered.
He had somehow managed to meet and warm up to Niru’s father. Before long ,he invited his prospective in-law for a sumptuous evening meal at his hut.
He dressed the meat carefully with hints of cumin, ginger and condiments and set the sealed, vessel into the rich embers for a slow cooking and melt-in-the-mouth finish. Their beer fermenting drums were well concealed in the backroom, near the window, with a gunny sack thrown over.
With tidy hair and a new shirt on his back; Birkay welcomed his guest reverentially. A new rattan mat graced the cool floor . His mother had polished the bronze plates with tamarind and ash.
The old man seemed pleased with the laid-out fare. The preparations had cost Birkay a week’s earnings . His guest zestfully tasted the delectable dish and casually asked if he had saved some to enjoy with his booze later.
Birkay was caught off-guard and turned beet red. ‘But I’m a sworn teetotaler’, he stammered awkwardly.
‘Shoot! A teetotaler are you?’
‘Yes sir, that’s a fact. But if you wish to have some, I could fetch a jarful from the neighbor’s.’
Just then the elephant alarm sounded. Villagers scurried to light torches on their fences to stave off jumbos on the scent of grains or their favorite millet beer, from crushing their huts. A loud trumpet echoed nearby. Birkay rushed inside, promptly emerging with the beer drums and bravely casting them into the betel nut grove to divert the animal.
Poor Birkey knew he had anyhow lost Niru. He might save his hut at least . Niru’s father stood aside sagaciously. Birkay didn’t say a word. But the old man was full of surprises. ‘Son,’ he declared, ‘ I think my daughter will be lucky to marry you. You gave up all pretence and acted wisely in the face of an emergency, even at the cost of losing Niru. Let me know when I should prepare to receive the janti.‘
tongba: beer made from millet or wheatgrain
janti: bridegroom’s marriage procession
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One thought on “How Birkay Won Niru’s Hand”
Loved this lovely write-up ❤️ You brought the scenes to life with your description. I could visualise every thing happening in front of me while reading it! Great going friend ❤️