Tejimola is an Assamese folktale with the standard motifs of a step-mother and a troubled daughter, which was first published in 1911, by the renowned Assamese author Lakshminath Bezbarua, and since then has been a part of the Assamese folklore.
Once upon a time, there lived a merchant who had a beautiful daughter called Tejimola. After he lost his wife, he married again so that the child could get a mother, but alas that was not the case.
The step-mother would shower love on Tejimola in front of her husband, but was jealous of Tejimola and the attention the father showered on his daughter.
One day, the father had to travel out of his village for work and no sooner had he left, she started ill-treating Tejimola. Soon she was made to work and was deprived of all basic comforts, including food. The step-mother was worried that Tejimola would soon have to be married and that would cost her husband significantly. To avoid the expense, she decided to get rid of the child.
One day, Tejimola got an invitation to a friend’s wedding and much to her surprise, the step-mother agreed to let her go. She not only allowed Tejimola to go, but even packed some wedding attire and ornaments, and asked her not to open the packet, till she reached the venue, to avoid getting robbed on the way. However, when she opened the packet at the venue, there was nothing except some tattered clothes and some broken bits of jewellery. Tejimola was scared that she would be blamed for the packet to have been misplaced.
As expected, the step-mother was angry when Tejimola reached home. She was punished by making her to pound the rice on the traditional rice-pounder. As the child was pounding rice, her hand slipped under the heavy pounder and crushed it. That did not lessen her troubles, when the step-mother asked to pound with her legs, which too met with the same fate. The step-mother then put her head too in the pounder and killed Tejimola, and buried her at the backyard of her house. Soon neighbours started asking about her and she would say that Tejimola had gone to visit her friend.
On day a beggar came to the step-mother and requested if she could pluck a gourd which had bloomed in her backyard. The step-mother was surprised and said that she didn’t have any gourds in her garden. When she went with the old beggar, she was horrified to find a giant creeper at the same spot where she had buried Tejimola! The step-mother left in fear allowing the beggar to take her gourd.
As soon as the beggar bent to cut the gourd, she heard a voice sing – don’t pluck me old woman, my name is Tejimola and my step-mother has killed me and buried me here!
The beggar was scared and rushed to the step-mother to report what she had heard. The step-mother cut the creeper and threw it away in some remote corner of her garden and thought that should be the end of the story.
A few weeks later a group of travelers knocked at the step-mother’s door wondering if they could pluck some fruits from the plum tree in her garden. When the step-mother said that she did not have any plum tree, one of them took her to the part of the garden where he had seen the tree. Once again to the horror of the step-mother, she found a blooming plum tree where she had discarded the creeper.
When one of them tried to pluck a fruit, he heard, don’t pluck me old woman, my name is Tejimola and my step-mother has killed me and buried me here!
Shocked, the passerby hurriedly informed the step-mother what they had heard. The step-mother chopped the tree and threw it away in the flowing river.
However, the very next day, her husband was returning by the river in a boat. The father was desperate to see his daughter. As he was nearing his home, he saw a beautiful lotus and bent close enough to pluck it for his daughter Tejimola. No sooner had he tried to pluck it when he heard a soft voice don’t pluck me father, I am your Tejimola. Your wife killed me and now I am this lotus.
The shocked father said, “If you are my daughter, then turn into a dove and come with me to my house.” The lotus turned into a dove and went home with the father.
On reaching home, the father enquired about Tejimola, to which the step-mother said that she had gone to her friend’s house. The father then looked at the dove, and said, “If you really are Tejimola, then show me yourself”, to which the dove changed into Tejimola!
The evil step-mother couldn’t believe what she saw and ran away in horror and the father and Tejimola lived happily ever after!