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Short Stories
Mrinal Pande
       No light ever penetrated the deep and dark forest. Dark in the night, dark in the morning, dark even at noon! The trees were tall and thick, with sturdy vines intertwining them till they looked like the matted hair of a fearsome anchorite. In the darkness of the night, the vile bird called out, 'Gugh-hoo, Gugh-hoo'. The terrified monkeys plunged deeper into the thick branches where they had built their home. The birds puffed up all their feathers, hid the eggs deeper in the nests, and sat immobile. The lion ruled the forest at night, but the king during the day was the giant 'Ban-Rakshasa', the malevolent demon of the forest. It is wise to stay away from the tyrant…Hush, be quiet!
       Right in the middle of the dark forest was the palace of the giant, seven storeys high. The main gate was so high that an elephant could walk through. The door was plated with sheets of steel. No one in the outside world knew about this entrance. In the tenebrous forest one could only see the bright windows from afar.
       Someone knocked on the door at dusk, rat-a-tat-tat.
       'Who is there?' asked seven voices as seven bright windows flew open.
       'It is I', came the answer.
       'Who is I?', came seven questions.
       'I am Hasmukh Dee, the Smiling Princess of Patan'.
       'Wait', replied the voices, there was a humming noise and a secret door opened right in front of the newcomer. Seven pairs of eyes stared at the face of the Smiling Princess, Hasmukh Dee of Patan, a face that glowed like the bright flames of a fire.
       And what did the princess see? Seven pairs of eyes, seven beautiful faces, beautifully made up but as alike as peas in a pod. If they smiled flowers seemed to rain, if they cried, strings of pearls seemed to flood the earth. First, there was a shower of flowers, then streams of pearls.
       'Who are you?' asked the princess. 'Why did you laugh at first and then started to cry'.
       Seven pairs of arms, loaded with jewellery, bangles and bracelets of gold, diamonds, pearls and rubies, motioned to the princes to come in. the Smiling Princess walked in. Then the seven pairs of hands, locked, chained and bolted the door. The fairy princess led her in. They went into the next room and then the next, till they reached the innermost room of the palace. This special room was decorated in red. A huge couch occupied the center of the room. At the bottom of the couch stood seven upholstered stools. The seven fairies sat down on the seven stools, but the princess from Patan remained stiff and upright.




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