From the Galpoghor Series:
The Story of the Koonch-Baran Kanya
(Continued from the last issue)
Translated by Kabir Chowdhury
The Prime Minister's son set out at once in search of a bride for his friend. He covered mile after mile, travelled from country to country, visited land after land, any yet nowhere could he find a Koonch-coloured girl. Tired and dejected, he reached the bank of a river one evening and quietly sat by it.
Suddenly he noticed that streams of bright red and gold were swiftly flowing along the current of the river. He wondered what they were. He began to make enquiries from the people of the locality and soon came to learn that a few miles up the river there was a country called Shonapur or the Golden Land. The King of that country had a beautiful Koonch-coloured daughter and when she bathed in the river the water took this colour and floated down the current during ebb tide.
Thus at last he learnt about the Koonch-coloured girl. Without wasting any time he went to the King of Shonapur, fixed up the marriage of his friend, and returned to the latter.
In due course the wedding took place. The royal Prince returned home from Shonapur with his Koonch-coloured bride. This was their wedding night.
On this happy night the Prime Minister's son could not go to sleep. Many old memories came to his mind. He was musing over those remembrances sitting under a tree in the palace garden when he heard a Bengama and a Bengamee (two mythical birds) talking in their cosy nest up on the tree. He heard the she-bird tell her mate, "What a pretty wife the Prince has got. I am sure they will live in great happiness for many many years to come."
The Bengama said, "How little you know, my dear wife. A great misfortune will be fall the Prince even tonight." The Bengamee wanted to know more and her husband, the he-bird, told her that at midnight a python would emerge from the tower of the temple standing at the corner of the palace grounds and devour the Prince. When the Bengamee wanted to know if the Prince could be saved somehow from this terrible disaster, the Bengama said, "Yes, there is a way, but it is very tough, and fraught with great danger. If the Prince has any loyal and intimate friend of his, he can hide himself in the temple and cut the python into two with his sword when the latter emerges at midnight from his lair at the tower. But if the Prince ever sees a single drop of that dangerous snake's blood there will be a horrible catastrophe, and no power on earth will be able to save anyone. And there is something else, too, my wife. Suppose some person hears all that we have talked about and tells it to somebody, do you know what will happen? He will immediately turn into stone." The Bengamee said, "But is there no way to bring him back to life?" Her husband told her that there was indeed a way. He said, "When the Prince will have his first son his blood will have to be smeared over the stone, and only then will the stone turn into a living man again." The Bengamee said, "Well, dear husband, since you have told one so much, why don't you tell me how that baby son of the Prince can be brought back to life?" But her husband grew angry and said, "What good will it do you to learn all these things?" The she-bird, however, insisted on getting an answer to her query, and at last the Bengama said, "All right. Since you are so curious, listen then. There is a magic well in the Kokaf mountain. If some one drops three stones into that well one after another, dense vapour will emerge from inside it.
Along with that vapour will come out a Pankhiraj horse (the mythical winged horse which can fly) which can take its rider to the land of fairies. There is a pond in that land of the fairies whose banks are plated with gold. If someone can get a handful of water from that pond and sprinkle it on the dead body of the Prince's baby son, he will then immediately come to life."
When the Prime Minister's son overheard this conversation of the two birds a great fear for his friend, the Prince, clutched at his heart. But he shed off his fear and decided to act to save the life of his dear friend. Time was short. It was already nearly midnight. He softly tiptoed into the bedroom of his friend and saw him sleeping in peace with his beautiful wife by his side. Quietly he crawled under their bed and waited for the python. As soon as the hour of midnight struck the Prime Minister's son saw with amazed eyes a fierce-looking huge python emerge from the tower of the temple and approach the Prince's bed. He took courage in both hands and rushed forward with his sword and began to hack the huge body of the snake into pieces. After the monster was killed he gathered the severed parts of its body, carried them outside, and buried them in one corner of the palace garden. Then he took a piece of wet cloth and carefully wiped out the drops of blood that had spilled on the floor and the walls. Suddenly he noticed that a tiny drop of snake-blood had fallen on the open bosom of the Koonch-colored Princess.
He was very upset when he saw that drop of blood. If his friend woke and saw that drop of blood all his efforts to save the former's life would go waste. On the other hand, if he tried to wipe it out with the wet piece of cloth he held in his hand he might awaken the Princess, and she might misconstrue his intentions. At last he decided to softly and carefully wipe out the drop of blood with his tongue. He thought that this would not disturb the Princess's sleep.
His mind once made up, the Prime Minister's son wrapped his eyes with seven folds of cloth, and then bending low on he bed wiped out with his tongue the tiny drop of blood from the naked bosom of the Princess. But just at that moment his friend the Prince woke up from his sleep and saw the Prime Minister's son with his lips on his wife's bosom.
This stabbed him to the quick. Angered and saddened beyond words the Prince said, “If this was your evil desire then why did you arrange this marriage, my friend? You could have married her yourself. Oh, God, is this the act of a friend?”
The Prime Minister's son grew pale in shame, anguish, and frustration. How could he convince the Prince that his action was prompted not by lust or any evil desire, but by the purest of motives, his desire to save the life of his dear friend? When the Prince insisted on knowing everything his friend said, “If I tell you all I shall turn into stone. Do you want that?” The Prince, however, didn't believe in such a crazy thing and thought that the Prime Minister's son was trying to dupe him by taking shelter behind a concocted story. At last, finding no other way to convince his friend of the sincerity and purity of his motive, the Prime Minister's son began to relate the strange events of the night.
By the time he had finished telling one-third of his story, his body had turned into stone up to the waist. He said, “Look, friend, let me stop here. At least I shall then be able to talk to you and send he rest of my life by your side.”
But the Prince, consumed by an uncontrollable curiosity, wanted to hear everything to the end. The Prime Minister's son went on telling his friend the rest of all that happened on that weird night. When his body turned into stone up to the neck the Prince cried aloud with tears streaming down his cheeks, “Dearest friend, now tell me your last words, tell me how you can gain be turned into a man and brought back to life.”
The Prime Minister's son said, “It is a near-impossible task. You have to kill your first-born son and sprinkle his blood on me. Only then can I turn back into a man from this lifeless stone.” Hardly had he finished these words than he turned into stone from head to feet. The Prince and his Koonch-coloured bride shed many a tear for their dear friend. They kept looking at the stone-figure, their heart heavy with grief.
Thus passed ten months and ten days when a son, beautiful as the moon, was born to the Prince. The round mother, the Koonch-coloured girl, held the child close to her bosom and gazed at his beautiful face with fond and affectionate eyes. But the Prince remembered the words of his unfortunate friend. With the consent of his wife, both their hearts bleeding all the time, the Prince killed his first-born son and sprinkled the latter's blood on the stone-statue of his friend. At once the stone-figure came into life. Their eyes met, and in that moment of longed for meeting the Prime Minster's son saw that the two eyes of his friend, the Prince, looked dark and heavy and dull like the black clouds of Ashar with unshed tears for his son.
The Prime Minister's son said, “Don't grieve, my friend and don't look so sad. I know how to bring back your son to life.” The Prince and his Koonch-coloured wife looked at him with anxious eyes lit up with fresh hopes. He then told them about the magic well in the Kokaf mountain and the gold-plated tank in the land of the fairies. And then he left for those places.
After a few days, his mission successfully completed, he returned with the water of the golden tank from the land of the fairies and sprinkled it on the dead body of the Prince's son who immediately sprang to life.
So everybody was happy. In due course the Prince became the King of the country. And with his Koonch-coloured Queen, the beautiful baby Prince, and his friend whom he had made his own Prime Minister, by his side, he ruled the country with love, wisdom, and compassion.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007