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Adi & Praja 067

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Adi and Praja

Chapter 7

Issue 67: The camel race

He had not been back to the village for several years. Occasionally some message went from Shano to his family and back, by mouth of a traveler. All seemed to be okay in the village, and the traveler would be diplomatic enough not to tell all the details to his parents.


(The Camel Race)

Then the days approached of another great camel race and market – an event visited by everyone in the wide surroundings. So Shano went there also – with Sundaree and the baby. Almost every man and many of the women and children from town and from the villages from the wide surroundings came to that major event. Shano would have wished to have had a camel, but he had never been in the position. There were thousands of people, and many, many animals. He recognized his old drinking mate, who was still drinking, his wife hanging at his arm in the same condition. Still they were happy to meet again. But Shano with his new wife didn’t want to associate with him, and went further. It is not easy to find out acquaintances in such a big crowd, but after two days Shano was discovered by Marico – even though Shano had grown a moustache and was wearing a long red-and-yellow scarf wound around and knotted on his head. Marico had remained the same, only a few years older, more grown-up and with much more self-confidence, and noticeably thin. He was with father. He had not yet married, though he had an eye on the daughter of another carpenter. Mother had stayed behind in the village – for the goats and the cow and for the old people she was caring for. The meeting between the two brothers was rather cool, especially from Shano’s side. But he introduced Sundaree to his brother and father (who didn’t even know he had married – very unusual indeed in their culture). But they liked Shano’s wife and they stayed together. Marico behaved quite excited, and after a while left the group so that Shano was alone with his father, Sundaree and the baby. Shano asked him why he had come to the races – a rather stupid question because everyone who could would always go there. But the answer was different from what Shano expected: He had come to see Marico win the race! Shano’s heart came almost to a standstill. Marico? Race? Immediately he felt his old jealousy rise to the surface, but kept calm. Only Sundaree asked what was the matter, and he answered that nothing was the matter. “But you look like you are suppressing your emotions,” she said, and he answered that it came from the happiness of meeting his family after all these years. She only half believed him. But she felt sympathy for his father – her so far unknown father-in-law, and she liked Marico also. She thought that it would be nice to go and visit them in the village after the match, and meet Shano’s mother also.

There were many hundreds of camels. All dressed up and ornamented. When you heard the sound coming from their throats, especially when they had to stand up, they didn’t appear the happiest creatures of the world (the sound reminded Shano of the voice of witch of his village) – and Sundaree said that she liked donkeys more.

The next day the actual races began. First came the riders of which one had not too much expectation. It was village against village, without the great ones taking part. When some boys he recognized from his own village rode into the field of the match, he expected Marico to be amongst them. But, secretly to his relief, Marico didn’t appear. “My father must have been making a joke,” he thought, (“what a strange joke – he had sounded so serious”). There were some fifteen villages taking part, and Shano’s village became second – and that made Shano forget his worries. He was really happy for the boys who he had been acquainted with for so long – though they had been too young at that time for Shano to actually play with. Because of the heat the match was in the morning, then it was lunchtime – with a very good lunch – and even Shano’s baby appeared to be very well at home among all these people and ate much more than babies usually do. He also was allowed to touch a young camel with a camel-baby-face which was laying on its side. By evening there was another match, where different villages showed their skills and courage. Shano wandered why he had not seen Marico all the time. He had asked father, but this one only said: “Let him go his way – he knows what is doing, you will see him later.”

Tomorrow was the great day. Even more people had streamed in from all directions. They all had to find a place for the night, as close as possible to the grounds of the event. The next morning people got up as soon as the first rays of the light of the dawn appeared at the horizon. Everyone was excited. First twelve camels would race. Then twelve other ones. After some rest the winning six of both groups would go against each other. Marico was among the winners of the first race. But Shano had not seen that, because he came a bit later because of the baby, and he didn’t think he would know any of the competitors. But when he came for the second match he suddenly saw Marico in the winning team from the first match. He didn’t know whether he should be happy or shocked to see his brother there. He had thought that his fathers words had been a joke. But Shano was confident that Marico wouldn’t make it very far, and if he might belong to the winning team in this round he would surely lose the next round. But that didn’t happen. When the first set of matches was over, Marico was still in the winning team. The rest of the matches would take place the next day. Marico didn’t sleep too much that night. And Shano not at all – but for entirely different reasons.

I hardly have to continue telling you this story – you can guess what happened – or what almost happened. During his hours laying awake Shano had thought of a mean plan. He would put a thorn in Marico’s camel’s foot, so that it would hurt him as soon as he started racing. And so he did. In a moment when Marico was away and nobody was looking he managed to get something sharp in the camels foot. It was still an hour to go before the final match – in which Marico would have to compete with an unknown man from another village, whose camel looked bigger and stronger than Marico’s. The man and Marico led their camels slowly around. Then Shano saw from the way it put its left hind leg that Marico’s camel was already feeling the thorn. Then suddenly Shano got remorse. What was he doing? It was his own brother! Suddenly he went to his brother and pointed out to him, Marico, there is something in his foot! Marico looked, and indeed, there was a thorn. Marico carefully took it out and embraced Shano: “Brother you have saved me, you have saved me, imagine I would not have noticed that thorn before the beginning of the match.” Shano had mixed feelings, but he would stay with his brother to support and encourage him, he said. And so the match began: only two camels now, the one a little stronger, the other a little leaner. And they ran side to side, people were shouting, even Shano was shouting. Would the match end undecided? Just ten meters before the end Marico seemed to whisper something in his camel’s ear – and won by less than half a yard. Marico was the hero of the year, of the country, and of his whole family because it had never happened before there!

In the evening there was a party – what party ?! Everyone got drunk – Shano the first and the most of all (his wife had silently consented for this time) and got completely out of his wits. He danced with the wife of the lord major of the town, while he put his hat upside down on his head after discarding his turban – but the lord major himself, who also was quite drunk rode a camel with Shano’s wife, who cried as if the devil had descended to take her, but enjoyed it also, in her own way. She wasn’t drunk, but would understand and forgive the ‘boys’ for now. Even she was proud of Marico belonging to her family-by-marriage. Nothing indecent happened with the lord major or the wives.

When everyone was back to consciousness – the sun was already high and hot at the sky – Shano’s wife proposed that they would go with father and Marico to their village and stay there some time. But Shano declined, and said that he wanted to back to town as possible, so that he could get a few good assignments before the others would return. But even she felt that this was not the real reason. Anyway, they returned to town, and loved each other.

Marico was much celebrated. He was the Big Guy, not only of the village, but was known now all over the region. Within no time there was nobody in any village who had never heard the name of Marico – except a few deaf people. But for the rest life returned to normal, Marico made his fine wood work and sold even more – because who wouldn’t want to owe a peace made by the hero of the races?

It didn’t take long before Marico proposed to the carpenter’s daughter, called Anna, and the request to both their parents was quickly rewarded, and all sides were happy.

Later Shano and Sundaree visited the village several times and stayed with the family for a few weeks. Shano’s mother also liked Sundaree, despite the fact that she had not even known about her existence until Marico’s return from the match. But she was very happy that her son had finally found a good place, and that her worries had apparently been unfounded. Still, she always felt that Shano kept a distance from Marico, even though they would talk normally with each other.


(Taking over father’s business)

The time came when father was growing old. Shano was 31 now, and Marico 35. It was time for father to retire.

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