The Queen Mother had made up her mind. Her daughter, the beautiful, almond eyed Sayantani, wouldn’t marry any mere mortal King. Though pleasantly plump, her eyes were like madhushala. Anyone who met her gaze would drown in their depths and become delirious with ecstasy. She had that effect. Yes, her daughter was fit only for the King of Celestials. Little did she know her daughter had other plans.
Princess Sayantani sat near the Palace pond contemplating on her next move. Her mother, the Queen, had been quite vocal about getting her married to the King of Celestials. Though she had nothing against him, in fact she found him truly handsome, she had lost her heart to Neel, the King of Sopara. And that too, without meeting him in person. She sat there, moving her fingers through the tranquil water, she smiled to herself as she reminisced on her long-distance romance.
“Your Majesty! All hail the Supreme Ruler”, cried the Resident Rishi, Rishi Chakrapani as he kneeled before his young King, King Neel.
King Neel who was staring into the distance, standing at the Jharokha, turned around to face his favourite Rishi, who doubled as a scientist.
“Guru Chakrapani. I have pleaded with you so many times, not to embarrassed me so, with this formal greeting every time you meet me. But you have decided to torture me. Afterall I am like your son. You can call me Neel. Anyway, what brings you here? I can see that you are all flushed and excited. Seems to me that you have made some fantastic discovery again.” King Neel smiles and gestured the Rishi to sit before him.
“You may be my son’s age, but O King, you are our Protector and Benefactor. And I am but, a common citizen, just fortunate enough to barge into your chambers without seeking permission.” Rishi Chakrapani had uttered this dialogue with the King many times before with slight variations. Then he continued.
“Yes, King Neel. I do have something exciting. You know how these small unmanned flying objects (UFO) are being used by our enemies to spy on us. Well, today we were able to capture one such UFO. And guess what we stumbled upon? It was by one of the far-off lands, the Kingdom of Nisargapatnam.”
“Kingdom of Nisargapatnam? Isn’t that the same Kingdom whose Princess is known to be an enchantress. What’s her name? Sayan…yes, Sayantani.” The King’s eyes sparkled as he said this.
“Yes, the same one, Your Highness. And finally, today you will be able to have a look at her image. Let’s go to the Karyashala.” The Rishi was brimming with excitement.
“What…but…how?”, the King was blabbering like a love-lorn teenager. And he was yet to see her image.
“The UFO was dismantled. It was decoded with great difficulty. But why am I telling you all this? Let’s rush to the karyashala.” The Rishi was insistent.
“Okay, at your service Sir”, and keeping his hand around the Rishi’s shoulder, he accompanied the Rishi to the Karyashala.
The Karyashala didn’t look like any other laboratory. Due to the extreme OCD of Rishi Chakrapani, different disciplines were divided into different sections. Thus there were different cabins for research on botany, metals, fauna, geology, etc. and each was labelled neatly. But the Rishi guided the King to the Technology section. Being the latest technological development on the bhumandala, intercepted UFO’s of various kingdoms, enemies as well as friends, occupied most of the space.
The junior Rishi standing near a workbench moved aside as soon as he sensed the presence of The King and Rishi Chakrapani. A silk cloth covered something on the bench.
Rishi Chakrapani proceeded to remove the cloth to reveal an ochre coloured UFO. The Rishi gestured the King to move forward. As soon as the King laid his eyes on the dismantled UFO, he exhaled in delight. For it displayed the image of the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.
“Yes, Your Majesty. Princess Sayantani it is. But we have not yet been able to decode, how was this technological marvel achieved. Seems, the Rishis of Nisargapatnam are far ahead of us, in their technological prowess.”
The King was still enraptured by the beautiful image. It revealed a pleasantly plump countenance, half hidden behind waves of brown hair cascading over her face. The one eye which was visible, hinted a smile which flirted with the beholder. The King stole his gaze away from beautiful image in front of him with great difficulty.
“Rishi Chakrapani! Are you sure there is no hidden agenda in sharing this beautiful image? Why would any Kingdom want to share the image of their Princess with the world? And that too, of one so beautiful.” While the King was sounding a word of caution, his choked voice gave away his emotional state. An emotion called love.
“No, Your Majesty. We have checked the UFO for all known bugs. There is none. Though I cannot conjecture on their motives.” The Rishi was assuring his besotted King.
“Well, Rishi Chakrapani, it’s time for us to show the Rulers of Nisargapatnam, our own technological prowess, isn’t it”, smiled the King.
“Your wish, our command Sir. What do you want me to do?” The King just smiled in reply. Then he replied, “Rishi Chakrapani, I want you to…”
The Rishi at Nisargapatnam smiled. No one had been able to deduce the bug in their UFO. The listening device planted on one binding screw of the UFO had done it’s job discreetly. The slight inflections heard in King Neel’s voice had given away his besotted state. While his word of caution to Rishi Chakrapani proved that he was a responsible King who wouldn’t get swayed by emotions while ruling his Kingdom. She had found the perfect match for the Kingdom’s Princess, nee Rishi Sayantani. An invitation for the swayamvara was dispatched on that very day to the King of Sopara by the Rishi, nay, Princess Sayantani herself. An invitation alongwith the most important accessory. An accessory presented to a suitor when the decision had been made by a Princess on her would-be husband before the actual swayamvara.
Another invitation for the swayamvara reached the King of Celestials, courtesy the Queen of Nisargapatnam. The image of the Princess which accompanied the invitation made even the King of Celestials, to miss a heartbeat. He hadn’t seen a more beautiful girl. The Apsaras adorning his Palace would be jealous of their new queen.
The elite spy of the King of Celestials ambled towards his Palace. Whatever the nature of the news for the King of Celestials, the elite spy always remained cucumber cool. The clip-clop of his paduka announced his arrival inside the private chamber of the King of Celestials. But he loved to announced himself in his own style. He always took the name of that benevolent Celestial twice, the one who had first identified his spying capabilities.
“Welcome, O Banarada! What brings you to my humble abode?”, enquired the King of Celestials.
“O King of Celestials. My salutations to you. I have some cautionary news for you. The Noble King Neel of Sopara has also been invited to the swayamvara. He is currently the most loved King on the entire Bhumandala. And that’s not all. He is also the epitome of manliness. His chiselled features, the scar at the corner of his mouth enhances his masculinity. He is your most complete competitor, a likeness of the Celestials themselves”, so said the spy of the Celestials.
“Bah! Celestial-like? What do you mean by chiselled features? Afterall, the King of Celestials is sitting before you. Don’t you worry. The beautiful Princess is sure to put the varmala around my neck.” boasted the King of Celestials.
“Na, na, na. Don’t be so confident, O King of Celestials. Don’t underestimate the power of a girl in love. She has already selected King Neel as the most eligible suitor. She won’t even notice your presence at the swayamvara, however handsome you may be.” And with that warning he excused himself from the presence of The King of Celestials.
The King of Celestials’s thoughts were now truly clouded with doubts. Is it really possible that any maiden would select someone else in his presence? No, it’s not possible. This had never occurred before. But…but…Banarada had never been proven wrong till now. No, I cannot allow this to happen. If she cannot be mine, she cannot be someone else’s. Even the King of Celestials fell prey to base human fallacies like jealousy sometimes.
The day of the Swayamvara dawned. The King of Celestials dressed in the newly conjured up silk attire making him look resplendent like the shining Sun. He didn’t want to leave any stone unturned to achieve his aim. He strode towards his flying chariot to make the journey to Bhumandala. Though he always preferred his Regal White Limousine, today the flying chariot was his choice.
He zoomed down towards the Swayamvara venue. As soon as the flying chariot neared ground level, he saw many other Suitors in their finest clothing and adorned in the choicest jewellery, rushing towards the same destination. Then he saw him.
King Neel. Standing ramrod erect in his speeding chariot, he appeared the epitome of masculine grace. His muscles taut, his sweating torso glistened n the morning sun. When the King of Celestials espied him hurtling across the landscape, he knew he was the one. He put his plan in place. His entire body vibrated inside the flying chariot, his face grimaced, and when things settled down, he was King Neel! And he zoomed towards the venue at faster speed.
The swayamvara hall was packed with invitees, the suitors as well as others invited to watch the celebrations and bless the couple. Finest silks fell from the walls and waved in the occasional gusts of wind. Beautiful traditional designs were made on the floor with nothing but differently coloured fresh flowers. The Suitors tried to appear cool but were certainly a bit stressed. And while everyone else was having a gala time, enjoying the delicacies on offer, an UFO had landed in the inner depths of the Palace.
Princess Sayantani had no difficulty in accessing the contents of the small UFO. As soon as she opened it, she was overcome by pleasant sensations. She knew what it was and what she was supposed to do. Soon she had used up every bit of the special contents and was ready for the swayamvara.
It was time for the event for which everyone had congregated. The Swayamvara. The Suitors were all standing near the chairs allotted to them. Princess Sayantani strode confidently through the hall, her eyes searching for only one. Her eyes met with the eyes of all Suitors and then moved on.
Suddenly her eyes fell upon the one to whom she had lost her heart. The rest of the hall was now a blur. Her pace quickened. As did her heartbeat. But as she approached him, she felt something amiss. Her steps faltered but she pulled herself ahead. Then she saw him. Again. Just a few yards ahead of King Neel. Another King Neel? An imposter? But…but how was this possible? Still she continued to walk. As she walked further, her confidence returned as she felt the attraction irresistible.
She crossed the smiling, first King Neel, reached the second one, and in one swift, graceful movement she had placed the varmala around him. Not a nerve twitched on the face of the first King Neel. The hall was stunned. Why were there two King Neels’? And who among them was the imposter? The one who had been ignored or the one who now stood beside the Princess. The Princess appeared sure of her choice.
A gasp went around the hall, as the first King Neel strode out of the hall in quick strides, perhaps wanting to avoid the gaze of the entire hall, which he felt was only pitying him.
The wedding between the made for each other couple was celebrated for the next 2 days by the entire Kingdom of Nisargapatnam and their guests while the Queen sulked. A wedding helped on its way in no small measure by the exchange of pheromones hitching a ride on the UFO’s and the technological expertise of two ancient Indian Kingdoms.
The King of Celestials is in a sullen mood. But he gloats. He has made all arrangements to make hell out of a married couple’s life. A couple whose love triumphed over all his desperate shenanigans. And someone must repent for that, isn’t it?
Neel Sayantani – influenced by the story of Nal-Damayanti, I hope not to have made a mess out of it
Madhushala – a place for getting drunk
Sopara – a Kingdom in ancient India
Nisargapatnam – another Kingdom in ancient India?
Rishi – a learned elder (scientist?) in ancient india
Jharokha – a window
Small UFO – means a drone for this story
Karyashala – a laboratory
OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Bhumandala – Earth
Apsaras – celestial nymphets
Paduka – footwear
Varmala – a flower garland