The Girl and the Calf: A Painting
While doing research for the Ethnic Arts Foundation in Madhubani, Bihar this past fall, Susan Wadley was approached by Vanita
Jha, a 50 year old Mithila painter, with this painting and the accompanying story that Ms. Jha says is “a true one from her
Scene 1: An old
woman had no grandson, but she was told to take her daughter-in-law to the
river to worship and pray for one.
Scene 2: Through
the mercy of the river god, the daughter-in law became pregnant. She is a
beautiful daughter named Radhiya. When Radhiya was older, they arranged her
marriage with a competent young man.
Scene 3: When she
went to her groom’s house, she took a female calf with her.
Scene 4: Some
time later, both Radhiya and the calf were pregnant. Her husband was away in a
foreign land, but her in-laws cared for both her and the cow.
Scene 5: Both
Radhiya and the cow gave birth to females. Her mother-in-law was very sad. When
the neighbors came, her mother-in-law cursed her granddaughter.
Scene 6: But her
in-laws loved the female calf and tied a black amulet on its neck.
Scene 7: The
husband returned and played with and loved his daughter. But his mother stood
with her back to the happy family.
Scene 8: One day
the daughter became ill, and no one helped Radhiya. She could only give her
daughter herbal medicines. Both mother and child cried.
Scene 9: The
female calf was also ill, and the in-laws called a veterinarian to cure it. He
gave the calf an injection. Radhiya feels that the value of a calf is greater
than that of a daughter and says to God, “Oh, why did you not make me a cow?!”