Malgudi Days – मालगुडी डेज – Episode 24 – The Snake Song – साँप का राग
This short story from the volume Malgudi Days by Narayan has a framing narrative, as the narrator has just been to a music concert and is accosted by a man known only as the Talkative Man, who insists on telling him about his past and how he used to be a great player of music. As the Talkative Man is allowed to tell his story, he reveals that he was a very promising student of music. After receiving encouragement from his teacher that he would be ready soon to play in front of an audience, the Talkative Man practises one night in his simple home as he does every night. However, he is so engrossed by his music that when a mendicant comes begging for alms, he is rude to him. After the second attempt by the mendicant to be allowed in, the mendicant seems to place some kind of curse on the Talkative Man. Note what he says:
You needn’t push me out. I am going. But remember, this is your last day of music. Tomorrow you may exchange your flure for a handful of dried dates.
Wondering what he meant, the Talkative Man continues playing, until he realises with horror that he has charmed a snake who remains charmed only as long as he plays one tune. Eventually, completely exhausted, the Talkative Man stops and throws himself down in front of the snake, beseeching its mercy, only to find that it has disappeared. The next morning, telling his master what had happened, he is told that he must stop his music in case he summons the snake again. This is a simple story of one man’s arrogance and desire for power and fame causing him to act in an inhuman way towards his fellow man, and having to pay the consequences of that action.