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Why does man get wrinkles and a stoop?

L. Somi Roy is here with a collection of endearing and vibrant retellings of Manipuri myths told for the first time ever to the outside world! Do we know why man gets wrinkles and a stoop?

Here’s why! Scroll down for a short extract from one of the 12 fascinating tales from Manipur passed on by balladeers and grandmothers over hundreds and hundreds of years!

‘O Paobirai, my ancestor! Your grandchild humbly offers you a basket of rice and a human every day. Please accept my offering.’

 

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Finally, it was Man’s turn. Now, Man was very lazy and tardy and so he came very late to the gathering. He did not know what lifespans each of the animals, birds, fishes and insects had requested. As he came into the presence of his creator, Soraren looked at the latecomer with annoyance. Man said nervously, ‘Lord of the Sky, my Creator, I humbly request that my kind and I may live for fifty years. Please grant us a lifespan of fifty years.’

Front cover of And That Is Why
And That is Why || L. Somi Roy (Author), Sapha Yumnam (Illustrator)

Very well,’ said Soraren in an irritable voice.  ‘Your wish is granted. You, Man, shall have a lifespan of fifty years. And it is just as well since you are late and the last to come and I have only fifty years left to give out.’

And  Man  gratefully  took  the  last  remaining  fifty  years  and  hurriedly went along his way. And that is why, Dear Punctual One, you must never be lazy and always be on time.

After all the living beings had received their lifespans, they set out on their journey back to their holes and burrows and nests and houses on Earth.  On the way, Man met Monkey and Elephant.  Man asked them, ‘Monkey and Elephant, how many years did each of you ask for and how many were you granted?’

They replied, ‘We both asked for a lifespan of a hundred years each and it was granted. How many years did you ask for?’

Soraren, who was also known as the Eternal Creator, lived in great happiness with the other mighty beings and together they knew no pain or sorrow or even illness or death

Hearing  their  reply,  Man  did  not  answer  but  started  to  cry  instead.  He  wept  loudly  and  large  drops  of  tears  rolled  down  his  cheeks and snot ran from his nose. It was all really quite awkward, Dear Embarrassed One.

Seeing  the  very  wet  and  messy  and  unhappy  state  Man  was  in,  Monkey  and  Elephant  did  not  know  whether  to  be  sorry  or  embarrassed for him. Finally, they asked, ‘Man, why are you crying?’

Man  burbled  through  his  tears,  ‘I  thought  the  Creator  was  angry with me since I was late. I was afraid. So, I did not ask for many years. I asked only for fifty years. And I got the last fifty years the Eternal Creator had left. And now I will have to die before you both.’ Saying this, Man sobbed all the more. He bawled even more loudly than before, if that was possible.

Monkey  and  Elephant  rolled  their  eyes  and  looked  at  each  other  and  said,  ‘Do  not  cry  any  more,  Man.  We will each give you twenty-five years from our lifespans.  This  way,  you  will  have  one  hundred  years  altogether  to  live.’  For,  as  everybody  knows,  Dear  Arithmetical  One,  fifty  and  twenty-five  and  twenty-five  make one hundred.

Man happily agreed.  He  wiped  away  his  tears  and  Elephant  helped  him  blow  his  nose  with  his  long  trunk.  ‘Oh, thank you, Monkey and Elephant!’ said Man through his tears. ‘Let us go to the Eternal Creator. Let us tell him what we have spoken about and request him to give his approval to our arrangement.’

So according to the elders, Soraren decided that he would give all the living beings a lifespan each

Monkey and Elephant agreed. Together with Man, they went back to  Soraren  and  told  him  everything.  Upon hearing their words, Soraren thought in silence. ‘Very well,’ he spoke at last. ‘If this is what you have all agreed upon, I will allow it. And I have no more years to hand out.  Man will now live for one hundred years. For, as everybody knows, fifty and twenty-five and twenty-five make one hundred.  But  this  lazy  and  tardy  creature  called  Man  must  never  forget  the  generosity  and  kindness  of  Monkey  and  Elephant.  He  must  be  reminded  in  the  future,  for  all  his  tomorrows, and for all generations to come till the end of time, that  the  lifespan  I  had  granted  him  was  fifty  years  but  that  he  received  twenty-five  years  from  Monkey  and  twenty-five  years  from Elephant.’

Soraren  then  looked  at  Man  and  declared,  ‘Man,  here’s  the  thing. You shall keep your looks and stand upright as I have made you for the fifty years that I first granted you. But once you cross the age of fifty and start to live the twenty-five years you have received from  Monkey,  your  skin  will  wrinkle  and  fold  like  Monkey’s  so  that  you  may  never  forget  you  are  living  his  years.  And  once  you  cross the age of seventy-five and start to live the twenty-five years you have received from Elephant, your back will bend and you will stoop like Elephant so that you may never forget you are living his years. Let this be so.’

And  that  is  why,  Dear  Curious  One,  once  Man  has  lived  his  fifty years, he gets wrinkles like the Monkey, and once he has lived seventy-five years, he gets a stoop like the Elephant.

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