A Horse and Two Goats

by R. K. Narayan

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Describe the confusion between Muni and the American due to the language barrier. How would you resolve it?

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The confusion between Muni and the American would almost be tragic if it weren't so humorous. Muni is a down-on-his-luck herdsman whose best days are very well behind him. In fact, his herd is down to only two goats due to some "pestilence." Muni escapes from his hen-picking wife to attend to his daily ritual of allowing the goats to graze next to the highway, beneath a statue of a warrior. Suddenly, an American runs out of gas right in front of where Muni is relaxing. He is immediately transfixed by the statue and wants nothing more than to own it. He tries to open a negotiation with Muni, however, the American only speaks English, and Muni only speaks Tamil.

The two begin to recount stories of their lives that neither can understand, and the American attempts to buy the statue from Muni. The statue, of course, is not Muni's to sell. Muni, however, believes that the man means to buy his two goats. The fallacy in this thinking is obvious, but Muni is two enraptured with the idea of 100 rupees to approach the situation logically. An observer, assuming they understood both languages, could easily step in and inform Muni of the flaws of his thinking or inform the American that the statue is a cultural symbol and is not for sale.

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