Accessibility Navigation:

Conversation with Kaushal Satish Shah

Shah, Kaushal Satish
Bailey, Kim
Davis, Boyd
Date of Interview: 
Stories and storytellers; Cultural identification
Kaushal Satish Shah retells in English three Indian folktales he had earlier narrated in Gujarati.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Dr Boyd Davis and Kim Bailey interviewed Charlotte, NC residents to collect various stories for a project at UNC Charlotte.
KB (Kim Bailey): Testing, testing. Here it is.
KS (Kaushal Satish Shah): OK, it's running?
KB: Yeah, you just have to press them both at the same time.
KS: OK. All right.
KB: You might to unplug the, yeah.
KS: Yeah. I've got it. Thanks, thanks so much.
KB: ( ) [Rustling]
KS: OK. [Pause]
KB: [Whispering] [Laugh]
KS: Thank you so much. [Door closes] All right. I shall now narrate to you the stories, which I narrated earlier in Gujarati, in English. The first story which I said was about Chandanbala. Here's how the story goes. Vasumati was the princess of Champanagari. She was clever, learned and possessed many an art and abilities along with being devout and virtuous. Her father, a great king, was powerful but a peace loving-person. Even he was not spared [clears throat] by the onslaught of war in which he was killed, and Vasumati, a child barely 12 years old, and her mother were taken captive by the enemy. Her mother sacrificed her life to save her own honor. Little Vasumati had faith in God and prayed for protection. Seeing the dead mother and a very young girl at hand, the hostile's evil intentions got watered down. He thought of selling this small girl as a slave in the market. Being young and beautiful, he was sure to get a good price. He put her up for sale in the town market and found many bidders. How fate brought down a princess to the level of being sold as slave. But, as luck would have it, Dhanavarshi Seth, a wealthy businessman, happened to pass by. He saw the girl and at once realized that such a beautiful girl could only be of some noble birth. He decided that if he allowed this girl to be sold in this market, fate can be very cruel to her. So he paid the price for her and took her home. He told his wife that they would look after her as their own daughter, since, in any case, they were childless. His wife was all too glad to take care of this child. And she was brought up by this Seth and Sethani. As she grew up, her beauty and sweet voice so impressed this Seth, he felt as soothing to hear her voice as much as the coolness of Sandal. That's how she got the name Chandanbala. Her beauty grew with her age and the Sethani felt that this beauty might capture her husband's heart and she would be left in the lurch. This fear and jealousy built up in her mind as days went by. So much so, when the Seth went out of town, she imprisoned Chandanbala in a room, without food and water, tying her up with shackles, shaved off her head, in an attempt to deprive her of beauty. Chandanbala, though she did not know for what sh-, she had done and for being punished, kept her cool. She prayed to God for protection. She was thus imprisoned for three days. Being without food and water, she took to fasting. As fate would have it, Bhagwan Mahaveer was on a fast for a very long time. He had taken a secret vow to break the fast only on certain conditions being fulfilled. He went from one town to another in search of food suitable to his secret vow, but could not find any. This way he spent five months and 25 days in fasting. On his return, the Sethasked for Chandanbala, who was not to be seen. While his wife was out, the neighbor confided in the Seth and told about the plight that Chandanbala was in. The Seth went to the dark room and was aghast to see the condition Chandanbala was in. He, at once, gave her some boiled grams, the only food, then, at hand, and asked Chandanbala to break her fast. And he went off to call a blacksmith to break the shackles. Chandanbala decided to break the fast only after making a holy offering of the food to any sadhu or monk. So she sat at the doorway to see if any sadhu passed by. On this fateful day, Bhagwan Mahaveer was passing by. He saw Chandanbala, who, with reverence, offering this frugal food to him. Food offered out of one's own share to a saint is the Holy offering. So she was all too glad to offer some of it to Mahaveer. Bhagwan Mahaveer too saw almost all the self-imposed conditions being fulfilled. And so he went close enough to receive the offering. But the joy on Chandanbala's face was one condition against his desire and so he turned away. Chandanbala, utterly dismayed, prayed to the Lord, asking Him what was wrong with her offering. She had tears in her eyes and devotion in her voice. So Mahaveer turned back and saw tears in her eyes. This fulfilled all the conditions set himself to take any offering. The moment he accepted the offering, miracles took place- the shackles broke off and wealth showered from the sky and all round there was an air of Divinity. Chandanbala went on to become Bhagwan Mahaveer's first female disciple or Shishya, who, after taking to sainthood, spread the preachings of Mahaveer far and wide. [Pause] The next story, which I had narrated in Gujarati, was about a poor woodcutter who had a lot of faith in God. This is how the story goes. There was a poor woodcutter. He earned his livelihood by cutting wood from the forest and selling it in the town. Though he was poor, he was devoted to the Almighty. He had full faith in God. One day, while cutting wood from atop a tree, his axe accidentally fell into a river alongside. He fell into a state of sorrow because he lost his only means of livelihood. He had faith in God. And so, with full devotion, he started praying and sought the help of the Almighty to get back his axe. "Oh God, Show me a way out." He prayed with such devotion that God Himself appeared before him and asked him, "Tell me my son, what do you seek?" The woodcutter told God his whole story and asked God to help him to carry on with his livelihood, and for this he requested God to help him get back his axe. God, at once, got from the river a golden axe and offered to the wood cutter. "Here is your axe." The woodcutter was honest. He refused to take it. "This Golden axe is not mine." So God once again got another axe from the river. This one was a silver axe. He offered it to the woodcutter. "Then this must be yours." Once again the woodcutter denied it and refused to take it. So the third time God brought from the river an axe made of iron. The woodcutter was very happy. He accepted it with joy, "Yes God, this is my axe." God saw that he was not merely devoted to him but also very honest and sincere. So God was pleased with him and gave him all the three axes and gave him lots of wealth and life full of joy and happiness. A true and sincere devotee can obtain from God lots of joy and happiness.