In real time

This short story regarding the Indian folk fool Tenali Rama illustrates perfectly the literalness of the fool, which you might have encountered in children, perhaps with occasional exasperation.  I shared this during a talk to a group which included professional clowns and fools, and it got a laugh; I hope some of them used it in their own performances.  

Note too that Tenali Rama, like the stock stage jester of Sanskrit drama, vidusaka, was a Brahmin, and it would have been considered inappropriate for him to recite to a courtesan.  

Tenali Rama was once invited to recount the story of the Ramayana to a courtesan; he began by saying,

“Once Rama went to the forest,” and then fell silent.

“Well?” prompted the courtesan.

“Wait,” said Tenali Rama; “he is still walking there.”


Source: V. Narayana Rao, quoted in Shulman, David, The King and the Clown in South Indian Myth and Poetry (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985), pp. 190-91.

Image credit: ‘Rama and Sita in the forest’ (1780), unknown Indian artist; Collection of Mrs Douglas Barrett, public domain.


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