August 7, 2008

The Price of Love

In ancient Rajhastan, in the kingdom of the east, there lived a princess. Word of her beauty had spread far and wide, so far that suitors came from lands unheard of, to propose to her and marry her. Princes, Kings, and Noblemen; all came, bringing presents of gold dust, silk, brocade . . .etc; the rarest, the most beautiful; so much that the princess could have had whatever she desired, the best of everything.

But she did not want anyone. She had a secret, and her secret was that she loved someone a slave in the royal palace. Everyday she would secretly watch her love, sweeping the long corridors of the palace, digging the royal gardens, fetching water from the well for the kitchen, planting trees in the royal grounds; and she never seem to tire. She loved him, and secretly she loathed her father and his suitors.

But what could she do? She was a princess and she had a status to hold. She couldn't just go and say to her father that she would like to marry that slave, thought she always tried to bring out the subject of marriage in her conversations with her father. Day by day, she got desperate because she loved him. Yet she couldn't make her love known to him or the others. He, on the other hand had observed the princess gazing at him, time after time. And initially had been afraid but soon he concluded that it must have meant something when she looked at him. So he too began to steal secret glances to the princess.

One day it so happened that the princess got a severe heartburn and decided to, at least speak to him. She went in search of him and found him working in the gardens. She went down the long endless corridors, across the gardens and as she reached near him, she stopped briefly to regain her composure. Then she walked slowly down the path towards him. He saw her coming and was shocked, at the same time wary. So he turned away and waited with bated breath. But the princess saw the king watching from the balcony. So she, without missing a beat went past him, dropping an earring on the ground as a token of acknowledgement. With both the king and the princess out of sight, he picked up the earring and put it in the folds of his dothi.

At dusk he went into the royal grounds, taking the earring. Actually he didn't know why he was going but all he knew was that he was already outside the royal chambers, after navigating the endless corridors and doorways. Soon he came to the princess chambers. He was about to go in when strong hands caught him. It was the palace guards. He was dragged through the corridors, down the steps, across the gardens; and the princess slept peacefully in her chambers, unaware what had happened right outside her door. But as the palace guards dragged him away, he had let go of the earring. There it stood on the thick persian carpet, a silent witness to what had happened there.

As night fell the princess came out to gaze at the night sky and there in the moonlight she saw the earring; glittering, shining. She picked it up and wondered as to who had put it there. Then she realized, he must have come here to return the earring. She went in search of him but how could she find him? He had already paid the price for venturing inside the royal chambers. His head laid down in some ditch.