TALE OF A FAIRY : Porir porichay : Rabindranath Tagore
Translated by Dr. Dhruba Kumar Dutt
The prince was twenty years of age and marriage proposals began arriving from places within the country and abroad.
The match-maker said, “Balhikraja’s daughter is no doubt beautiful, as though a shower of white roses as she moves.”
The prince turned away his face, and did not reply.
A messenger arrived to say, “Charm exudes from every pore of the body of the daughter of Gandharaj; she looks like a bouquet of grapes hanging on the grapevine.”
The prince on the pretext of hunting went away to the forest. Days passed, weeks passed, but he did not return.
The messenger arrived and said, “I have just seen the princess of Camboze; her eyes are curved like the horizon at dawn, dazzling in the soothing light of the dew.”
The Prince began reading the verses from Bhotrihari, and did not raise his eyes from the book.
The king said, “What is the meaning of this? Immediately summon the minister’s son.”
The minister’s son arrived. The king said, “You are my son’s friend, tell me honestly, why isn’t he interested in marriage?”
The minister’s son replied, “My lord, ever since your son heard the tales of the land of the fairy he desires to marry only a fairy.”
The king issued an order for information on the fairyland but, to no avail. Reputed Pundits were summoned; they went through all the books that were available. They shook their heads and said, not a hint was there of the fairyland in any pages of the books.
Then the summons went to the merchants to be present in the royal court. They said, “We have crossed the seas and roamed on several islands—Eladwvep, Morichdwvep, in the country of Labangalata*. We have been to Malay dweep** to fetch sandalwood; to the Debdaru*** forests on the Kailash (ranges) in search of mrignabhi,**** but nowhere had we received any information about the whereabouts of the fairyland.”
The king said, “Summon the minister’s son.”
The minister’s son arrived. The king asked him, “From whom did the prince hear the tales about the fairyland?”
The minister’s son said, “O, it is that mad Nabin, who roams in the forests with a flute in his hand, while out hunting. The prince heard the tales of the fairyland from him.”
The king said, “Well, then summon him.”
The mad Nabin with a gift of a handful of wild flowers came to stand before the king. The king asked him, “From where did you get the news about the fairyland?”
Nabin said, “I frequent the place.”
The king asked, “Where is the place located?”
The mad person replied, “It is located near the borders of your kingdom, below the Chitrogiri hills beside the Kamyak Lake.”
The king asked, “Do you get to see fairies there?”
The mad man replied, “They are visible but not identifiable. They are in disguise. Sometimes before they disappear they do reveal their identity, but there is no way that one can track or trace them.”
The king asked, “But how do you recognize them?”
The mad Nabin said, “At times we hear a tune or we see a ray of light.”
The king was highly peeved and said, “The whole story is nothing but a fantasy, send him away.”
One morning, the prince could hear a tune from a flute.
Then somehow the madman’s words struck a chord in the prince’s heart.
It was the month of Phalgun, when on the branches of the trees the saal flowers were crowding each other, and in the rims of the forests shirish flower were thickly blooming. The prince started for Chitrogiri all alone.
Everyone questioned, “Where are you going?”
He refused to reply.
Within the caves a waterfall flows, and meets the Kamyak Lake; the villagers call it ‘udash-jhora’(or melancholic). Under that waterfall there was a dilapidated temple where the prince took shelter.
A month passed. The colour of the tender green leaves that had first appeared on the trees now began to thicken, and the forest path was covered with the flowers that had fallen from the trees. Then one dawn the Prince dreamt he heard a tune from a flute. The prince awoke and said, “Today I shall see the princess.”
The prince thought that at last his dream had come true when he set his eyes on her. The prince extended his two hands to welcome the girl (who seemed to materialize in front of him) to come near him. Eventually she got up on the horse. She started smiling which looked like the rains from the sky. Both of them then reached the dilapidated temple. It seemed like a dream to him.
He immediately rode his horse along the rim of the waterfall, and reached the border of the Kamyak Lake. There he saw that a girl belonging to the hill tribe seated near the cluster of lotus plants. Her pitcher was filled with water, yet she would not rise from the Ghats. The dark hued girl had placed a Shirish flower just above her ear on her black hair, as if it were the first star of twilight.
The prince alighted from his horse and said to her, “Will you give me that Shirish flower?”
The doe that was oblivious to what fear was, she seemed to be like that doe. She turned her head once and gazed at the Prince’s face. An unknown dense black shadow seemed to descend upon her black eyes – just as when sleeping a dream visits, as the first proclamation of monsoon in the horizon.
The girl took off the flower from behind her ears and placed it on the prince’s hand and said, “Take it.”
The prince asked her, “Tell me honestly, which fairy are you?”
Hearing this initially on her face there was astonishment, and then like the sudden downpour from clouds of the month of Ashwisn, she broke into peals of laughter on laughter, and would not stop.
The prince thought, “Perhaps my dream has finally come true, this laughter matches the tune of the flute.”
The prince climbed onto the horse and then extended both his hands to say, “Come.”
She did not give it a thought, holding his hand she alighted and sat astride the horse. Her pitcher full of water remained at the ghat.
The koyel bird on the branch of the Shirish tree, cooed, “kuhu kuhu kuhu kuhu”.
The prince placed his mouth to the girl’s ears to ask, “What is your name?”
She said, “My name is Kajori.”
The two of them went to that dilpidated temple located near the melancholic falls, the Udash-jhora. The prince said, “Now discard your disguise.”
She said, “We belong to the forests, we don’t know what a disguise is.”
The prince replied, “But I want to see your real manifestation of a fairy.”
Manifestation of a fairy! Once again that laughter, the peals of laughter which the prince thought matched the ripples of the waterfall. The prince told himself that the girl was none other than the fairy of the waterfall.
The prince told the girl that he can immediately send horses and elephants together with palanquins to take them to the palace. Her eyes got misty at that and she remembered the pitcher that was still lying unattended near the rivulet; she then remembered the seeds of grass that were left behind for drying; not only that, she also remembered her father and her brother who had gone out hunting and it was time for them to return; After recalling all this she said, “I won’t accompany you.” But the statements got drowned in the sounds of the drums and flutes.
However, eventually they reached the royal palace, but the queen was disappointed having seen the girl. She questioned as to what sort of a fairy was this girl, “What a shame!” she also thought that the dress that she had put on hardly behooved a fairy. The prince told his mother to keep quiet. He said that a fairy had come in disguise.
The news reached the king’s ears, that the prince has married a fairy. From the palace arrived horses, elephants and palanquins.
Kajari asked, “What is all this for?”
The prince replied, “You have to accompany me to the royal palace.’’ Her eyes filled with tears. She remembered then that her pitcher lay near that lake; she remembered, that she had left the seeds of grass lying in her courtyard for drying: she remembered, that her father and brother were out for hunting, and that it was time for them to return; and she also recalled, that her mother was weaving a sari for her dowry sitting under the tree humming.
She said, “No, I won’t go.”
But the dhol and dhak began playing; the flute, the metal cymbals and kettle-drums played, her words could not be heard at all.
When Kajori alighted from the palanquin at the royal palace the queen-consort slapped her own forehead and said, “What kind of a fairy is this one!”
The king’s daughter said, “Chi chi, what a scandal!”
The queen’s maid said, “But how is this fairy dressed!”
The prince said, “Silence, the fairy has arrived at your palace in disguise.”
Days passed one after another. The prince would awake on moonlight nights and to discern on his bed whether Kajori’s disguise had slipped even in a small measure. He saw the dark girl’s dark hair loose, and her body was like an immaculately sculpted statue of black rock. The prince would sit quiet and ponder, “Where is the fairy hidden, just like the rays of dawn overshadowed by the darkness of the end of the night.”
The prince felt embarrassed in front of his family members. One day he became a little annoyed too.
In the morning when Kajori was about to leave her bed then the prince held her hand tightly and said, “Today I will not leave you - reveal your true self, let me see that.”
On hearing the words the laughter that was heard in the forests did not return. Gradually both her eyes filled with tears.
The prince asked, “Will you forever deceive me?”
She replied, “No, not anymore.”
The prince said, “In that case this full moon night of the month of Karthik everyone must see the fairy.”
The full moon had reached mid sky. The soft sounds of music from the palace’s minstrel’s gallery seemed to be nodding off.
The prince clad in bridal clothes entered the palace with a wedding garland; tonight he would have shubho-drishti or the first exchange of glances with his fairy-wife.
In the bedroom there was a white bedcover on the bed, on which were heaped white Kunda flowers; and the moonlight climbed the windows above to shine on them.
She was not there.
At three the flute played. The moon leaned to the west. One by one the room filled with the prince’s relatives.
Where was the fairy?
The prince replied, “The fairy has revealed her true identity by departing, and she cannot be found again.”
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