Gopal Bhar and Son-in-Law

Stories of Gopal Bhar are some of the most common folktales of Bengal which are cherished by people of all age groups due to the wit and humour hidden in them. Here I bring up a story regarding misers which would certainly remind us of some of the misers we met in life.

Gopal Bhar was a court jester in medieval Bengal. He is said to have given joy to others by laughter and ridicule in the court of Raja Krishnachandra, the-then king of Nadia in the 18th century. He was famous for his intelligence and humour. The king often approached him for suggestions regarding important matters. He was a typical villager residing with his wife and kids.

The story here picks up a certain incident from the life of this man:

It has been quite some time that Gopal Bhar's daughter has been married and as per the Indian tradition she now stays with her in-laws. Unfortunately she has been married off to a man residing in a distant village, as a result how much ever she desired to meet her parents it was always hindered due to the transportation issues. In those days the only means of transportation for middle class people was bullock cart or else one had to walk the entire distance.

So one fine day the daughter and her husband came visiting the old couple. Elated by the homecoming of her beloved daughter and son-in-law, the mother got involved in cooking the most delicious dishes of all time. As one would know in Indian tradition the son-in-law is treated like a king in the girl's house, same was the situation in this case as well. Things would have gone well if the couple had stayed for just a few days but as the days increased the miser in Gopal Bhar took over. With each passing day the elaborate menus dug deeper holes in his pocket and as the saying goes, 'Once a miser, always a miser', matters went quite beyond his tolerance level.

Plans began to be made till the right string was struck. Lastly a master plan was devised to shoo away the son-in-law. As per the plan the young man was informed by the protagonist that since a past few days a thief had been coming over to steal lemons from the tree in their backyard and everyone in the household was quite disturbed due to this. Eager to impress everyone the son-in-law decided to catch the thief by keeping vigil on the backyard at night. So far everything has worked as per plan and the final step was to be taken, so as night fell and Gopal Bhar sat down for dinner, he requested his wife to bring him a lemon. Since there were no lemons in the kitchen at that time she went to get one from the tree.

The backyard was dark and nothing could be clearly seen. As the lady approached the tree, the son-in-law stood ready to catch the thief. Lo and behold, he caught his mother-in-law and started shouting 'I caught the thief! I caught the thief!' the lady panicked and she too started calling her husband. Due to all this chaos and noise the neighbours too came running with lanterns. So there stood the son-in-law holding his mother-in-law's hand. No one bothered to give an ear to whatever explanation he gave, so of shame and regret he ran off to his village before crack of sunlight next day.

Happy with his work Gopal Bhar twitched a smile as he silently saw his son-in-law hurry the way home.

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