Tejimola, an Assamese folktale, is one of the favourites stories of a third culture child. This was incredibly significant to a individual who were raised in a culture other than their parents’ or their country of nationality’s culture, and who also spent a major portion of their childhood in a different setting to have a bedtime story that came from the roots. Every culture has cherished ‘hand me down’ fairytales that have been passed down through the years, and Tejimola is a Cinderella-style struggle story that plays a key role in Assamese storytelling.
Burhi Aair Xadhu which is loosely translated as Grandmother’s Tales is a collection of Assamese folktales published by Laxminath Bezbaroa, a pioneering literary figure in modern Assam, in 1911. The relevance of the intimate tales given to young children in the Brahmaputra Valley continues to be limitless.
The presence of animals is also deeply encoded in these stories, in ways that are favorable to understanding human-nonhuman connections.
The story has since been retold in a number of different ways, but the primary idea of the story is one of struggle and rebirth.
Tejimola, a young girl who is mercilessly tortured by her step-mother, is at the centre of this dramatic, heart-rending story. She reincarnates in a variety of natural forms and discovers enlightenment in her newfound freedom.
Once upon a time, there was a merchant who had a wonderful daughter named Tejimola. Because the merchant’s first wife died, the little girl was raised by her stepmother. The step-mother pretended to love Tejimola to satisfy her husband, but she was envious of the girl’s beauty, intelligence, and the apparent love her father felt for her.
Moreover, the merchant had an important business trip to make one day. He said his goodbyes to his small family and departed for months.
Meanwhile, the evil stepmother grabbed this occasion to exhibit her real colours, abusing Tejimola at every turn. She would slap and punish the girl for the tiniest of infractions, starve her, and force her to complete the most difficult of jobs.
Then an evil thought occurred to her. The young girl was getting close to marrying age, which meant her husband would have to pay a hefty dowry. And all she had to do was murder her.
Tejimola was invited to a friend’s wedding one day, and her step-mother decided to let her go, much to her surprise. She even packed the girl a packet with clothes and jewellery to wear at the wedding, instructing her to open it only when she arrived at the location.
Tejimola was overjoyed and confident that she would be the best-dressed guest at the wedding. When she opened the package, however, she was met with a horrifying surprise. A tattered, discoloured old rag and numerous shattered pieces of jewellery were among the contents. Tejimola sobbed in agony.
She was frightened at the prospect of what her step-mother would do to her if she saw the torn dress and shattered jewels at the wedding. Meanwhile, she borrowed an outfit from a kind friend, but when she returned home, she was met with the fury of her wicked stepmother.
The wicked stepmother unleashed her rage like she’d never seen before. She forced Tejimola to pound rice on the dheki (a traditional Assamese wooden rice pounder). She slid the girl’s hands into the dheki and crushed them while doing so.
She then instructed her to crush the rice with her foot and place it in the dheki. Tejimola screamed in agony. When her head landed on the dheki, the evil stepmother took advantage of the opportunity to crush her skull. The lovely girl passed away on the spot.
Tejimola was buried in the backyard by her cruel stepmother, and when concerned neighbors asked about her whereabouts she said she had gone to visit a friend.
One day, an old beggar woman knocked on the door. She begged the evil stepmother for permission to take some lau (Assamese gourd) from her garden. “However, we don’t have any in our garden,” she explained, and the elderly lady led her to the backyard.
A large vine of ripe, green lau sprang up from where she had buried Tejimola. The evil stepmother was mortified, so she went away and let the old lady begin harvesting.
A sweet, melancholy voice cried out as the old lady stretched out to her first lau.
“Hato nemelibi lawo nisingibi kore mogonia toi, pat kaporor logote mahi aai khundile Tejimolahe moi.”
The old lady had the fear of her life and informed the evil stepmother about it. When she heard this, she chopped down the bush and threw the remains in a lonely area of the garden.
A few weeks later, a group of travelling gipsies knocked on the door. They greeted the evil stepmother and expressed their admiration for her beautiful plum tree from afar, requesting permission to take some flowers and fruit.
When the evil step-mother said she didn’t have a plum tree, the strangers led her to the site where she had thrown out the creeper plant. She went inside, leaving the gipsies with the tree, shocked once more.
Just as they were about to pluck the very first plum, the tree began to weep and sing in a soulful voice “Please don’t pluck me. Tejimola is my name. My evil step-mother murdered me, and now I am a tree with plums.”
The gypies were so startled that they bolted off the tree and immediately informed the evil stepmother. Hearing this, she became enraged and attacked the tree with an axe, chopping it down.
She then threw the remains of the tree into the river and went to sleep.
Moreover, her husband was coming the next day, and she was very excited to see him after all this time.
The merchant had been away from home for a long time and was eager to see his beloved daughter again.
He spotted the most gorgeous lotus he had ever seen as he gazed out over the flowing river’s waves. It was a lovely bright pink with white etches, and it was rather enormous. He reached out to pluck it, thinking, “How my Tejimola would love it!”
“Please don’t pluck me father, this is I, your Tejimola,” the lotus cried out as his fingers caressed the very first petal. Your evil wife murdered me, and now I’m a lotus.”
The father was taken aback and decided to question the lotus, believing it to be some kind of witchcraft. “If you’re my Tejmola, transform into a bird and fly into this cage I’m holding and come home with me.”
The flower transformed into the most beautiful white dove and soared right into the merchant’s cage as he held out a cage.
When he returned home, he inquired about Tejimola, to which his wife said that the daughter had gone to a friend’s house and never returned.
“If you are indeed Tejimola, turn into your human form and come out of the cage,” the merchant said to the dove in the cage. The dove flew away and transformed into the lovely Tejimola.
The evil stepmother couldn’t believe what she was seeing and ran out from the house forever. Tejimola and her father embraced and were happily lived for the rest of their lives.