Shyama's husband

There was once a man named Kiran who was very idle, while his wife, Shyama, was very active. Kiran wouldn’t do anything. Shyama had to work and support him. Every day the wife would milk the cow and then take the milk to the market to sell. All kinds of things the wife had to make and sell to support her husband. In Indian villages the husband always works and the wife looks after the house. But in this case it was just the opposite. After some time, nobody would call the husband Kiran. They would always refer to him as ‘Shyama’s husband’.

One day, an old friend of his came to the village and asked one of his neighbours, “Do you know where Kiran lives?”

The man said, “I have never heard of him. He must not live around here.”

It happened that Kiran was enjoying his afternoon siesta nearby. He woke up and overheard his neighbour saying that there was no one by the name of Kiran in the village. Kiran said, “What? Am I not Kiran?”

He and his friend were so happy to see each other. The friend said to the neighbour, “Why did you say that Kiran did not live here?

The man said, “I know him only as Shyama’s husband.”

When the man left, Kiran’s friend said to him, “What an insult! Nowhere have I ever heard anyone called by his wife’s name. It is always just the opposite.”

Kiran felt miserable. He thought to himself, “This can’t go on.”

The following day he said, “How can I bring back my name and reputation?” He knew that his wife sold milk at the market every day. So this time he himself went to sell the milk.

One villager said to him, “Oh, it is so good to see you. You look wonderful, Shyama’s husband. You look wonderful.”

Kiran said, “Here I am selling the milk, and still the man has to call me ‘Shyama’s husband’.”

Then Kiran went to another place to sell the milk. A little girl saw him and cried, “Mother, Mother, today Shyama’s husband has come to sell milk, not Shyama.”

Kiran said, “Even this little girl calls me ‘Shyama’s husband’.” He became so furious. He said, “The only thing I can do now is become a merchant. I will borrow money from someone and open up a business. Then people will come to know me as Kiran and my deplorable fate will come to an end.”

He went to a moneylender, but the moneylender said, “I don’t know you well. Do you have property?”

The clerk said, “Sir, you don’t have to worry because he is Shyama’s husband. If he doesn’t give you the money back, Shyama will.”

Kiran was so angry that he left the moneylender’s shop and said, “I am renouncing the world.” He went into a forest to take up a life of prayer and meditation. He grew a beard and moustache and ate only the fruits that grew in the forest. At times he would go begging door to door as a mendicant.

Shyama felt miserable that she had lost her husband. One day there was a fair in the village and hundreds of people came. Kiran was begging for food from person to person, but nobody recognised him. Kiran went up to his wife, for he was absolutely sure that she would not be able to recognise him. As soon as Shyama looked at him, she immediately burst into tears. Everybody thought that this fellow had said something undivine to her.

Then in front of everyone, she said to the beggar, “How can you fool me? Are you not my husband? I promise you, if you come back home, from now on people will call you by your own name. I have saved up some money. With this money you can open up a business. Everybody will come to you, and I will only work at home as your servant. Nobody will call you by a servant’s name. Everybody will call you Kiran.”

The husband believed her and came back home. From then on, everybody called him Kiran and not ‘Shyama’s husband’.