Motalef, fondly called Moti, a tall and fair youth, was the most skilled tapper in the village. During the winter months when he passed with pots full of date palm sap to the hut of Maju Bibi, a young widow who prepared ‘gur’ for him, the village belles could not turn their eyes from him.
For Moti was still a bachelor. Not that he did not want a pretty young girl for his wife, but he could not manage the ‘meher’ the fathers of pretty grown-up girls usually asked for. One day Moti saw Phoolbanu, as succulent as a juicy fruit, with youth rippling through her well-shaped body. He followed her to her house and saw her father who demanded five hundred rupees as ‘meher’ to be paid in advance.
As he came out annoyed, he met Phoolbanu who threw a challenge. If Moti really liked her, he should show his spirit. Moti accepted the challenge and asked her to wait till the end of the winter season and she promised.
He tried his best to raise a loan but it was too big a sum for him. He thought and thought. The ‘gur’ Maju prepared from the sap he collected, fetched the best price in the market and he had to pay a heavy price to Maju for her labour. So he thought of a plan.
One evening he proposed to Maju. The poor widow accepted his proposal. She could not see through his plan. Moti married her. That year he took contracts for more trees and worked like one mad while Maju worked without rest, without let for the man she learnt to love.
By the time the season was over Moti had saved the money needed to marry the girl of his choice. Maju was shocked as Moti accused her of infidelity and divorced her. She left his house but before that she told him what she thought of him.
But Moti hardly listened to what she said. He married Phoolbanu and brought her home. They spent their days in a sort of ecstasy like a pair of love-birds till next winter. And Maju married an old widower and went to live with him on the other side of the river.
The winter season came and Moti started working with renewed vigour. He brought pots of sap every morning, instructed Phoolbanu how to prepare ‘gur’ but she did not have the knack for it. After the first day, people, who always extolled Moti’s ‘gur’, refused to buy from him. Moti tried to induce his young wife to pay more attention to her work. He could not control himself when, one morning, he found her away while the sap burnt. He quarreled with her and even beat her but the ‘gur’ did not improve.
Market day followed market day and Moti would sit with his ‘gur’ unsold in his basket. The remarks of his creditors and his old customers and the jeerings of the others of his trade haunted him day and night and one morning, while collecting sap, he gave vent to his anger and broke one pot after another filled with sap and returned home empty-handed. Phoolbanu was surprised—the season was not over. She could guess what was gnawing him and felt hurt as he sat there tight-lipped. She tried her last trick—asked his permission to go to her father’s house for a few days. And tears came to her eyes as he agreed without a word of protest.
As Phoolbanu crossed the river she noticed Moti coming, with two pots of sap. For a moment her face brightened up with hope but she was shocked as Moti turned towards Maju’s new house. Yes, Moti was going to Maju’s house. His false ego, feeling of guilt, nothing could stop him. He knew only Maju could restore his lost prestige. But Maju flared up the moment she saw Moti and how?
Moti was an expert tapper. He knew how to extract juice from the heart of date-palm tree but he never realized that women were not date-palm trees. They would hit back if hurt.
He pocketed all the insults… he was a broken man. With his head bent low he appealed, “ I haven’t sold even a kilo of ‘gur’ during the whole season. I have lost all prestige in the market. People who used to flock around for Moti’s ‘gur’ do not even care to look. If-if you could just prepare two kilos of ‘gur’…”
His voice choked. The tears of repentance shining in his eyes softened Maju. Today the true connoisseur of her art was at her feet!
(From the official press booklet)