This story must take place far from the present, the immediate and the real, because it requires a certain believability that could only be acquired if placed in a space and time distant from the normal reality. Therefore I decided to keep a time that is far back from the present and a space or place, which doesn’t invoke the necessity of being located in any of the maps. It could be anywhere. I chose it this way because we can meet some people only beyond time and space and that is what I meant by believability. People might not think this way in the present world. Or do they?
In this story you can meet a prince, who had even made his enemy’s spy his soul friend. He was wise, kind and meek. In the absence of the king, he was the one responsible to carry out the official duties. The prince was in his durbar hall. The durbar hall was full with an assemblage of different authorities from the Kingdom. There were two others too, that day: a young girl and a person accused of breaking into the young girl’s lonely house. The man was accused of attempting to steal her jewelry, an attempted theft. She was a lonely girl with her family perished in a flood the previous year. She was not married and lived alone. And like any other lonely woman, she too was a constant figure of mystery and sympathy among the local gossipers. Some even called her a witch, but that title did not catch on because she was not an extremely pretty girl. She was a moderate looking girl, with sad eyes.
There was no space to doubt if the thief should be punished. The thief had done such a heinous act of breaking into a lonely girl’s only abode. And the punishment too was doubtless—death, as the prince was known for his justice loving nature and wisdom.
As the prince rose to deliver his decree, the girl who was silent until that moment came forward with folded arms and begged the price:
“My Lord, I do not have the worth to speak in front of you. Forgive my indolence. I request you; please do not kill this thief. Please leave him.”
It was shocking indeed, not just for the prince but also for the authorities assembled there.
“Why do you say so? Don’t you have any complaint against him?”—the prince asked.
“No, my Lord, I was shocked suddenly to see this stranger in my house. And I screamed. It was my neighbours who caught him upon hearing my scream. But I do not have any complaints against him now.”—the girl lowered her eyes after these words.
“Don’t you know this man wanted to steal your wealth?”—the prince asked.
“Yes”—the girl replied.
“Don’t you think this man would have murdered you, after your shouting, in an attempt to save himself, had the villagers not arrived in time?”
“Yes”—was again heard from the girl.
Now the look in the prince’s eyes was of suspicion. “Did you know him before?”—he asked.
“No, my Lord, believe me. Don’t suspect me of adultery; I never met him before, believe me.”—And the girl broke down and wept bitter tears.
“And still you want the thief not to be punished?”—The prince attained his composure.
“But why?”—the prince said in a failed attempt to conceal his surprise.
“Because my Lord, no one came to my lonely house or to me until the day the thief broke into, neither neighbours nor relatives. After the demise of my family I was imprisoned in my loneliness, and this thief is the one who broke the bars of the prison of seclusion and took me out of it. I couldn’t go out and talk to others fearing gossip mongers. And then at least to steal my wealth, he came. I am grateful to him.”—the girl said. She stopped crying and looked up at the prince in his eyes.
The prince smiled and pointing the thief he said: “The stranger can go now. I leave him free.” The whole palace was silent. All his ministers knew the nature of the young prince. And they admired him for what he was.
The prince continued--“I understood your need for some one to break into. I hope you don’t mind young lady. Now, I am breaking into your loneliness, stealing you away from all the loneliness you suffered. Can you stay with me, here in my palace as my wife?”
The prince smiled at the young girl who looked stunned.
Now there were only two voices: two hearts beating a rhythm to merge with each other.
[Painting by Raja Ravi Varma]