A reluctant hero

A reluctant hero

Bahadur Bitta was terrified of everything around him. He shook in fear of his wife; he quivered at the sight of the ill-tempered old woman who lived next door and he was even afraid of his temperamental donkey! So how did he become rich and famous? 

On a stormy night, Bitta found his pesky donkey missing from his shed in the courtyard. “Bitta, find that stupid donkey! He is probably out in our neighbour’s sugarcane field.

I wouldn’t want to meet that woman in the morning,” said Bitta’s wife before going to bed. Shaking in his shoes and cursing the donkey, Bitta stepped out in the rain to look for his donkey.

It was a good thing that the dhobi did not know that a tiger from the nearby jungle was prowling in the village. The tiger came by the ill-tempered old woman’s house and stopped in his tracks. The old woman was shouting in a loud and angry voice.

“You evil thing! Just wait till I get you! I will swat you till you are as flat as a pancake! Just you wait,” she screamed as she ran around her hut chasing an irritating mosquito.

The poor tiger thought she was after him. He was so terrified that he stood huddled against the wall of the house. It was then that Bitta came by looking for his donkey. When he spotted a huddled animal near the wall of the old woman’s house, he called out in relief.

“There you are, you pest! I am going to skin you alive for this joke you played on me. Come on, move!” He pulled the animal by its ear, tied a rope around its neck and dragged it home in the inky blackness of the night. He then tied his “donkey” to a tree in his courtyard and went to bed.

Imagine the commotion in the village at the crack of dawn. “Bahadur Bitta has caught a tiger! He has saved the people of our village!” shouted the villagers when they saw the tiger outside Bitta’s house.

Of course, Bitta was cunning enough to exploit the situation. He told them how he had to kick the ferocious tiger and subdue it and drag it home by its ear and tie it to a tree.

The villagers listened, admiration shining in their eyes for the tiger-catcher.

When the king heard the act of valour of Bahadur Bitta, he immediately summoned the hero to his court, for his kingdom was in great danger as enemy soldiers were marching toward his palace.

“Bahadur Bitta, I am honoured to make you the Commander-in-Chief of my army. Go, saddle up, for I hear that the enemy soldiers are just a hundred miles away! Good luck, brave man!”

Trembling violently, Bitta couldn’t say a word in reply. Once out of the king’s palace, he sped home as fast as his shaking legs could take him.

“No, no, no! I can’t do this! Dear wife, please help me. You be the commander instead of me. You go and fight the soldiers!”

His wife gave him a tight slap and dragged him to a black stallion that was waiting for him. She made him sit upright on the horse, tied him firmly with a rope and sent the horse galloping.

Bahadur Bitta looked a sight. His hair flying wildly, his eyes bulging, his face ashen and his dry mouth open in a silent scream. The horse tore through their village and the woods beyond till it reached the enemy’s camp.

In the fading light, the soldiers spotted the solitary horseman.

“He is an enemy. Let’s kill him!” they shouted. But as Bitta’s horse galloped into their midst, they saw the rider in the faint light.

“Oh my, what is that? A demon has come to destroy us! Quick, run before it kills us!” shouted the enemy soldiers as they fled to their kingdom.

After many hours, the exhausted horse and its rider returned to the village.

The king could not believe the wondrous tale of how his commander had single-handedly driven the enemy out. He showered money and gifts on his “worthy” chief of army.

Of course, Bahadur Bitta wasn’t complaining. Nor his donkey who got plenty of sugarcane to eat without having to do any work!

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