Once upon a time in a kingdom called Uper-ka-desh far far away, a beautiful, independent-minded, self-assured princess sat pensively on the bank of a lotus pond behind her palace. Her father had warned her not to go out of the palace and not, in any case, be seen in the company of men.
The killings, rapes, corruption and police brutality regularly happening in the Kingdom worried her no end. She was sad that the king, her father, laughed at the terrible reports that were presented to him at the royal Durbar. On many nights, she sat crying on the queen’s lap when the king had gone visiting another wife in his harem.
“Mama, what can we do?” she had asked her mother the previous night.
“Ma, you are the queen. You could do something”
“What can we women do,” her mother retorted in desperation.
“The other day,” the queen continued, ” the mother of a teen-age girl brought the poor child to me. The girl must have been thirteen or fourteen, I am not sure. A man threw acid in her face when she refused to marry him, but instead wanted to go to school. Gosh, her face was a terrible mess – mouth almost stitched together, one eye missing, and the other as in a Picasso painting – somewhere near her cheek. I couldn’t bear to look at her. I took the girl and her mother to your father the King. I thought one look at the girl, and the King would order that the man be beheaded”
“Oh, Ma, that would be a useless punishment for a horrible crime. The man even won’t have time to regret his deed. You should have pleaded for life sentence so that he lives to realize what he had done.”
“Nothing of the sort happened. Can you guess what your father, his royal highness said?”
“What,” she had asked.
“He said men will be men, and women should know their place. The girl should have practised cooking and cleaning as a good wife, not want to got to school.”
That night the princess couldn’t sleep till four-thirty in the morning. She lay shuddering at the very thought of the poor girl with pulped-up face. Then she dozed off for a few minutes, and woke up with a start in the middle of a terrible nightmare.
Her mother, the queen, had already woken up and gone on her chores.
As she sat staring at the pink and white lotus flowers in the pond, and fish playing hide-and-seek beneath its floating leaves, she murmured to herself :
“I am certainly not going to have any of it.”
“Who are you talking to, princess?” asked a squeaky voice.
A fat frog with pearl-like eyes and golden skin was staring at her. Just as she found the source of the strange voice, the frog hop-hopped and landed in her lap.
“Who the f…” and the princess recalled her mother’s advice that profanity did not become a princess.
“Get the hell out of my lap,” she said instead. “Then tell me how you learnt to speak like humans.”
The frog made a sound that was like a sad giggle. She picked him up to take a closer look.
“You know us frogs,” it said. “Like all other frogs, I was once a prince. A terrible witch wanted me to marry her daughter. I told her even if I had only one woman in my harem, that wouldn’t be her ugly daughter.”
The princess stared at the frog. So what her nanny had once told her that all frogs were once princes was true. Here was a living proof.
“You didn’t ask me what happened then,” continued the frog after a pause. “The witch cursed me and turned me into this.”
The princess sat and stared, wondering if it was another nightmare.
“You should know what is to happen next. The princess takes me to her room and gives me half of her bed, and kisses me, and I turn into the original brave and handsome prince that I was”.
“That’s a clown’s story. No frog has ever become a prince.”
“Try me, please,” begged the frog. “Take me to your room and kiss me in private. I will turn to be the handsomest, bravest prince you would ever imagine you could be fortunate enough to marry.”
“So what good would that do to me?”
“You will have the pride of place beside my throne and priority for my bed- no other woman in the harem would come near you. I will make sure that only you will wash my clothes; only you will iron my clothes, only you will cook and serve my food. I promise. Wouldn’t you love that?”
That night, as she bit into a well sautéed, spiced and cooked frog leg, the princess murmured:
“I don’t think so”.
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