Black Paint

Would you allow your need for money to eclipse your sense of right and wrong? A story by Prajyoth K. explores this question.

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A young man, standing in front of a blank canvas, gazed at it intently. His gaze was so intent that he failed to notice the movement behind him, and when he did, it pulled him back to reality with a start.

“Hello Trafalgar, I’ve been waiting for you,” he said, his voice hoarse from want of moisture. He moved to grab the water bottle as the man who had just entered looked around at all the paintings in the room. Every canvas in the room, except for one, was splattered with dark shades. Trafalgar’s eyes turned to the young man, seemingly aloof and uninterested.

“Eustass Kid, I’m so glad to have finally met you,” he exclaimed with a straight face.

***

Eustass grew up with his father always encouraging him to reach for the stars. He always reminded him to never give up on his unique and appealing talent. “We have to stand up for what we believe in,” he would say. “Honesty starts with being ourselves, true to what we are and what we believe in. That may not always be popular, but it will always let you follow your dreams and your heart!”

Every time he had been in doubt, his father’s reassuring words had guided him through, motivating him to break all shackles and become what he had always wanted to be: a painter. Even though his dream went against societal norms and people looked down on him every time he dared to mention it to somebody else, his father had supported him throughout his life and even  in his final moments, his wish was for his son to achieve what he had always wanted.

Life after his father’s death had certainly not been a bed of roses for Eustass, and it kept presenting him with new challenges. The greatest jolt, however, was the sudden and tragic demise of his friend, Albus – a middle-aged, chivalrous man who had helped Eustass through some difficult times.

Now that he was gone, Eustass had no choice but to team up with Trafalgar – despite the warnings that were given to him by his friends – for he needed to earn his bread. Trafalgar had the reputation of being a conceited man, but he was one of the trusted ministers of His Highness the Great Sultan of Hindustan, and he had entrusted Trafalgar with the task of selecting masterpieces from the entire kingdom which were to adorn his palace.

***

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“That’s a nice gallery you’ve got,” Trafalgar finally broke the awkward silence.

“They are all my paintings,” Eustass said, hoping for some sign of approval or appreciation.

Trafalgar studied the painter. He was a young, well-built man, with a trim moustache that could not be avoided even if someone tried. But in the back of his mind, Trafalgar knew something bothered him, even though he hesitated to speak his mind. He was not at all pleased about Eustass’s dark skin tone. He had not known about Eustass’s appearance when he had decided to do business with him, but now that it was out in the open, he was disturbed and ill at ease. Trafalgar had made it a point to not associate himself with such people; they were not worthy. But he had already agreed, he reminded himself, and knowing that he was only doing the deal to make a few quick bucks, he convinced himself to not walk out of the room.

“So,” he said, not meeting Eustass’s eyes. He didn’t wish to look at him any longer than he needed to. “They are good, but … I observed a … pattern … in your paintings. Would you care to explain why your paintings only have swarthy people in them? Do you hate people of other colours?”

“No,” Eustass shrugged, “I just like experimenting with darker colours.” He didn’t think it was that big a deal.

“That wouldn’t do,” Trafalgar snapped. Eustass turned to look at him, startled by the tone of his voice. Trafalgar cleared his throat and adjusted his shirt before he opened his mouth again to speak in a business-like manner. “There is an auction day after tomorrow at the Royal Grounds and you are invited. However, you are requested not to include any dark-skinned people in your painting.”

Eustass was still confused; Trafalgar’s answer had not given him any explanation.

“And why is that?” he asked.

Trafalgar was still staring at the paintings, moving his eyes from the first in line to the second and to the third, and so on.

“Well, you see,” he began, moving closer to the canvasses, “most of the people invited are the nobles of the Sultanate. They have such beautiful noses and such … fair … skin.”

Eustass could not believe what Trafalgar was subtly trying to tell him. He was at a loss for words. When Trafalgar turned to face him a moment later, his hands behind his back, his expression made Eustass feel even worse.

“Now you know the nobles… such paintings wouldn’t tickle their fancy. And oh! You are the only Swart on the invitation list.”

How preposterous, Eustass thought to himself. He knew it was for his own reasons that Trafalgar did not want him to paint people of his own colour. But pressed by need, Eustass had little choice but to agree with him.

“Okay,” he finally replied.

“Excellent! I’ll be expecting you in the Palace Grounds by nine thirty in the morning. Be punctual.”

Trafalgar gave the paintings a final look, snorted, flipped his coat and went through the door.

***

On the day of the auction, Eustass stood outside with the painting that he had carefully wrapped in paper. He took a deep breath and slowly entered the auction hall.

“Here already? Show me the painting, will you?” Trafalgar snapped his hands for the canvas without waiting for a reply.

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The canvas shone with light colours that appealed to Trafalgar’s eyes. The painting was a scene with many fair-skinned people, just as he had ordered, but the difference between the two groups of people was evident. A few people in the painting were wearing elegant clothes and smiling at each other. Many men and women stood behind them in peasant clothes with solemn faces.

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Trafalgar was so thoroughly impressed that for a second, he wondered whether Eustass was capable of doing such a good job. But he did not understand the reason for the differences in their appearance. When he asked Eustass, he shrugged it off, saying it was a new trend.

The show commenced. As the day went by, the speeches slipped into dance and play. But the food and merry-making felt like an eternity to Eustass who could hardly control his nerves. He was so worried about the reaction to his painting that he abandoned a plate overflowing with food, waiting for the actual event to start.

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Eustass’s concerns were shown valid when the auction started. Some of the paintings were getting appreciation and fetching a good sum, but most of the art did not fetch anything at. Eustass knew that his painting was last in line, and looking at the crowd, which was growing bored and unappreciative, his heart sank to the floor. His head snapped up and his heart beat louder when he heard his name being announced.

“And this piece, titled Black Paint, bu Eustass Kid?”

He studied the faces in the crowd. Many were apathetic, while the rest looked displeased.

“This is just an ordinary piece,” said one of the critics, “and such a bizarre name!”

There was a buzz in the crowd. Everyone seemed to be thinking the same thing: why would anyone name a paining of white people ‘Black Paint’?

Eustass took a deep breath as he set foot on the stage. He knew it was his turn to promote the painting like other artists – or he could wait for someone to bid on it. He cleared his throat and prepared himself to address the crowd.

“Pretty dull in here, isn’t it?” he spoke, gathering his confidence. He moved to the end of the stage, all eyes on him, and, grabbing the edge of the curtains, pulled them open, exposing the audience to the sunlight. There was a murmur until a few in the audience saw his painting and gasped.

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The painting had magically transformed. As soon as the sun shone on them, the light colours had all darkened by a few shades. The brown and black skins of the nobles went beautifully with their now-magenta robes. The common people in the back were now wearing dark clothes and undoubtedly resembled the lower and middle classes who worked as farmers and labourers.

Trafalgar, who had been standing in  corner, ran to the stage. His fists were balled up at his sides and his face was red with anger. “Eustass! What is this?! Explain!” he screamed.

The audience, however, paid no attention. Spellbound, they stood up one by one and started clapping. As the applause grew thunderous, Eustass’s worry was washed away by a huge grin. The painting was undoubtedly a success.

The Sultan, too, rose in his praise. “Eustass Kid – ever praised! Well, son, you have truly lived up to your name!”

Content, Eustass walked up to Trafalgar, who was still standing in a corner, his anger showing no signs of having abated. He stood straighter as he saw Eustass, feeling ready to explode. But before he could do anything, Eustass spoke.

“You know, it was nice working with you,” he said calmly. “Though I really do feel sorry for people like you who don’t know how to respect others. I hope today’s auction was a lesson for you. There is a single colour on an artist’s palette that provides meaning to both life and art. That colour is love.”

Trafalgar lowered his eyes in shame. He had nothing to say in his defence. Eustass smiled and walked away.

***

Editing: Mrinal Verma, Vani Sharma

Illustrations: Aditi Verma

The Water Nymph

Once upon a time there was a miller who had both properties and income. He lived a luxurious and a happy life with his wife. He had a very beautiful, dusky and loving wife. She brought him the joy and happiness of his life. Very few were as lucky and rich as Miller, but soon he went from riches to rags. His incomes diminished, properties seized and now a modest living was also unaffordable.

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Upset with his situation, Miller went for a stroll and all of a sudden the water of the pond near his cottage rose and came out a divine angelic figure. Standing tall and beautiful on the water was a Nymph. Miller took a few steps back and was left just awe-struck. The Nymph spoke,” Such handsome man, yet so many worries. What is troubling, my friend?” . With a trembling voice, Miller explained the Nymph his doom and how it was now impossible for him to live.  Nymph was moved by his misfortunes and moved her hands upwards. As the hands moved, the water rose too and said the Nymph,” your troubles are going to be a thing of past, you will be wealthier, happier and better, but I will claim the next thing born at your place.” The miller wondered whether the Nymph expected the birth of a puppy or a kitten.  He unknowingly promised her.

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While his way back home, Miller’s maid came running towards her and announced the birth of his child. It was then that the miller understood that all this while it was his child that Nymph asked for. Miller went to his wife and sadly narrated the whole incident to her. Suddenly all the material worth seemed de trop. Yet, in the matter of finance, his trunks were full of money which just multiplied overnight.  They named the child Neer, which meant water.  The thought of Nymph taking away the child haunted both, the mother and the father, however nothing queer happened around the baby or Miller for quite some time.

The Miller took all his precautions and always made sure to keep his child away from the pond. For the little boy, pond and its surrounding area were like the Forbidden Kingdom. He was told to stay away or else the Nymph would come and pull him in the water, far from his parents.

Neer grew into a strong and handsome man.  He learnt how to hunt animals and birds. He was also fond of a girl in his village, named Meera. Neer’s  employer married them off and also gifted them a house in which they lived happily.

One day, after a hunt of a deer, Neer skinned the animal and in order to wash his hands off , he dipped his hands in the pond and suddenly he could see the red swirling and an image turning out of the swirl.  The Nymph emerged from the pond and pulled him inside the water.

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When the husband didn’t return, Meera got worried and went to look out for him. Her instincts took her to the pond where she found his hunting pouch and immediately remembered the Nymph’s threat. It got cleared that the Nymph had captivated her husband but where could she free her husband. She ran all over the banks and called out her husband’s name, but everything went in vain. She called out the Nymph, cursed her, begged her and prayed to return her husband but to no avail.  Exhausted and wearied, she dropped to the ground and unconsciously dreamt climbing huge rocks. The rocks tore her feet, rains battered her face and vines entangled her legs, yet she moved on. She knew she was doing this to get back her husband and thus did not give up. She finally reached a summit and found a small cottage. She pushed the door and went in the cottage, where she was welcomed and comforted by an old lady. She suddenly woke up and thought it to be a sign by a divine power and decide to take a chance to get her husband back. She followed the dictates of her mid and was able to find a similar cottage in reality. Her hopes raised high and exuberantly she opened the door and was astounded to find the same old lady in flesh and blood. The old lady sympathised with the young lady and comforted her. The old woman handed her a comb and said, “Don’t be sad. I will help you.  You patiently wait till the full moon night. On that night, go to the pond and comb your hair with the golden comb and you shall see what happens”

Meera went and did as instructed on the full moon night and left her comb there. Within a few moments there was the sound of water coming up from the depths. It washed the comb and dragged it into the pond. Within a few seconds thereafter her husband’s face rose above the water.  Neer appeared sad. Another wave which followed in just a couple of seconds, followed over his head plunging him into the water again. She wept inconsolably. She met the old lady and reported what had happened in detail.

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The old lady comforted her and said, ”Have this golden flute. As before, wait patiently till the full moon day. Go to the pond, sit near the water on the bank and play on the golden flute a tilting song. Then keep the flute on the bank near the water, see what happens.” Meera did as advised by the old lady. As soon as she kept the flute on the bank after playing it, a wave rose in the pond and lashed the ground and it receded into the pond parted and Neer emerged. Not just his head but up to his waist, he was above the water. He held out his hand towards his wife. But the second wave which arose, dragged the youth into the pond. The dame was heart-broken.

Now when the women’s sorrow became profound, the old lady came herself to console her. She told her that all that she did was predestined and happened according to the will of the almighty she hence can do only last thing to get her husband back. The old lady gave her a spinning wheel and a white thread and asked to go on the full moon night and leave it there at the bay. She did as advised. Gradually she saw the wave pulling the spinning wheel inside. Her husband came running from the pond. In tears was the dame to see her husband after months. They both embraced and cried. They could die at this very moment since they wanted nothing more from life now. Suddenly the water of the pond rose. It kept rising higher and higher. As the water fell from the height, Neer vanished. Meera almost lost her senses and started screaming and howling. She kept running around the pond to look for her dear husband. She saw old lady and questioned her. “I have nothing else to give you. This is His will and we must agree. I will pray for you.” Those were the last words she ever heard from the old lady.

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Many years passed, Meera became a shepherdess and shifted to a far off village. She hired an old man who was in search of work. One day while he was playing flute to please the sheep, the woman heard it and recalled it to be the same tune as she played with her golden flute to get her husband back. Right there and then she broke into tears and the man recognised her to be his wife. He went running towards his wife. He told her that he got free from the captivation a year back and ever since he went from one village to other in search of Meera. His Meera was now old yet the love was still new. They both finally embraced and prayed. They happily played the flute and reared the sheep together ever after.

 

Author: Ujwal Harish

Editing: Samiksha Batra

Illustrations:Aditi Verma

The Saviour of the Reign

The clouds in the sky looked upon the land mercilessly. They thundered loudly and brightly and a second later, big droplets of water, as harsh as pebbles, fell to the ground. Amongst the swaying trees, a young woman rode her horse in full gallop. The sound of rain hitting the land made everything else seem unimportant. Maya hugged her coat tightly with one hand. After battling the storm for another half an hour, she finally reached the palace. She could not stop the tears rushing from her eyes and dying at her cheeks, finally getting lost in the rain pouring down. She stepped out of her coat and ran into the hall.

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“Mother,” she cried. The shrill in her voice awakened the entire palace. Maya stood there, tears streaming down her face but she had no intentions to wipe them. A minute after, the Queen came in running, her scarlet gown elegantly sweeping the floor as she walked, with a few servants at her side.

At the sight of her mother, Maya completely broke down and ran to hug her. Her sobs still could be heard in the deafening storm.

“Mother, oh my dear, mother, your daughter has failed again. I regret to inform you that I have.”

The Queen stood still with her hand gently caressing Maya’s back. She knew Maya had failed yet again even before she said anything. She never expected her to win as she already had lost all hopes years ago, but she never said so. Maya was the only family she had left, and if Maya believed she could bring her father and the Queen’s husband back, her mother did not plan on telling her otherwise.

“What kind of a daughter am I? My father is out there somewhere, and here I stand, in a palace, having no clue about the dangers he faces on a daily basis.”

The Queen hooked her finger under Maya’s chin and gently forced her to look at her. Maya’s brown eyes sparkled with million different shades of golden in the dim light of the fire glowing in the hearth. She was completely soaked; her face looked tired and deprived of any happiness. Her hands felt rough on a single touch and her beautiful, wavy hair were now strangled and married to the dust and dirt the storm brought along.

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“It’s alright, my child, it’s alright,” said the Queen in a voice that instantly provided Maya with a new ray of hope. She patted her back as Maya struggled to stop the tears which now could easily be distinguished from raindrops. “If anyone can find him, it is you, and I know you will. I believe in you. Go to your room and rest, and in the morning, perhaps you can look in the Forest of West for clues.”

Maya sobbed a few more times before she forced herself to stop.

“Yes, mother,” she somehow found the voice inside her to speak.

Maya allowed herself to break down but she could not allow herself to break apart. She knew she can feel as depressed as she wants tonight but as soon as she wakes up tomorrow, she had to be determined and focused to find her father. She was sure this time she will.

She stood near her bed, running her bony fingers through her thick hair, trying to tame them absentmindedly. She was absolute that one day she will find her father and the King of Pataliputra and she knew that day was not far away.

Reminding herself to be strong, she buried her face in the pillow and was asleep a few moments later.

As she promised herself, she woke up next morning completely determined. She got dressed, packed her hunting equipment and left the hall. Outside was quite cold and dewy but it was not nearly enough to stop her. The grass shimmered under the faint sunlight.

She walked straight towards the stables, her pose strict and confident. She was positive she had everything she required. Maya unlocked the door and climbed on her horse Gradi. She looked back at the palace quietly and left without a word to anyone.

She patted him lightly as he started running.

“Giddy up, Gradi, we have a long way to go.”

As she reached the main gates of the City of Pataliputra, Maya could not ignore the fragrance of the newly bloomed flowers, the aroma of the freshly baked breads and the pungent smell of the incense wafted in the air. She was already homesick, but she knew she had to do this, and she was determined to return with her father this time or not at all.

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She roamed around in the Forest of West for three days, trying to find anything hinting towards her father’s disappearance. She was tired, thirsty and extremely hungry but she refused to give up. Her horse, Gradi, was nowhere near as determined as she was. He was ready to collapse at any given second. She pulled his reins right under a tree.

“Stop, Gradi, let’s rest.”

She got down and removed all the weights off the horse and let him wander around and eat hay. Stiff from the travel, Maya decided to sit down under the cool shade of a tree. Her tiredness finally caught up with her and before she knew it, she was asleep, curled like a ball under a tree. Hours later, when she opened her eyes, shock was the first thing she felt. The scene around her was changed. The greenery she had found a comfort in was long gone. The trees around her turned icy and grey; the leaves were still but Maya could feel a great blow of wind coming. She looked around frantically and sighed when her eyes landed on a safe Gradi.

Knowing it was not a safe place to stay, she picked up a piece of leave and wrote a few words on it before tucking it in Gardi’s belt and giving him the instructions.

“It is extremely unsafe for you to stay here, Gardi. You have to go. Give mother my message.”

She patted Gardi twice before he took off and never looked back. She let her eyes follow his trail as long as he was still in sight. Just as his figure became vague, her attention turned towards the matter in hand.

She knew she had written it on a leave and promised her mother to bring her father back, but now doubts were starting to form.

She found refuge under a giant tree which had an oddly shaped gap in the between. Just as things were settling down, the tree started shaking with greater intensity every second. Her heart started beating loudly in her chest; she screamed.

Maya ran away from the tree, her screams barely audible. She ran wildly in the scorching sun. Her feet’s sound echoed in the barren land. She could feel someone trying to reach and catch her. Her lungs were about to burst if she didn’t stop to catch her breath. Not a single chirp of a bird, not a single howl of the wolves, not a single swoosh of the wind on the tiniest patch of grass was in the surroundings. Nothing but a tornado could be seen, which was growing larger by the second, trying to pull Maya against the gravity of the planet.

Being unaware is a curse. And as a result of a curse, Maya stumbled in the abyss. It felt like an century had passed, but Maya was still falling. Some water droplets froze near Maya’s face and she saw iridescent ice gleaning. The next moment she was sliding on the ice. She slid further down and fell on her face in the mushy ground.

When Maya caught her breath and could stand on her own two feet, she saw that she was in a forest-much different from the Forest of West.

The trees, plants and everything in between was covered in snow. She could see a frozen stream and doves flew amongst immense pines.

Maya silently and steadily followed the path. She had ventured in an unknown land and was very careful with her every step. She could feel the air getting warmer and windier at the same time. All the life had been sucked from this world and gloom surrounded this place. A frail rabbit chanted and every animal joined in a cacophony.

“Kill that tree, Kill that tree,” they said monotonously and pointed towards a frail looking tree. “Kill that tree, save your father and let there be a meadow.”

She saw a glimmer of hope. There was a withered and highly entangled sets of branches on the tree with a pervading morbid smell. The light of the morning sun, the air around pleaded not to wither with the tree. She waddled near the tree, a new energy surged in her veins. Her will was now breaking into crumbs, but she inhaled a deep breath of gloom and snapped the biggest branch she could see. With a perfect dose of shrieks, the tree fell loose from the ground easily. There was a tumult of the delighted souls, who were now freed by Maya. Life came back to the trees and the ice surrounding it vanished. Maya’s father lay in a corner, gasping for fresh air. His clothes were tattered and he was unable to speak. She hugged him. A rabbit came around and pointed towards the river. Maya understood and waved the animals goodbye. Maya, and her father held their noses and jumped in the strong current of the river and were carried back to their homeland, the City of Pataliputra safely.

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Author: Ms. Devaanshi Mahajan, The Heritage School-Delhi

Adapted by: Ms. Mrinal Verma

Illustrated by: Ms. Sakshi Gupta

The Shadow

 

The Shadow Kaalitales

The story unlike any story starts from the death and not birth, it is a tale of a shadow, as only a shadow could compliment Tamas’s darkness. “I was lost and stranded in this vast sea of busyness. One week was over yet I was alone and separated. I had some money in my pocket and a roadside dhabha became my saviour” Tamas said. He took a sip and sighed while telling his story to Ved. It was hard for Tamas to talk about his problems but when with Ved, he could take his heart out. He never questioned or judged, just listened and understood. He was the only one Tamas had.

Tamas continued with a pale face, “I stepped in the Dhabha and there he was, standing right in front of me. Things had changed between us. My guilt rose seeing him. All the feelings of the world had gathered in my stomach and were having a wheelie inside me. I didn’t know whether to be happy, sad, frustrated or relieved. March 4 changed my and my twin brother’s life completely. Not because we were born that day but because my shadow master died that day-“Tamas hated interruption. “Shadow?” asked Ved. The questioned darkened Tamas even more, his sound as dark as his skin continued, “I was ridiculed by everyone in this world. Only my mother and my brother, Shaz, understood me.”

I was born dyslexic and my skin colour was just an icing. I never did well in my studies whereas Shaz progressed. Shaz’s progress was never an issue; it was people’s comparisons and judgements on my failures which became an issue for me. Shaz was gifted with a fair colour and a fair heart.’

Shaz and Tamas were identical twins but there skin colour was not the same. Tamas was the only dark skinned in his entire community. His failures in academics or sports were reasoned to be because of his complexion. How sometimes even reasons can be unreasonable but that’s how a society works where societal is normal and anything beyond it is queer. Tamas continued, “my teachers and friends considered me as a bad omen. They thought I was mentally retarded and I soon became an untouchable. I wished to be Shaz. I pretended to be Shaz.”

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“And the mighty ruler conquered the world-“Tamas was a remarkable story teller but his colour was always judged before his story telling talent. “I taught Shaz how to narrate a story, though he didn’t do it as well as I did, yet he won them all” Tamas sighed saying the last few lines. Ved felt a disappointment but it was changed as Tamas’s eyes brightened to tell further,” He won them all as Tamas Johnson and not Shaz Johnson. I don’t know how he convinced everyone about the sudden colour change. The ostensible change brought a real change in my life. Since our class timings were different, he even attended my classes and taught me later. We were keeping a little secret from the world. I loved being a shadow because the discrimination had subjugated me enough to not have my own identity. Shaz was an angel to me. He made my life stable and more likable”

White darkens more easily and prominently than black. Tamas maintained a journal with him which described the events of the unforgettable day, March 4.

March 4 was our birthday. Shaz and I planned to go on a picnic together. Away from the eyes of the world. Away from where we were not miscegenated. We packed everything and went to a lake side park. On the way to the park, we saw a bright heavy semi-precious stone and stuffed it in our bag for mother. The picnic didn’t turn out to be the way planned. I told Shaz that I was tired of not having any identity and that it was time to reveal the secret. Shaz was not ready for it; according to him things had gone too far to be revealed. In rage I left him and the bag and rode back to home. A few hours passed, Shaz was not back home and it was now bothering our mother. A man drenched with water came running to our house and asked us to follow him. My footsteps got heavy, I knew I wasn’t ready for what was coming. My mom reached the picnic spot first and screamed. There laid Shaz bloated and numbed.

While coming back home, Shaz’s cycle slipped and he fell in the lake. The weight of the backpack drowned him. My master shadow died. He deserved a greater and a better death.”

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Tamas had never lost Shaz. Even after the accident, Tamas could see and feel Shaz like the other day at the Dhabha. Ved was bewildered and overwhelmed by this loss in Tamas’s narration. He took some time to get back to his senses and after reviving asked Tamas if out of guilt he left his place. Tamas, the great story teller, slyly said,” the reason I was here alone is not because I left my home but because I got lost. I left my mom’s hand in this new city. After a few days, I saw my mother standing at the other side of the road. I ran towards her and got hit by the car. Instead of uniting with mother, I united with Shaz.”

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Written by: Medha K

Editing: Samiksha Batra

Illustrator: Aditi Verma

The Quest of Kaladri

Vdharma, the biggest kingdom in Panchamani district, seemed to have been blessed by the Gods for its prosperity, wealth and peace. With such stunning atmosphere, it was no less than heaven on Earth. The only issue which stole the comfortable sleep of the King and the Queen of Vdharma was the lack of an offspring. They have lived a happy married life but even they could no longer ignore the absence of a child in their life. They performed series of yajnas and great ordeals of prayers, and finally the Queen gave birth to girl twins on a dark, stormy night.

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Maduri, older by a few minutes, was as fair as snow in January, her skin radiant and glowing all the time, whereas Kaladri was as dark as the night on which she was born. The Queen, the mother of these two beautiful girls, always preferred Maduri. Proud of her fairness and the attractiveness associated with it, unconditional love and affection was showered on her, when her sister, Kaladri cried for just a few drops of it. She was left to the hands of the maids of the house to be raised. They refused to acknowledge her as their own as they believed her darkness-which kept deepening day by day-to be the black sheep of the family who will and is going to ruin their family name and status. They could bear it no longer, and one day their patience reached its limit, and they journeyed to the nearby forest in the stillness of the night only to abandon Kaladri under a tree.

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A sage, who was making his way back to his hermitage in the early hours of the morning, found her sleeping peacefully wrapped in a blanket and decided his hut would make a better home for her than the shade of the trees. His divine sense informed him that she was the abandoned princess and he decided to raise her like one, providing her all the teachings which would come in handy in the future. A great change was coming and he had to prepare her for it, proving her worthiness along the way. He loved her like his own child. A few years passed and she grew up to be a talented and courageous woman with great skills in Vedas teachings, dancing, music, archery, literature, horse-riding and many more. She was always hungry for knowledge and like a sponge, she absorbed everything the sage taught her. She was humble, noble and considerate; always full of enthusiasm and willingness to help everyone and work for the betterment of humanity. She traveled around the world and visited religious institutions which helped her to broaden her horizons.

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Meanwhile in the kingdom, Maduri’s upbringing was very different and as a result, she grew up to be the opposite of Kaladri. Over dosage of love and pampering led Maduri to be a mean, proud and condescending woman. She had no interest in taking educational lessons. She was snobbish and arrogant, which worried her father so much so that the kingdom’s business started going downhill.

Seeing this as the right time to attack, the neighbouring kingdom, Adharma, started plotting an attack. They strengthened their army and sent spies to find loopholes.

Kaladri returned from her worldwide journey as an apt warrior and a great leader. She was strong, powerful, intelligent and not even once the colour of her skin stood between her and her success. With the blessing of the sage she befriended the neighbouring villages and everyone instantly loved her. She was an icon for young girls; parents allowed their daughters to dream big and spread their wings.

New Year came with the expectations of new beginning, new relationships, new expeditions and progress, but at midnight Vdharma was attacked by Adharma, who having the advantage over Vdharma’s lack of preparations, won. The royal family was taken as prisoners. Maduri cursed her parents for the ill fate. The message spread far and wide and reached the ears of Kaladri. The sage could no more hold the secret of Kaladri’s origin and informed her as soon as he could. Kaladri thanked him immensely for all the kindness he had shown to her and prepared herself to fight for her homeland and family. With the help of her goodwill, she convinced locals to join her in the fight and together they formed their own army. She planned strategies to free Vdharma. She personally visited villagers and boosted their spirits. She sent a message to the king of Adharma to release her captured family, but the Adharma king only laughed at the naivety of a young girl and opted to fight.

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Kaladri and her army fought with great valour and vigour. The battle did not last for long as the king of Adharma, surprised from her power, surrendered his kingdom to Kaladri and released her family. After learning the truth, the King and the Queen were full of remorse for mistreating their own daughter who had no obligations to save their life and their kingdom, but still did. Kaladri accepted their apology and embraced them with respect and love. The kingdom of Vdharma and Adharma were unified and renamed as the kingdom of Darma. Kaladri was coroneted as the ruler and formed a peaceful society with her utopian form of government where everyone lived happily. Her sister was sent to Gurukul to gain better morals and teachings.

Written by: Samyuktha

Adapted by: Mrinal Verma

Illustrated by: Soumya

Kaali’s Tale

Kaali – much like her name was a bold teen with a free spirited personality. Kaali was deeply fasated by the world of fantasy and ideas imagination can give birth to- magic, witches, mermaids, fairies, enchantments and magical lands. Every night her mother would read her a story from book of fairytales. And tonight it was the story of Rapunzel. How a beautiful woman is captured into a tower and her beautiful long hair come to her rescue enticed Kaali so much.

Ma: He led her to his kingdom where he was joyfully received, and they lived for a long time afterwards, happy and contented.”The End

Kaali: I wonder why such a long story, it could have simply ended like “So after years of being caged in the tower, Rapunzel finally had the right ingredients to set herself free. For past 16 years she had been growing her hair and not cutting them, every full moon day she would lower them to check the height and finally today her hair reached the bottom of the tower. So she cut her hair- all of them and tied them to the window to climb down in the dead of the night and escape from the treachery old witch! The End.”

Ma: *chuckles* No baby then this won’t be a fairytale..

Kaali: What is a fairytale exactly?

Ma: A story with magic, mystic and [Kaali interrupts]

Kaali: and with girls who are weak and pushovers. Who are always waiting for their prince charming to rescue them?

Ma: No baby it isn’t like that. 

Kaali: but no mom, see all stories have such meeky characters – Cindrella, Snowhite, the sleeping beauty, Jasmine from Aladdin all of them. I am not like this and I am a girl too. You know even the princess from Mario needs Mario! It is not even a fairytale still.. 

Ma: Oh Kaali! You are so innocent. Fairy Tales are a reflection of 16th century European morality and do not hold any ground in 21st century. But you know women are not meek and submissive, anymore atleast, don’t you?

Kaali: Then why are FairyTales still popular?

Ma: Because they take little children to a fantasy land and make them learn how good wins over bad..

Kaali: But only with help of a boy. All fairytales are so similar.

Ma: What do you think would be unique and fun then?

Kaali: Stories that teach not just that good wins over bad but also that anyone can be their own hero! Where girls are independent and fighters. Who can put pretty pink nail polish and still pick a bat to kick some bad person.

Ma: My baby Kaali is so sensible. Why don’t you start writing your own fairytales? 

Kaali: No my stories will not be called fairytales.. they will be better .. they will be Kaalitales!

Ma: That actually sounds nice! Ok I think my little Kaali should get some sleep now that she can think with a fresh mind tomorrow for her fai..I mean Kaalitales.

This was not the first time Kaali was having a conversation on fairytales with her mother. But this was the first time that she questioned the existence and the character’s traits in FairyTales and it did lead to an epiphany.

Tonight was different because the writer in her had finally found it’s story and it was going to be dreamy, magical and enchanting. She would write a fairytale that would be much more marvellous and dreamful – a Kaalitale.

She decided that her KaaliTales’ characters would be brave enough to be themselves and gender stereotypes and still have a “happily ever after”. These would be stories that talk about women who don’t wait for a prince charming or destiny to work it’s way but take things upon themselves to get much more than just a “happily ever after”.

She picked up her notebook and got down to scribbling.

prequel

Once Upon A Time.. in a land faraway..”

Why once upon a time you ask?

Because once upon a time, one girl chose to have a Kaalitale because a fairytale was just not good enough.