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Death of a Desire
By Hardeep Sabharwal
Once upon a time in India, there lived a Swan Princess with her husband Lion in a big castle.
When she came to his house after their marriage, the people from nearby villages came to know Lion’s wife was as beautiful as fairies, as pious as angles and her voice as sweet as music from heaven itself.
So people from all over the area came to see her, but the front doors of her castle were always closed. Some tried to listen to her voice and put their ears on the wall of her house but to no success. The housekeeper of the house, Vixen, who was Lion’s aunt, did not allow anyone to see the charm of Swan Princess.
"Cities are worse than jungles,” Vixen often said: “Women are only safe when in homes. Otherwise people want to swallow them through their eyes. You cannot trust strangers, they are wolves in sheep’s clothes.”
One year passed and the princess gave birth to a daughter, as beautiful as pious as her mother, with eyes as powerful as her father's. Lion was so happy he decreed there should be a great celebration and feast.
People from all the surrounding towns and villages came to attend the party. Monkeys and dogs, sparrows and snakes, lizards and donkeys, eagles and mynahs all came. They were all delighted to meet the best hostess ever; Swan Princess welcomed everyone with a charming smile and looked after the needs of every guest. Everyone praised about her dress, her kind nature and wonderful personality.
But when Lion when saw this, and noticed how Swan scattered her smiles on all the guests, her smiles which were until then reserved for him alone, he started to feel jealous.
Dogs sniffed this and eagles eyes saw it at once. When monkeys came to know what was happening, they became happy they might able to see some controversy in the life of Swan Princess. Even donkeys wanted to see something foolish between the couple. But to the utter astonishments of all, nothing unusual happened.
The doors of the house were closed again. Dogs sniffed again and again and eagles watched continuously to see something unusual, though they found nothing. But the dogs feared people might question their capabilities to sniff properly and eagles worried people may start to think they didn’t have strong sight, so to protect their own self-worth they murmured: “Something unusual is in the air.”
Monkeys jumped from one tree to another and spread the news: “Something is unusual in their life.” Even donkeys could be seen laughing “Something is unusual,” though they did not understand the what was meant by “unusual”.
One day Swan Princess heard a knock on the front door, very slow like a beat of a heart. No one in the house came to answer this knock or paid it any attention. When she heard this knock again and again, she felt puzzled, wondering if it was coming out of her heart. She at once went to the door and opening it, saw a stranger there.
“Who are you?” she asked with a smile.
“I am your desire,” the handsome stranger said, “You are not made to be hidden away in the kitchen.”
“My desires!” she wondered, but for first time she became a decision maker and allowed the desires to came in the house and shut the door again.
Monkeys and donkeys, dogs and eagles, lizards and flies, and even birds and snakes, who were enemies, came together to watch what happened at the door. They all wished to see something dramatic to satiate their inner emptiness.
“I have already sniffed, some thing is unusual,” barked the dogs.
And donkeys laughed again, “Something is unusual, but what is unusual, hahahaha?”
When she came in with her desires, Lion saw but did not find anything wrong in this: “Everyone has his/her desires, so these are yours,” he smiled.
“Oh you are so great my love,” she smiled and hugged him.
But Vixen did not like this.
She thought, how can she keep and fulfill desires, when I have never been able to have one? I have never had desires beyond the kitchen, how can she?
“Cities are worse than jungles, there are wolves in the clothes of sheep,” she whispered in Lion’s ears.
But Lion did not want to show himself to be a rude person or a narrow-minded traditional thinker. He had the social status of a modern leader who boasted all day about equality, the liberation of the poor and the empowerment of women. Even donkeys were fond of his speech about women’s empowerment and his liberal views of life. So he kept silent, though he did want to crush the desire anyhow.
One day Swan Princess and her daughter were sitting together, the princess busy developing her thoughts, when suddenly her daughter put her little arms around her neck, kissed her face and asked: “What are you doing, Mom?”
She kissed her and said: “I want to touch the sky and this is my desire.”
“Wow, one day I will also touch the sky, and that will be my desire, Mom.”
“Yes my dear, I promise you will one day touch the sky.“Yes my dear, I promise you will one day touch the sky.”
And it started raining flowers and both of them laughed—at moment became the most precious moment of their lives.
After a while, the baby went away with Vixen. And suddenly in the evening, baby fell ill.
“See!” cunning Vixen shouted. “I have already told you that these desires will kill your family and your coming generations.”
Lion was already in search of an excuse. He at once used his strong claw and just in one attack killed the handsome desire of his wife.
A crow, who was the sweeper of castle, watched this and told everyone outside what happened. There was much thrill outside, everyone wished to see the reactions of Swan Princess. They wanted the police called, they wished for an investigation, they wanted to hear the cries of the princess, or some revolutionary words at least. Though none of them had any real sympathy towards that desire or Swan Princess, all of them wanted to get some amusement from this incident to get a relief from their routine life.
But unfortunately nothing happened, Swan Princess did not utter a word, no one saw even a single drop of tear in her eyes, her face never gave any odd expression, she only took the corpse of her desire and buried it in the kitchen garden.
Vixen often said: “Kitchens are best places for women, if you want to live in the heart of your prince, the way goes through his stomach, the more deliciously you cook, the nearer you are to his heart.”
Swan Princess listen to all those things but never reacted.
One day she saw a beautiful plant grown in the kitchen garden at the same place where she buried the corpse of her desire, a heart shaped plant. And her little daughter liked that plant so much that she often played near the plant. Even an eagle saw the daughter often talking with plant, where a mynah often sings the songs. Mynah told everyone that there is a plant who looks like a heart of a lady. The plant has a door too, but always closed, though eagle has doubts about that door story of the heart shaped tree, as his telescope eyes were never able to see inside hearts, so he remained silent about that.
Eagle never saw Swan Princess near this plant or any other, only he saw her standing on the window of castle with Vixen when, in the evening, flocks of sheep would pass. Eagle often felt Swan is saying something softly to herself though Eagle was never able to hear the words.
Swan Princess would watch the flock of sheep and try to decide which of them were really sheep and which were wolves in the clothes of sheep, but she could never be sure and every day her conclusions were different. Like Vixen, she was now more afraid of sheep than wolves.
Time passed on. Monkeys and donkeys, eagles and crows, snakes and lizards, mynahs and sparrows, all forgot that one day desire was killed in this castle. They had lost interest in the life of Swan Princess who was now, for them, as ordinary a woman as Vixen or their own wives at home, who were living without any desires of their own. These women just wished to fulfill the desires of their husbands and sons. As daughters, they had been taught to never have a desire because “Cities are worse than jungles. There are wolves in sheep’s clothes and kitchens are the best places for women.”
One day, Swan Princess was sitting idle when she saw her daughter who was now a young woman near that heart shaped tree. Out of curiosity she went to her.
“What are you doing dear?” she asked her.
“Oh, Mom,” she hugged her mother. “I want to touch the sky, and that is my desire.”
“Desire! No you can’t do that, women are safe in the home only,” she told her daughter, though her voice seemed alien.
“But you have promised Mom that I will touch sky,” her daughter reminded her.
For a moment Swan Princess sat like a statue.
And then she shouted: “I have promised?” as if questioning herself.
Her voice was so bold everyone heard this. Strangely enough, the voice split into three voices everyone heard those three voices.
“I have promised?” in a pious but broken voice of Swan Princess.
“I have promised?” in the cunning voice of Vixen.
“I have promised?” in the rude voice of Lion.
Then she went to her room and closed the door.
Next day, news came that Swan Princess had died. The police said it was a natural death, but dogs barked that they had smelled Vixen poisoning her food and eagles squawked they had seen Lion strangling her with his powerful claws. Monkeys spread this news everywhere, and donkeys were heard laughing: “Vixen poisoned her food and then Lion strangled her.”
But no one really came to know that Swan Princess died the day when Lion killed her desires, after that in her body, sometimes vixen lived and sometimes Lion.
Fifteen days passed. Suddenly the door of castle opened, and the daughter of Swan Princess came out. She was like a replica of her mother and she saw her handsome desire, she smiled and took her desire in.
The monkeys and donkeys, snake and lizards, crows and eagles, and all others gathered to find gossip. It was the only way they could entertain themselves, by interfering in other people’s lives.
And on another part of city another lion was giving speech on women rights celebrating women's day.
#Unreal #Fairytale #Prose #SwanPrincess #Desire #WolvesinSheep'sClothing #India
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