From the Galpoghor Series:
The Story of Malan Kumar and Kanchan Shundari
Translated by Kabir Chowdhury
There was a kingdom called Sharfat-Mulluk. The men and women of this kingdom lived a happy, peaceful and prosperous lives. The king of this land was called Kudrat Badsha. He had a beautiful daughter full of many skills and great virtues. I couldn't tell you how dazzlingly beautiful she was. If you looked at her once you could hardly take your eyes off her. And it was only rarely that you could have a glimpse of her. She lived in Purdah, away from the eyes of men. An ordinary common citizen could hardly lay his eyes on her. Her name was Kanchan Shundri. Now the Prime Minister of that kingdom had a son called Malan Kumar. He was a handsome young man, wide of chest, broad of shoulders, courageous and bold.
Kanchan Shundari and Malan Kumar used to go to the same maktab to study. One day the teacher went on three days' leave. Before he left he asked Malan Kumar to desputise for him during his absence. Now a naughty idea invaded Malan Kumar's heart. He was overpowered by a keen desire to have a glimpse of Kanchan Shundari. He told all the young learners that they were excused classes for three days; only Kanchan Shundari would come to the maktab; she had to appear at an examination shortly.
Then one day Kanchan Shundari's pen dropped from her hand and fell on the ground. She said.
I would tell you something, O Malan.
My pen has dropped from my hand on the ground;
Now if you wish
You an pick it up and hand it over to me, O Malan.
What things you say, O Kanchan
What things you say;
You are a girl unrelated to you,
O, how could I put back in your hands your pen?
When Kanchan Kanya herself bent down to retrieve her pen Malan saw a small part of her hand and, stunned by its beauty, fell down from his chair on to the ground in a fainting fit.
Kanchan thought that Malan was suddenly taken ill. She was very upset. What would she do? If I do not look after him now who will? Thinking thus Kanchan Kanya came out of her veil and discovered Malan lying on the ground unconscious. She rushed to the pond nearby, brought water and sprinkled it on Malan's eyes and face. Malan Kumar soon revived and Kanchan Shundari went back behind her veil again. And when school was over Malan Kumar went back to his home and Kanchan Shundari to the inner quarters of her own home.
At night Kanchan Shundari told her maidservant that she had seen Malan Kumar during the day at school. She had never seen such a handsome and well-built person before. She said,
"I shall offer my youth and all to him alone and to no one else."
The maidservant replied, "Look, princess, you are the daughter of a King and Malan is the son of a mere Minister. How can you offer yourself to him?"
Then Kanchan said, "Look, I have decided to offer myself to him. Now tell me if you can go and see him and let him know about my wish."
Well, what could the maidservant do? After all she was only a servant. So she said, "All right, I'll do that. Tell me now when I should give him the message."
The Princess said, "Tomorrow get hold of him when he goes back home after closing school and tell him everything."
Next day the maidservant stood quietly by the road side. When Malan Kumar was going home after dismissing school the maidservant suddenly stepped in front of him and barred his way. Malan angrily said, "Why are you standing in my way, maidservant?"
The maidservant said, "Look, Malan, I have something to tell you."
: Then be quick, maidservant, and tell me what you have to say.
: I want to say it quickly, but I feel so shy and embarrassed.
This made Malan still more angry. He said, "Go away from here. Come now, be quick. Run, I say."
His anger frightened the maidservant. She fled from the place at a quick run. She said to herself that she would never go to such an angry person again for negotiating any marriage. She returned to the princess and said, "Princess, I can't negotiate this any more."
The Princess said, "Why can't you do this any more?"
: Look, Princess, Malan has been so rude to me that I have felt greatly humiliated. I can't go back to him again. You must negotiate your marriage yourself.
The Princess said, "You are a fool, woman. He is a very fine person. Indeed, you couldn't find one better. He knew that if he spoke to an unknown woman on the streets people would gossip and spread slanderous stories. That was why he was so rough and rude with you. He is not really rude and choleric by nature."
But the maidservant was adamant. Kanchan Shundari was in a fix. How could she speak about her own marriage to Malan Kumar? Who was there in this whole wide universe that could go and speak for her? At last she decided to dispense with all false sense of shame and embarrassment and to speak to Malan herself. Shyness would not help her. False delicacy would not heal the grief of her heart. She had to act. So next day before the classes were dismissed Kanchan left school and took position on the road side. When she saw Malan Kumar she said,
I have something to tell you, O Malan Kumar,
If you will only stop a minute
and are to listen,
O Malan ....
Malan said, "Look, Kanchan, if you have anything to say, please say it quickly."
My heart bids say, O Malan,
But I am overcome by shyness,
She said, "Don't you understand, Malan, what I want to say?" Malan said, "Look, Kanchan, I don't know what your heart bids you say. Come, tell me what it is."
Listen, O Malan Kumar,
Listen to my heart's voice.
O Malan Kumar, marry me, I say.
When Malan Kumar heard this he was absolutely thunderstruck. He said, "You are the daughter of a King while I am the son of a mere minister. If the king hears that I want to marry you he will at once have me beheaded."
What things you say, Kancha,
They will kill me, O Kancha,
O beautiful Kancha...
He said, "No Kancha, don't say a word more to me. You to go your inner quarters now, and make haste."
Kanchan said, "So, Malan, you are afraid that they will kill you. But what about my pain and sufferings? My heart is bleeding, Malan. I am pining for you. You must go to my father and tell him that you want to marry me."
Malan said, "Look, Princess, I shall never be able to say it to your father. And I shall never go to school again. I'll go away. Good-bye."
Kanchan said, "How can you go away, Malan Kumar?
(To be continued)
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