Disclaimer: The characters Panchali and Krishna are inspired by Indian Mythology. However the story is completely a fiction and not a part of the Indian Mythology.
Little Kittu was lying on his Grandma’s lap, his cute little eyes wide open in excitement and his half agape mouth drooling. ‘Jusht one more shtory grandma, pleeeeeashe,’ said Kittu in his squeaky voice. Who could deny any request that comes from this soft melodious voice?
‘Ssshhhh! Not so loud! Your mother won’t be too pleased to hear your voice at this late hour. Do you want your grandma to get into trouble?’ asked his grandma, pinching his tiny nose adoringly that immediately turned a mild shade of pink.
‘Thish ish lasht one. Promishh. Thell me the shtory of Princeshsh Panchali,’ pleaded Kittu in a husky voice to save his grandma from the wraths of his mother.
‘Princess Panchali, huh? You do speak a lot of words for a three-year-old.’
Kittu stared at her with anticipation, not really understanding what his grandma meant.
‘How can I deny the story of the brave Princess, although this is umpteenth time that I am repeating the same? Alright, now listen.’
Kittu settled comfortably on his grandma’s lap, plugging his thumb inside his teething mouth, closely reading his grandma’s lips.
‘Once Princess Panchali was travelling across a dense forest along with her maids. They walked throughout the day and when the Sun sank beneath the Earth, they decided to rest for a while.’
‘Princess Panchali was so tired. Like little Kittu is right now. You are tired, aren’t you darling?’
‘Nooooo! Kittu is not tired!’ shrieked the kid.
Grandma broke into laughter. ‘Okay…Okay… Princess Panchali was so tired and she decided to rest under a divine smelling Sandal tree. The colourful birds gathered around the Princess and pecked her lovingly. And what did Princess Panchali do next?’
‘She gave them fruitshh,’said Kittu clapping his hands excitedly.
‘Yesss! Princess Panchali ordered her maids to bring some fruits from the royal basket. There were all kinds of exotic fruits in the basket. Bananas, Guavas, Apples and Kittu’s favourite Mangoes!! Princess Panchali fed the fruits to the birds. They birds chirped happily and flapped their wings.’
Kittu threw his little hands into air and shook them furiously, making an imitation of the birds.
Grandma chuckled and patted his forehead. ‘Enough! Enough! Don’t break grandma’s specs! Your father doesn’t have enough time to get me a new one.’
‘Among the birds that Panchali fed was a golden bird. The golden bird came near Panchali and said to her, “Oh great Princess! Take this golden egg. Tomorrow the egg shall hatch and from it shall arise a golden chick! It shall grant any wish that you ask! But beware! The bird shall disappear if you tell a lie in front of it!” Saying so, the golden flew away. Panchali took the egg, carefully placed it in one her royal baskets and covered it with a silk cloth.’
Kittu moved closer to Grandma for they had reached his favourite part of the story.
‘Princess Panchali took the egg to her palace. She ordered the servants to build the most beautiful cage. She decorated the cage with fresh fragrant flowers and waited for the egg to hatch.’
‘Next morning, Princess Panchali woke with the Sun, ready to watch the hatching egg. As the first rays peeped through the window, the egg vibrated on its place, cracking mildly from the sides. Within few minutes, a tiny golden bird peeked through a small gap in the egg. The golden glow of the bird lit the entire room! Princess Panchali was mesmerized by the beauty of the bird. The bird looked at Panchali and blinked with its tiny eyes. It let out a mild squeak as Panchali took it in her hands. She carefully placed the tiny bird in its beautiful cage, taking care not to hurt it. She ran into the kitchen and brought water and milk for the bird.’
Grandma knew that Kittu was already sleepy. His eyes watery and drooping. He was trying hard to stay awake to listen to the most interesting part of the story.
‘When Panchali returned from the kitchen, she was astonished. The bird had doubled in size. “Oh! my goodness! You are so big already! exclaimed Panchali. I shall name you Swarna.” Thus, Swarna became Panchali’s favourite pet bird.’
‘Everywhere the Princess went, she would carry Swarna with her; even to her music class. Panchali loved music. One day, after her music lessons, she asked Swarna, “Hey Swarna, can you give me the most magical, divine sounding flute? It’s for my friend Krishna! He loves playing the flute and I love listening to his ever-ringing tunes!” Swarna acquiesced. The bird chirped five times and, on its beak, manifested a beautiful flute.’
‘The next day, Panchali went to take bath in a nearby stream. Of course, she carried Swarna with her. Panchali was extremely hungry after the bath. She turned to Swarna and asked, “Hey Swarna, can you give me the sweetest fruit that even the Gods haven’t tasted?” Soon enough, Swarna chirped five times and the fruit appeared on its beak! It was the juiciest and the sweetest fruit Panchali had ever tasted. “Hmmm… Yummy… The fruit tastes divine!” You like fruits too, don’t you Kittu?’
‘Yesh grandma! I like mango!’
‘Ha Ha! Very well, very well! Let us get a golden bird for Kittu too. Let us ask your father tomorrow.’
‘Alright now! Back to the story... Every day, Panchali would play with the bird and the bird would grant all her wishes. The Princess’s maids were worried. The Princess was too obsessed with the bird that she was slowly drifting away from reality. The maids explained their predicament to the King. The King immediately came up with an idea. “The bird will disappear if Panchali utters a lie, won’t it? I know just what to do!” Saying so, he dispersed the maids.’
‘The next day, the King announced that he was going to organize a grand festival where all the citizens could display their talent and win prizes from the Golden Bird! The entire Kingdom was pompous, awaiting the grand event. Dancers and musicians were working day and night to make the best display of their art.’
‘Finally, the evening of the festival arrived. All the artists gathered at the palace, dressed in their most elegant costumes. Colourful festoons and fragrant flowers in their full bloom draped the otherwise bare pillars. The palace echoed with the sounds of chattering women and kids’ laughter. Princess Panchali, in her golden silk skirt and ivory blouse that complemented her dusky complexion, sat near the King with Swarna proudly perched on her lap.’
‘Artists from faraway lands, who had heard about Swarna, had travelled miles to display their talent. There was music, there was dance, there was also different types of martial arts that captivated the audience. Swarna delighted the artists by her munificence. That night, no artist left the stage disheartened. The celebration extended into night. The colourful bright lights from the palace swallowed the darkness and lit the entire city. The King quickly glanced at Panchali, with her favourite pet immersed in the festive mood. He knew the time to execute his plan had come.’
‘It was well after midnight and the guests had started leaving one by one. The King moved closer to the Princess and said, “My dear Panchali, I believe you enjoyed the festival!” After a long day, Panchali was tired and her eyelids were drooping. Yet she replied with all the energy she could muster, “Yes father! I have never seen a festival so jubilant! Swarna enjoyed the festival too!”’
‘The King patted Panchali’s shoulder. “I hope you and Swarna liked the food.”’
‘Panchali beamed with happiness. “Oh yes father! I enjoyed the delicacies. I have never seen Swarna eat so much!” Swarna squeaked in acknowledgement. Panchali gently stroked Swarna’s little golden head. Both of them were tired. Panchali yawned widely.’
‘The King immediately grasped the opportunity. “Panchali dear, it’s time for you to sleep. You look tired.”’
‘But Panchali did not want to miss the festival. She had to meet her friends and from other kingdoms! “No father! I am not sleepy! I will stay until the festival ends.”’
‘At this, Swarna fluttered her wings furiously. With one loud chirp, the Golden Bird vanished, leaving golden sparkles swaying in the air.’
‘Princess Panchali realized that she had lied in front of the bird. She went to bed and slept, hoping the bird would return to her.’
Kuttu smiled at his grandma. His eyelids gave up and he slept peacefully while his grandma gently stroked his hair and planted a soft kiss on his forehead.
‘Here goes yet another day!’ The Grandma, carefully placed Kuttu on the pillow beside hers and fell asleep immediately.
Through the small gap in the door, the Mother witnessed the two happy souls sleeping peacefully and prepared herself for the dawn reassuringly.