Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Bride of Salik

     Once upon a time in the land of Serbia there lived a man named Salik, who had a very jealous nature. And because of this, he had remained a bachelor until the age of 43, although he was both attractive and prosperous. Now, as some of you may know, in these countries marriage is not the individualistic thing it is with us. You are supposed to get married for the sake of the family and the property. Salik knew this, but whenever the subject was raised by his friends, he would reply, "Oh no! It would never work. I have a very jealous nature. Any woman attractive to me would be attractive to other men. It would only cause dissension in the family and contention is the community."
     However, after about twenty years of nagging, he eventually gave it. He went out, and after a few months, found the ideal wife: a hunchbacked dwarf with warts all over her face - and a limp.
     His friends were horrified. This was definitely  not what they had intended. Most of them didn't even come to the wedding. Nevertheless, the couple lived together apparently happily for ten years, and to no-one's surprise, Salik never showed any signs of jealousy. Now, in these countries people do not live in farm houses. They live in villages and walk to the farm to work. One day Salik returned home from the fields and found his wife sprawled down on the kitchen floor, a half-drunk bottle of insecticide by her side.
     At the funeral Salik's face was grim. He shed no tears, but inside burned a fierce determination to discover the secret of his wife's death. And, fortunately or unfortunately, in these small villages everybody knows everybody else's business, so it did not take long for the truth to come out. It turned out his wife had been visited by a malicious old gossip of a neighbour who told her: "Of course, you know the only reason Salik married you was that you were so ugly no other man would take you off him." Ten minutes after she left, his wife, without any second thoughts and without talking to her husband, committed suicide with the most convenient, but most horrible, method available.
     Salik then went around all his friends and made them all give a solemn promise that they would never speak to, or have any dealings with, the old gossip again. Then he took a spade and dug a second grave next to his wife's. They found him there the following day, with the now empty bottle of insecticide beside him, and a suicide note which read: "Set me a headstone on which is written, 'Here lies Salik Macosović, aged 53, who proved with his life that he loved his wife deeply.'"
     You see, it is true that Salik was originally attracted to her because of her ugliness. But he also saw what everybody else had missed: she had a beautiful personality. They were very much in love.
     Folks, I am not making this up. I don't know the name of Salik's bride, but they lived in the village of Kadice. Their story reached the international press in October 1973.
     And the moral of the story? I'm sure you can think of several. The two that come to mind is that ugliness, like beauty, is only skin deep and that, as they used to say during the war, careless talk costs lives.

Reference: L. P. Davis (Vienna), 'The tragedy Salik tried to stop,' The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), Saturday 6 October 1973.
Note:  This is only slightly modified from a speech I gave at Toastmasters to complete the project of a story with a moral. They were flabbergasted when I announced that the story was true.

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