Trishna

"Haven’t you ever felt like there has to be more? Like there’s more out there somewhere, just beyond your grasp, if you could only get to it?"
- Rajkumari Trishna Panesar is the daughter of Maharaja and Maharani Panesar. The king and queen of Jaipur in India. They have always kept their daughter away from the outside world and never let her leave the Palace gates of Jal Mahal. Little did Trishna's parents know that desire and curiosity were building up inside her. What will she discover when she finally lets her desire take control?

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1. Trishna

(Note: Certain words will have the asterisk with them. This just mean that they are from another language and you can find their meanings stated near the bottom.)

It was heavily raining outside. The monsoon season was always very beautiful. Heavy rain and humid weather felt wonderful to the skin, or so I’ve heard. I wasn’t allowed to go out of the palace gates in this weather. In fact, I wasn’t allowed to go out of the palace gates at all. No matter how hard I pleaded or wished for it; it would never happen. It was in the Jal Mahal* I always stayed and forever will stay; that’s what my parents told me at least. Everyone listened to them, who wouldn’t? They were the Maharaja* and Maharani* of Jaipur, and I was their Rajkumari*. Their one and only little princess

I sighed as I rested my head against the glass window. My palms were flat against it, feeling the rhythm of the beating rain. The rain hit the glass making the most beautiful sounds. The little splashes they made looked like live art, right before my very eyes. I watched as the water droplets joined together and race one another to the bottom. They were free, outside. They were living my only desire – to go beyond the palace gates. I wanted to discover and unveil this new other world.

I moulded my face onto the window, the warm air from my nostrils and mouth fogged up the cold glass. I yearned to feel the patter of the rain on my skin; even if it was just my hand, or my arm. I yearned for the window to open, just a little bit, so I could feel the moist humid air. I sighed, pushing myself away from the window with inner force. Haven’t you ever felt like there has to be more? Like there’s more out there somewhere, just beyond your grasp, if you could only get to it?

I heard distant footsteps becoming louder and louder with each step they took closer. Moaning underneath my breath, I looked at the golden framed clock hung high on the hand painted wall. It was seven o’clock in the evening, the time where the sky starts turning all shades of striking oranges and pretty pinks. It was also time for our evening feast in the Jal Mahal. I heard the heavy wooden carved doors open with a low creak, before the servant spoke.

“Rajkumari Trishna Panesar, you are wanted in the dining hall by your parents.” He stood there in the same position as he always does at this time of day. His hands are placed behind his back and his head is bowed down slightly. Every servant that worked in the palace was taught to have respect from a young age. And even though the servants were old enough to be my grandparents, they still gave me full respect like they would to my parents. I felt it was only fair to treat them with the same respect. In Jaipur, India, respect is the biggest thing anyone could ask for.

I turned to face the elderly man, waiting for my response. “Prithvi, I don’t feel like eating.” I mumbled. The truth was; I didn’t feel like arguing. Around the oak table with all the food situated between me and my parents, there always was an argument. The argument consisted of me being adamant to know why I couldn’t go out of the palace. It was about finding out, why my parents don’t want me to discover a whole new world. The servant, Prithvi, came closer and wiped a tear that I didn’t even know I had.

“My Rajkumari, your parents have reasons for their actions.” He said calmly, stepping away and once again placing his hands behind his back and bending his head downwards slightly.

“They should know that their actions have horrible consequences.” I gritted my teeth. All I wanted was one thing and one thing only – to go out there. To discover that there was more than this life. Then again, all that is prevented for some reason my parents have, but they can’t be bothered to tell me! Rage coursed through my veins. My parents, the king and queen, won’t let their own daughter have free will.

“Rajkumari Trishna, I know you are in anger, but you shouldn’t let that affect your relationship with the Maharaja and Maharani.” Prithvi interjected in my thoughts. What relationship? “They are your parents and always will be. So please Rajkumari Trishna, come down and eat.”

I sighed in defeat. The servant was right. They were my parents, still are and always will be. Unfortunately there is nothing I can do about that. I slumped my shoulders, “Alright Prithvi, I will come down to feast.” Prithvi nodded once and turned to lead the way. I slowly followed after him, dragging my feet and flowing scarf behind me.

*

I entered the dining hall; Prithvi left me with my parents and scurried off in the kitchen to complete his duties. I looked after him, wishing that he would stay and feast with us, just to change the aroma of this room and the conversations to come.  I looked down at the white marble floor and began to drag my feet to my seat. But before I could sit down my mother stopped me.

“Trishna, how are you wearing your clothes?!” She stood up from her seat and looked at me furiously. Oh no. “Your salwar* and kameez* are all crumpled and your dupatta* is dragging on the floor!” My mother walked up to me and started straightening out my clothes before taking hold of my scarf and draping it over my shoulders. I tried to move away from her and push her back, but she kept pulling and tugging me. Finally she had finished with sorting me out, but I knew she wasn’t finished with talking to me.

“Trishna Panesar, you are the Rajkumari of Jaipur and of Jal Mahal. If you dress like this what will people think?!” She wasn’t quite done yet. “The women of India are taught to dress appropriately; I taught you to dress appropriately. From now on I expect you to sort your appearance out Rajkumari, do you understand?” the look on my mother’s face was stern and her jaw muscles were clenched. I knew I had to tread lightly on what I said next.

“Yes mother.” I breathed quietly. My mother nodded and made her way back to her seat and continued eating. I looked at my father sat in a seat at the other side of the table. He too had a serious expression on his face. I could tell we were thinking the same thing. We both wanted to hurry up and get this feast over and done with before going back to our own things.

Pulling the heavy wooden chair back I placed myself in it. I looked at all the food on the table, and gulped. There were chapattis*, lentils, and all sorts of vegetable curries. However, I didn’t want to eat any of it. I was too full with the desire to go out and discover. I turned my head to the side to look through a huge glass window. The sky was a beautiful pink; it contrasted nicely with the dark silhouettes of the buildings. Of course the buildings, tall and small, had little squares of light that shone. They appeared like little stars to me, turning on and off at different times; it’s like they were twinkling.

I was disturbed by a sound of a cough. My head jerked to face my father. “Trishna, you should eat something.” He said in a gruff voice. It was as if he was forced to say it. Everyone was on good terms with the king, but me. Let’s just say, that between the two of us, our points of view were the total opposite. “Trishna?” I looked up to face my father once again. I didn’t realise he was expecting me to answer him too.

“I don’t feel like eating.” I grumbled truthfully. It was my usual phrase; I couldn’t bring myself to eat anything until I know what more is out there.

My father sighed. “Dharamraj!” My father called into the kitchen. Another one of our servants entered the dining hall. He bent his head down and held his hands behind his back, just like Prithvi did.

“Yes Maharaja Nachhattar Panesar.” The servant, Dharamraj, kneeled down in front of my father. Talk about respect.

“Clear the table, Dharamraj.” My father commanded the servants and Dharamraj was on it. He stood up and started stacking the dirty plates and taking them into the kitchen. The leftover food was taking away for the servants to eat in their quarter. I looked at my father; he still had that stone look on his face – facing directly at me.

“Trishna, we will talk about your attitude tomorrow morning. Just so you know your behaviour is not going to change our minds about letting you outside of Jal Mahal.” He stated, standing up from the table, the palms of his hands still touching the edge of the oak table. He always said that. The talk he was mentioning will go the same way as usual too.

“Come Nachhattar.” My mother whispered, walking around to my father and taking him by the arm. “Let’s rest.” Within a couple of moments they exited the room, leaving me alone in the large hall. Even Dharamraj had finished clearing the table and must now be eating with the rest of the servants. I sighed inwardly, and began walking through the palace hallways to my room.

*

I lay on my bed and gazed out of the window. It was something I did a lot of; just sitting here wondering what it would be like out there. I wondered about the places I would see, the people I would meet and the kind of food they would have. I imagined the inevitable. Why couldn’t I just go out there, just once, just to see what it would be like? What kind of reason would my parents have to keep me here, locked up like some prisoner? It’s not like I’m a child anymore.

That’s it! I sat up smiling to myself. I am not a child anymore; hence I could go where I want when I want. After all I am not a child; I could take care of myself. I don’t need anyone with me. I could just carefully creep my way out of the palace and fulfil my own dream! Of course I had to remember that the Jal Mahal was surrounded by water, ‘Man Sagar Lake’. So I’d have to safely get a boat to get ashore. That’d be easy, right?

However when a part of me felt happiness and relief with my plan, the other felt nothing but worry and fear. What if there was a really important reason for my parents not letting me see more than the palace gates? What if, when I did go out there, something bad would happen? I gulped away my negative questions and gazed out of the window once more. This is all I had desired; to go out there and see what was in store for me. I’ve made up my mind and I’m not going to let anything get in my way.

*

I waited till it was late into the night. I was sure that my parents would be asleep and the servants would have long gone to their quarters. It gave me the perfect opportunity to creep down the palace hallways and out into the courtyard. I hid behind a giant white marble pillar realising that I forgot all about the night guards at the front gates. For a moment, I considered going out the back entrance, but that was always locked, and there was no way I could climb it. I’d just have to do something to distract the night guards. I looked around me; there must be something around here good enough for a distraction.

Then I spotted it; it was a small hard edged stone, but it was big enough for a distraction. I kneeled down and picked it up, holding it tightly in my clammy hand. What to do now? Throwing it randomly wasn’t going to suffice. There had to be something; just then I saw a plant pot. My mother loved keeping flower pots outside, just the thing I needed. I stuck my tongue out in concentration as I tried to aim for the ceramic pot. My eyes squinted a little; please hit the target. I gathered enough power in my arm and threw the stone.

It hit the plant pot, not enough to topple it over, but enough to make a sound and alert the guards. The two guards at the gate turned around in defence quickly, just as I managed to hide myself behind the marble pillar. The guards were alert alright. They held their long swords out as if ready to pounce on the next person they saw. They started talking; I listened to their conversation.

“Do you think it was the wind, or just a bird that dropped something?”

“No, no. I’m sure someone was here. I can sense it.”

“Maybe they went round the back?”

“Let’s go check there. We will inform the Maharaja of this tomorrow morning.”

After a few footsteps fading into the distance, I knew they were gone. I peeked out of my hiding place, just to make sure, and smiled to myself. So far so good, all I had to do now was get a boat to cross the lake to the other side. Then I will be over there and not here! I quickly scurried over to the heavy metal gates and pushed one open, just enough so I could squeeze through. And I was out on the dock. 

Several wooden boats and oars were lined up against one another. I walked over to the one at the end and turned it up right. Before getting in I hoisted half into the water and then jumped in. My heart was racing at this point. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. All I knew that I was going out there to discover what was always kept from me. I grabbed both ores in my shaky hands and pushed myself of the dock. I was now floating in the water struggling to steer this boat. After all, I had never controlled a boat before. After a bit of swaying around in circles, I got the hang of it and started across ‘Man Sagar Lake’.

Ahead of me I could see the buildings become closer and now I could even see the silhouettes in the windows that let out light. I could hear the low buzz of people and smell the aroma of exotic Jaipur foods. Every time I moved my oars, I was closer to this whole new world. However just then, I looked back at Jal Mahal. The palace was now in full light, unlike how I’d left it. I thought I could hear my father shouting, but shook my head to erase the thought. Sure someone must have found out I was missing, but the important thing was that I was now here. I was on the other side. As my boat hit the small pebbles ashore, I immediately leapt out and threw my ores in the boat.

Excitement overwhelmed me. My glassy eyes widened in wonder. I couldn’t believe it; I was here. I was actually here. I as I stood on the stony surface, I looked around me. Old men were pulling in big nets and folding them up. They had grey beards and wrinkly skin. Their clothes looked worn out and soaked. I heard one of the men speak.

“We’ll catch some more machali* tomorrow.” Machali? Oh, so there men were fishermen. Surely they must be, or else why would they want to catch more fish? Machali meant fish after all. The man that spoke waved to me. I was taught respect from a young age, so I waved back to the man smiling.

I turned to look ahead of me once again. The night life was so busy here, and not to mention beautiful. I slowly walked forward, weaving my way through people. There were a lot of shops. Some were full of people; others were just in their closing hours. There was street food too. The aroma of sweet corn on the cob wafted my way. I turned to look at a mother and her boy.

“Mama, I love corn.” The little boy in tattered clothes, cheered looking up at his mother and taking a big bite of his corn. The mother looked at him sweetly and patted his head, ordering another on. I smiled at the relationship they had. My mother was concerned about the way I dressed, spoke, sat and eat. I had to be the perfect Rajkumari; the perfect princess. I missed the days she would personally make me my favourite food.

I was quickly distracted away from my thoughts as I heard music start to play. It was live music. People stood there with big drums called ‘dhols’ and started drumming a beat loudly. Quickly children came and started ‘bhangra*’ dancing in circles. Adults clapped, cheering their children on, some even joined it. It was such a beautiful scene. Everyone had happy faces, they were doing their own thing but with everyone else at the same time. They were free.

Suddenly I was startled at a hand in front of my face. For a second I thought it would have been my father, fuming, and dragging me back to the palace. But my mind was put at ease as I realised it was only a chubby woman, dressed in a pink sari, trying to catching my attention. To be polite I smiled at her. “Namaste*.” I said, putting my hands together and bowing. The woman did the same and then pulled me into the crowd of dancing people. For a second or too I stood there in shock, but when she started clapping her hands and gesturing towards me, I knew what she wanted.

Within a second the beat and the vibrations of the drum flowed within me and I became one with the music. I danced with my hands in the air and my feet kicking up. I danced because I was now free. For a moment I was just like everyone else. And even if it only was for a little bit, I now knew what was on the other side. I now knew what it felt like to be here and free.

However one more thing was yet to be discovered. I had to find out why my parents were so adamant on me not leaving the palace. What could be so wrong with a life of freedom and happiness? What was so wrong with live music on the streets to delicious street food served fresh? What were they keeping me from? I let the confusing fade away as I listen to the laughter in the night.

I always felt like there had to be more? Like there’s more out there somewhere, just beyond my grasp, if I could only get to it? Well, now I was pleased to say that I have caught hold of what was before me. And I have gotten to my desired destination. Sure, I didn’t know why my parents were so adamant on not letting me go. I will soon find out, sure I will. But that’s a story for another day. For now, I enjoyed the night life, the company of new met people, delicious food and danced the night away.

 

~ The End ~

 

WORDS (*)

Rajkumari - Princess

Maharaja - King

Maharani - Queen

Salwar - Bottoms

Kameez - Top

Dupatta - Scarf

Jal Mahal - Name of Palace

Chapattis - Flat bread

Machali - Fish

Bhangra - Type of Indian dance

Namaste - Greetings

 

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