In the land of the rivers five,
And that between the two, \1
You’ll hear the elders tell this tale
To kids – and puppies too.
And baby goats will gather ‘round
And try to hear it right.
But these will often wander off,
As puppies also might.
The puppies, they will cock their heads
As the children look astonished,
And the elders tell the story of
The Pumpkin that was banished.
“There was a time, when Veggies, Fruits
Were placed above us men.
And dogs and goats were also low
And Fruits were highest then.
“In Dilli, in a time now past,
A line of Mangoes ruled.
So Mangoes then were royalty,
As children then were schooled.
“For though the Veggies were, by far,
In number, more than Fruits,
The Fruits were cleverer – and led
By Mangoes, ruled the ‘Brutes’.
“For that was what the Fruits then called
The Vegetables all.
And strangely, Veggies long endured
This thing, as men recall.
“And many cities of our times
Existed, even then.
But each was built with palaces
For Fruits – and not for men.
“And Veggies too had quarters there
But some of these were slums.
The Veggies – they were workers then,
Though some of them were bums.
“But then, in Agra and in Oudh,
And in the west, Lahore,
A clan of fighting Pumpkins rose
To power, seeking more.
“ ‘The Fruits have ruled for long,’ they said. ‘It’s now the Veggies’ turn.’ With zest and zeal, they spread the word And did, with ardor, burn.
“And though the Mangoes tried, in vain,
To quell the rising tide,
The Pumpkins marched, in ordered rows
And columns long and wide.
“And by their side, in allied ranks,
Some other Veggies too
Did march along, while singing songs And making cry and hue.
“The Cabbages and Mustard Greens,
The Spinaches and others,
They marched and sang, “We're Veggies all!
We drink of Sun as brothers!”
“And Carrots came – and even Plums
And other rebel Fruits
Who hated Mangoes, joining ranks,
For once, with all the ‘Brutes’.
“And Dilli, then, to Pumpkins fell,
With Mangoes roundly squashed.
In every town, the Fruits switched sides,
With those resisting quashed.
“But though the Mangoes long had ruled,
They had a fragrance sweet.
And Mango-kings had manners still,
And sense to be discreet.
“And though they did extract the tax,
They gave, to Veggies, gifts. ‘A petty favor, costing naught, A canny king uplifts.’
“But Pumpkins, they were rough and rude – A bumpkin, yokel lot.
They quarreled loudly in the streets
And on the rooftops fought.
“And when a subject could not give
The ‘rent’ that then was due,
They beat him soundly and they left
Him then to Pumpkins rue.
“So Dilli suffered several years
Of Pumpkins’ sad misrule.
And though his subjects bowed to him,
They called their king a fool.
“For he was such a Pumpkin as
Had never, past, been seen.
Some whispered he was ‘monstrous’, while
The others hissed ‘obscene’.
“Now men and goats and dogs could be
Both small and big in sizes.
But when it comes to Pumpkin – those
May sometimes spring surprises.
“For ‘Pumpkin Grand’ his title was,
And he was grand of girth.
The Vegetables, Fruits and men
Gave him the widest berth.
“When Pumpkin Grand would roll around,
The others ran for life.
The largest Mango-maid, he’d tried
To make his newest wife.
“But sadly, he had crushed her sore
Upon their wedding day.
To hospital, they’d taken her,
And there she'd lain till May.
“No other Manga would consent \2
To wed the Pumpkin Grand.
The king's frustration, it was great.
He would not understand.
“ ‘I want a Mango-maid for wife. No Melon, Squash will do! If those before had Mango-queens, So must this Pumpkin too!’
“The Mangoes were a clever lot.
They whispered and they hid.
They watched the Pumpkins’ stew-pot cook
And weighted down the lid.
“And so, when Pumpkin Grand’s mistakes
And Pumpkin-Lessers’ fights
Had taxed and tired the subjects sore,
They gathered close at nights.
“And there, with Mangoes as their guides,
They plotted, planned a strike.
The Cantaloupes, from Rajasthan,
To Dilli then did hike.
“For these were Fruits and Veggies both,
From both the sides descended.
And with their cousin Pumpkins, most
Of them were discontented.
“And be they Fruits or Veggies, those
Who couldn’t Pumpkins bear,
Towards Dilli also rolled – and vied
For place in front or rear.”
The elders, at this point, would rise,
And clearing throats, would sing.
And children, puppies, goats would join
So all the air would ring.
“And so, in annals, it’s recorded,
The army grew to giant size.
And younger Fruits and Veggies joined,
Despite the qualms of elders wise.
“Upon that host of 'Fruits and Brutes’,
Assembled, in a motley crew,
The clouds that passed did sprinkle rain, As the rebel army grew and grew.
“And by that sprinkled rain refreshed,
The Fruits and Veggies vowed to win
The throne of Dilli, from the king,
Whose place on it, they deemed a sin.”
And seated once again, they’d wave,
To puppies, kids and goats,
To stop their yelps and baas and all
Their other high-pitched notes. “ ‘If sugar be the thing that makes A Veggie be a Fruit, Then Beets should side with Mangoes in This battle with that Brute.’
“With whisperings like these, the Fruits
Fomented the rebellions.
And so, towards the city, troops
Of rebels rolled in millions.
“And some said, 'No! The Fruits are meant By Nature, to be eaten. But beasts and birds who chomp on us, The Veggies, should be beaten!'
“No matter. Pumpkins had aroused,
In all the Plants, such ire,
That when the Mangoes roused them more,
It seemed they'd caught on fire.
“The Cucumbers, from East and West,
The Gourds, of various kinds,
And others trekked to Dilli, both
Of tough and tender rinds.
“From South and East came Tamarinds.
The Apples came from North.
And Plantains and Bananas wild
From forests issued forth.
“Upon the Aravalli hills,
Among the thorny trees,
They gathered all, below the stars,
And waited for the breeze.
“For some of them had fragrances
That carried in the wind,
So even flies in the Punjab
Could scent the fruits in Sindh.
“But Neems, with Curry Leaves, conspired
To hide the army's scent.
And so they waited in those hills,
Preparing for descent.
“And when the breeze had turned to blow
From Dilli towards those hills,
They slid towards that city, as
The water, hollows fills.
“And at the most opportune time,
When Pumpkins all were snoring,
The Fruits and Veggies struck as one,
With Beets and Eggplants roaring.
“And though the Pumpkins, when aroused
From slumber, tried to fight,
They one by one were tied to beds.
It seemed a glorious night.
“And some of those embittered joked
At Pumpkins lying tied, ‘We’ll leave you in the summer sun Until you all have dried.’
“But Pumpkin Grand, he would not yield.
He rolled about like thunder.
And those, who saw him coming, fled
Or froze, in awestruck wonder.
“But then, the Onions devised,
With help from Garlic Cloves,
A way to quell the Pumpkin Grand,
By jumping him in droves.
“He could not stand the Onions’ scent
Or that of Garlics strong.
He struggled for a while, then fell
To sleep – and snoring long.
“They could not drag him to the Court,
So heavy was his weight.
The Judge, arriving as he slept,
Did read to him his fate.
“ ‘Oh Pumpkin, known for your misrule, And for the one you wed And almost squished to pulp, we find You snoring, by your bed.
“ ‘But though you snore (and loudly too), Your sentence, it is this: To China, you are banished, there To do as you may wish.’
“And when the Pumpkin woke, he found
Himself upon a wagon,
With ropes tied down, on a caravan
To the land of the Dancing Dragon.
“And whether he got safely there
Or not, we do not know.
But rumor has, that China still
Is where Bad Pumpkins go.
“And with the Pumpkin clan dispersed,
In Dilli, there was calm,
Though winters still were far too cold
And summers far too warm.
“And subjects still begrudged the tax
That some would call 'the rent'.
A few resisted. Most gave in,
With sun and seed content.
“And in what form that rent was paid
And why it then was needed,
We men, who then had little say,
We never knew or heeded.
“But later, we were told, by kings,
That taxes were the rule,
And even Fruits and Veggies paid,
When Man was just a Fool.
“For all of this was long before
We men, of monkey-kind,
With help of dogs, from jackals bred
And wolves, did stature find.
“But here’s the twist. Though Mangoes schemed
To end the Pumpkins’ rule,
The Radishes rose in their stead,
As you will learn at school.
“And Radish-Strong in turn was felled,
By the Custard-Apples fooled.
And so again, by Fruits with wits,
The Veggies all were ruled…
“But that’s another story. Though
In Dilli, Pumpkins ended,
The Son of Pumpkin Grand became
A big and fearsome bandit!
“No, no, enough! You’ve heard enough.
It’s time to go and play.
We can’t be telling you these tales
All through the heat of day.”
You’ll see the elders rise and stretch,
As puppies play in threes
And children, laughing, try to climb
Upon the guava trees.
And baby goats will seek out leaves
To nibble, as they do,
Not knowing Lettuces once ruled
And might, in the future, too.
And monkeys, seeing children try
To climb the guava tree,
Will throw at them the stunted fruits
That kids can have for free.
2014 May 10th, Sat. 8:45 pm Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York
1. The references in the first stanza are to the Panj-aab and the Doh-aab. These regions are usually spelled "Punjab" and "Doab". Their names come from the Farsi (Persian) words for five (panj), two (doh) and water (aab, cognate to Latin aqua, here meaning "river").
If one descends from the mountains that lie to the northwest of the Punjab plains, one first encounters the Indus (Sindhu) river, flowing south. Crossing that river and traveling east, one meets in turn the five rivers of the Punjab: the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej.
All of these flow southwest to join with the Indus, of which they are tributaries. The Indus flows south, passing next through Sindh and then into the Arabian Sea. So the Punjab region may be thought of as the northern part of the Indus plain or valley. Crossing the easternmost river of the Punjab (the Sutlej) and traveling further southeast, one enters the Doab, the land between the Yamuna (Jamuna) and the Ganges (Ganga) rivers (the light blue and dark blue watercourses in the map below). This region is a western section of the Gangetic plain, in which the main flow is southeast to the Bay of Bengal.
(You can click on the map above to see slightly enlarged views of that map and the other maps here. Hit the back arrow in your browser to return to the post.) Although this is the specific region most often referred to as the Doab in the Indian context, the general term doab can also be applied to any region between two rivers. So parts of the Punjab, lying between two of its rivers, are also known as doabs, with qualifiers to distinguish them. The Rechna Doab between the Chenab and Ravi rivers is one such region.
2. Female Mangoes were, at that time, called Mangas. If you're wondering how Fruits managed to have genders, then you should wonder even more about all the other strange things in this story. Yet, they are all absolutely true. If you don't believe any of it, go ask a Cucumber.