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The Small Big Thing

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Ahiliya, the beautiful princess of Magadha, was sitting on the balcony of her palace brooding over her loneliness. She had a score of girls to keep company though. Yet, everything looked so lacklustre. The cause behind was Ajay, the prince of Ujjain. That handsome rogue had cast a smile on Ahiliya on their only meeting that lasted a few minutes. The world has turned upside down for her ever since.

She refused to meet her companions and secluded herself in the balcony that morning. Even the bright sunray reflecting on the lotus-pond looked gloomy to her. Suddenly, there was chirping of a bird near her. She ignored it. Birds were commonplace here.

Chirp-chirp. It was even closer this time. It added to the anguish of the princess. She looked around to find a sparrow twirling its tiny tail on the railing.

"O tiny bird! Don't you think you are getting on the nerves of a princess?" Ahilya was agitated. To her surprise, Ahiliya saw the bird speaking. "What is a princess?"

"Don't you know this much?" she was irritated. "A princess is the daughter of the king, the most powerful man in the state."

"Oh, alright," there was a semblance of smirk in the sparrow's being. "Why are you unhappy then?"

"What's that got to do with you?"

"I'm only trying to help."

"You? A tiny creature! How can you help me?"

"Okay, let's hear your problem." The sparrow looked considerate.

"I'm in love with a prince," Ahiliya said reluctantly.

"I guess it is the son of another king like your father." The sparrow got even chirpier.

"It's right." Ahiliya noticed that she had started liking her conversation.

"Does it have to be a prince every time? Won't any other boy do?"

"Well," she fussed with her embroidered dress for a while, "it might be, but this is the norm."

"Carry ahead." The sparrow winked.

"I can't meet him. That's why I'm unhappy."

The bird flapped its wings as if bored. "Your father is a powerful man. Can't he get you married to the prince?"

Ahiliya sulked. "He's got other plans for me. He won't listen to my plea."

"Alright; I can still help you. Where does your prince charming live?"

Ahiliya laughed aloud. "Are you going to carry him a letter from me? Even the letter is heavier than you. You really make me laugh."

The sparrow sprang on its feet a couple of times. "Don't judge anyone by size. It's the heart that matters. Yet for the records, where does he live?"

"Don't know why I am wasting my time with you. Well, he stays in a state called Ujjain, far off from here."

"See what I can do now," said the bird.

"Phew!" the rebuking smile of Ahiliya turned into a wide gape as she witnessed the marvel in her front. The sparrow kept increasing in size till it turned more than double of her own! It even had a tinge of blue over its head.

"Sit on my back." The chirp of the bird changed into a commanding voice.

An awestruck Ahiliya dumbly climbed over the bird's back, and it flew high on the sky. The flight was effortless amongst the blue sky interspersed with white clouds. She found herself collected and fearless. After sometime the bird took a downward dip and settled still over a huge tree. Around, there was a huge city with edifices, temples bordered by a silvery river.

"Here you are, in Ujjain." The sparrow announced.

The mention of Ujjain made Ahiliya's heart pound fast. It pounded faster as she saw her prince Ajay riding on a white horse on a nearby road surrounded by two of his horse-ridden mates.

"Get down, O bird. I want to meet him," she shouted earnestly.

"Wait a while, you girl," the sparrow said calmly.

That was when she saw Ajay and his mates surrounding an old man with a pretty girl. They wanted to snatch the girl away from him; but the old man resisted. The next moment the prince plunged the man hard on chest with his knife resulting the man fall into a pool of blood. In a jiffy the grief-stricken girl was carried away on Ajay's horse back.

"How cruel!" said Ahiliya.

"Still want to meet him?" asked the sparrow.

"I want to go back." She covered her eyes.

En route, it was a halt at an out-of-the world place with mix of bright hues all around with no plantations. Ahiliya felt strange, but calm. She got down.

"Do you realise, girl, size is not all that counts?" the sparrow smiled.

"Who are you, O bird?" Ahiliya knelt and folded her hands. "Are you God?"

"Nah! Not that great. There can be only one God. He wants us to realise our smallness; so he makes us larger than we are at times. Possibly, He wishes you to understand that we, the birds, don't have geographical boundaries, nor do we have classes or ego. That's why we are happy. We don't have longings either. We are happy with whatever we have. We try to make others happy as well.

See what you humans are doing in spite of being big? You are selfish; you belittle others, and still think highly of yourselves. So, who is bigger really?"

"You are."

"I still can help you. I want you to get rid of your vanity and ego. Let happiness come naturally to you."

"Is it possible?" asked Ahiliya shakily.

"Sure. Look at the conical can at your knees. Open it and exhale deeply into it."

Ahiliya did, and felt herself light, devoid of any sorrow.

Chirp-chirp! Ahiliya looked to see the tiny sparrow still on the railing of her balcony, stroking its feathers innocuously with its beak.

"Did it really happen?" she wondered.

But her state of bliss lingered.


Author

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Debaprasad Mukherjee


Debaprasad Mukherjee is a regular contributor to this web magazine. He is a doctor by profession and is from Bilaspur in India. He has penned four books thus far.


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