There was a small village on the other side of the river. Its residents were a very hardworking and friendly lot. Throughout the day they would earn their bread through the sweat of their brow. Come evening, they would gather together to prepare and eat food. The goodwill between them was a very soothing sight to the eyes, particularly sore eyes.
There lived a small, inconsequential looking man in this village. He was as hardworking as his fellow residents. Apart from this, he was a very good musician – he played the tabla to perfection. The instrument was rumoured to have magical properties – it could transform those who heard its music. Day after day, post-dinner, he would play the tabla and the villagers would lose themselves revelling in its music. All the worries of their life would be forgotten. They would enjoy themselves till they were tired; and then, they would simply fall off to sleep.
But, the magic of the tabla didn’t stop here. Every full moon night, upon the sound of its music, the food would somehow get abundant. Not so much to get wasted, though; but, enough for everyone to satisfy their hunger. And, a good, sumptuous meal it would be. For this reason, everyone called it PH (for ‘Peace and Happiness’).
On a full moon night one summer, the chief of a neighbouring village passed by on his way back home. He saw the people eating, drinking and revelling in sheer joy. He also saw a small man deftly playing a musical instrument. His ears were filled with a divine music… and, nose with the fragrance of delicious food.
He decided to stay the night and partake of the food and revelling. The food was nothing short of manna. And, music?… well, the lesser said the better.
“This is magic!” the chief exclaimed.
“True. It is the magic of PH,” replied the owner of the instrument.
“PH?” the chief asked, a little perplexed.
“Peace and Happiness,” replied a villager. “Don’t you feel a sense of calm inside of you?” he asked the chief.
He began to think hard – ‘If only I could possess this tabla, I would be the happiest man in the world.’ The more he thought, the stronger his greed became.
So, when everyone slept off, he went to the musician’s house and stole PH. He tied it with a rope and slung it around his neck as he stealthily made his way out of the village. As soon as he was out of its boundaries, he began to run… and stopped only when he reached home.
The run had made him hungry. The full moon night wasn’t over yet. He thought of playing the tabla in order to produce some food. And, without thinking about the time, he began to beat at the instrument.
Predictably the tabla did not emanate a sweet sound. It was a harsh, crackling noise that could drive any man crazy. ‘Maybe I need to be a little gentle,’ the chief thought and softened his beating… but, it remained a beating nonetheless.
The noise awakened the people of his village. After they realised that the sound was coming from their chief’s house, they rushed to save him. You see, they had imagined him being attacked by someone!
All of a sudden a very dark cloud covered the moon completely. Nobody could see anything except a blurry outline of someone with a monster around his neck. They chased the ‘intruder’ out of the village, towards the river.
The chief ran to save his life forgetting that he still had the tabla hanging around his neck. He jumped into the river and got caught in the current. He somehow got rid of the instrument and started shouting out to his villagers.
Only then did they realise that it was their chief they were chasing. Somehow they managed to save him. They brought him to the river bank and began asking him questions.
“Who attacked you?”
“Why are you here?”
“What was that around your neck?”
“Was it a monster?”
I wonder if the chief felt ashamed of himself!
Of course, he did not respond to any of the questions. Merely shrugging his shoulders, he headed towards his house.
As for PH, the strong current of the river took it away, never to be found again. It is believed that, due to an individual’s greed, man is running around in search of Peace and Happiness even today.

First published