Raghav wished to reach home before it got dark. There was a reason for this. He decided to take a short cut through the mini forest that saved his walk by three kilometres. As he walked hurriedly through the narrow winding path amidst thick bushes, he saw midway a little yonder a cloud of smoke enveloping the sky on one side. It was summer and everything was bone dry. It could be a fire, he surmised and increased the pace. Luckily the sun had not yet set giving some dim light.
He saw a little away on this desolate stretch, a lean and lanky man standing at the edge of the pathway looking at him. As he neared the man, he found him to be dark and also appeared somewhat strange with his longish neck. His face was elongated horizontally and the head wide at the top narrowing down below reminding of an inverted triangle. His eyes were narrow but flitting brightly from one side to other. He was perspiring heavily.
As he smiled at Raghav, the latter felt uneasy but still welcomed his company in this deserted area.
The man saw a flask hanging on Raghav’s shoulders and requested him for some water. Actually the flask contained toddy, an intoxicating drink, that he was habituated to. Raghav readily gave a cup. When he saw the man drink it with gusto, he offered him another cup. The man said his name was Manidharan. Raghav became less apprehensive of the guy now and prodded him to walk faster as it was getting dark. But the man could not keep pace with Raghav as he walked rather wobbly.
When they came out of forest, they both sat down on the mud to rest and finish the drink. Soon both of them became inebriated and prattled loudly. It was then Manidharan gave Raghav a marble sized stone for being nice to him adding that it is very precious. Raghav with his mud soiled dirty hand took it.
“My house is very near. Do come with me and have your dinner,” requested Raghav.
“I will come with you up to your place but will leave immediately without having dinner,” Manidharan replied.
“I cannot tell you more. Do not press me. Keep the stone carefully.” he replied.
When they reached the hut, Raghav’s wife saw him highly intoxicated in disheveled condition with mud all over the body.
” How many times should I tell you not to drink outside the home. You can drink as much as you wish within the hut as I do not want you to remain fallen on the road,” she spoke with much irritability.
“Do not get angry, my dear. My friend here gave me this precious stone and we celebrated a little,” he said and gave her the mud covered stone.
She took one short look at it and shouted, “Who would give you a precious stone, you worthless fellow? This is a dirty green marble,” and lifted her hand to throw it across towards the open drain. Stopping her, he turned towards the man for help, but to his great shock, he found he was not there. Instead to his horror he saw what seemed a long king cobra slithering under the bush rustling the leaves as it sped fast.
When he realized the full import of what he had undergone, keeping in mind the shape of his face, his name, the squeaky voice and wobbly walk, he snatched the gem stone from his wife’s hands and said “You fool. You were about to throw away a priceless gem that would make us very rich. He rubbed it with his cloth to see a dazzling and invaluable naagmani (cobra pearl) in greenish yellow emitting a glow.