Somrita Urni Ganguly presents a story from the Panchatantra

Home Wreckers

For my friend, Nurduran Duman, light and love ~

Once upon a time, there was a king called Devshakti. One day, a snake entered the stomach of the king’s son and built its lair there. The body of the young prince started withering every day because of the presence of the reptile. The prince left his kingdom and went to a faraway land after the ministers could find no cure for his condition. He started living in the new place as a beggar, taking shelter in a temple.

The king of this foreign land, Bali, had two young daughters. Every morning the two princesses would greet their father. One would fold her hands, and bowing before the king she would say, “Hail to thee, almighty king! There is joy in this world because of your kindness.” The second would say, “Almighty king, may you reap what you sow.” The king would be angered by the words of his second daughter. One day, in a fit of rage, he called his minister and said, “Give my daughter away to some beggar come from a foreign land. Such will be her punishment for her bitter words. Let her reap the benefits of what she has sown.”

Following the king’s command, the ministers got the princesses married off to the prince who had come from a distant land and was living in the premises of the temple as a beggar. The princess accepted this man as her husband and started serving him. The two soon left that land for another place.

They stopped by a pond, one day. The princess left her husband waiting there and went to a near-by village to barter for some grains of rice, some oil, and clarified butter. When she returned with the food she found her husband sleeping close to a snake’s lair near the waterbody. A fanged snake had come out of his mouth and was taking in some fresh air. A second snake had come out of the lair and was sitting with its fangs out. The two soon engaged in a conversation.

The wild snake told the domesticated one, “Oh, you evil creature! Why are you ruining the life of this young, heavenly-looking man?”

The snake residing within the bowels of the prince replied, “Well, you are also polluting the goblet filled with gold, lying inside this lair.”

They first snake replied, “Do you think no one knows the antidote to your poison? Anyone can give the prince a drink of kanji, a potion prepared from carrot, radish and berries. That will kill you and cure the prince.”

Thus, the two animals revealed each other’s secrets. The princess, who had overheard everything, used the means revealed by the two snakes to kill them both. The prince was well again and they found a pot of gold inside the snake’s lair, which helped them leave behind their days of poverty. The happy couple returned to the prince’s homeland. The king and the queen welcomed them back.

Somrita Urni Ganguly is an Indian professor, and award-winning poet and literary translator. She was a Fulbright Doctoral Research Fellow at Brown University, USA, and is an alumna of the University of East Anglia’s International Literary Translation and Creative Writing Summer School. Somrita served as a judge for the 2021 PEN America Translation Prize, and is currently Head of the Department of English, Maharaja Manindra Chandra College, University of Calcutta. Somrita is the editor of the first anthology of food poems, Quesadilla and Other Adventures (2019), and has translated Firesongs (2019), Shakuni: Master of the Game (2019), and The Midnight Sun: Love Lyrics and Farewell Songs (2018), among other works. Somrita was selected by the National Centre for Writing, UK, as an emerging translator in 2016. In 2017, she was invited as translator-in-residence at Cove Park, Scotland, and as poet-in-residence at Arcs of a Circle, Mumbai, an artistes’ residency organized by the US Consulate in Mumbai. Somrita has been published in Asymptote, Words Without Borders, In Other Words, and Trinity College Dublin’s Journal of Literary Translation, University of British Columbia’s Prism Magazine, among others. She has fourteen academic publications to her credit, and is a recipient of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund Award (2013) and the Sarojini Dutta Memorial Prize (2011). Her work has been acknowledged with the WE Glowing Diamond accolade from WE Literary Community in ’20. Somrita is one of the judges for the WE Poetry Awards.