This post is a part of 24-day Marathon fiction called Yaariyan.
After the cricket match, they walked back towards the campsite. The sun was about to set. As everyone fill their bowl with soup, Sara comes out of the kitchen with a steel plate and spoon. She bangs them together until everyone gets silent and huddles up in a circle to listen to her.
She begins narrating a story – “There once lived a proud king in the mountains of Kashmir. He had a vast kingdom and wealthy subjects. His lands had the best apples amongst other fruits. He had three beautiful daughters, out of whom he loved the third one the most! he gifted all the three daughters three dresses each – one was made of silver which gleamed in the moonlight, other was made from the sun rays of gold and the last one was made out of swan feathers ordered from a distant kingdom.
Proud and arrogant as he was; he summoned his daughters to court one day and asked them in his deep manly voice, ‘Tell me how much do you love me?’ The first daughter answered,’Daddy, I love you more than all the silver in the world.’ ‘Wonderful!’, the answer pleased the king. The second daughter answered, ‘Daddy, I love you more than all the gold in this world.’ ‘Wonderful!’, the self-absorbed king smirked with happiness in front of his learned counsel. It was now time for his favourite daughter to tell how much she loved him. She stood there pondering. ‘You take so much time to think how much do you love your father?’, the king was angry. ‘Daddy I love you like the salt in meat,’ she answered in a peppy tone, expecting him to come and hug her. He felt insulted by his daughter’s words, he stood up from his throne and walked down towards her.
‘How dare you compare me to common things like meat and salt! That means you don’t love me at all. I declare you a traitor today! You are no longer a princess! Join the kitchen as a commoner and never show your face again.’
The princess sobbed as she was dragged out of the courtroom with her bag of three dresses, cursing herself for not being able to explain to her father what she meant. She joined the royal kitchen under their trusted cook who allowed her to stay and help.
She would get up in the morning and scrub the dining floor, until she could see her own reflection in it. Then she would help the cook with the various dishes throughout the day. Tired by work, she would go to sleep on the floor, wondering how her father would be doing.
One day the King ordered a grand feast, to commemorate the engagement of her eldest daughter with a nearby prince. The kitchen came to life amidst the madness; everyone got busy preparing various dishes. After eight hours of hard work, all the dishes were ready – they were served in front of the guests who were hungry. The tables felt the weight of the delightful preparations kept on them.
The King was happy with the items presented for dinner; he asked the cook to join with other servants in the celebrations. He toasted to the thief of his daughter’s heart and announced the feast to be open. Everyone looked at the sumptuous meat preparations laid on the table and helped themselves. As they tasted it their mouths went sore, the meat was without salt and they wanted to eat no more.
At this juncture, the King realised the true meaning of his daughter’s words. He was the meat who was incomplete without salt – his small princess. Astonished by how deep this analogy was, he broke down into tears; for he had punished her for loving him the most. She entered the chambers wearing the silver dress, dazzling in the moonlight like a damsel. She removed a silk handkerchief out of her skirt pocket and advanced towards the King to wipe his tears. The King had become wise that day and apologised to his daughter. He lifted her in his arms and kissed her on her forehead. Their relation was indeed like of meat and salt – the King couldn’t be happy without his dearest daughter for long.
The crowd burst into tears as they watched the reunion. The King had changed in front of them after learning a lesson!”
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