ক্ষীরের পুতুল ৪/ Kheerer Putul 4/ The Milk Doll 4

The monkey said, ‘My mother suffers in that broken down room. The door has cracks, the thatch is old and the cold enters the room all day and all night. My mother has no coverlet to cover herself, nor wood to light a warming fire; she shivers all night long in the cold.’

The king said, ‘That will not do! That will not do! Go and fetch your mother here, I will tell them to prepare a palace for her.’

The monkey answered, ‘I am worried about bringing her here for the younger queen will surely try and poison her.’

The king said, ‘There is no fear of that. She will be in a new palace with a moat all around it. The younger queen will never manage to get close to her. The queen will stay in the new palace, along with her deaf mute hand maiden and you, her adopted son.’

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The monkey said, ‘Then let me go and get her.’

The king said, ‘Minister, build us a palace!’

The minister employed hundreds and thousands of people who all worked to build a new palace overnight.

The wretched queen left her broken house, put aside her torn coverlet, put on a sari of the finest gold and entered her new palace. She sat upon her golden bed, ate from a golden plate and gave generously to the poor and the unfortunate who praised her throughout the kingdom. The younger queen felt as if she would burn up in jealousy.

The witch Brahmani was the younger queen’s very best friend in the whole wide world. The queen sent for her saying, ‘Ask her to come, I am unhappy and need cheering up.’

The call came from the queen; the witch had to come as soon as she could.

The queen said, ‘How are you? Come and sit by me, my dearest friend.’

The witch sat down beside her and asked, ‘Why have you called me? Your smile has vanished, your eyes are filled with tears! What is wrong?’

The queen answered, ‘The worst thing possible has happened! My step wife has come back to the palace. She wears sarees of gold and lives in a new palace, she is now the king’s favourite. The wretch is now queening it over me! I burn in hatred, give me some poison and let me die! I cannot bear this anymore’

The witch said, ‘For shame, my friend! Why say such things? Why should you take poison? The wretch has become queen and soon enough she will return to being a wretch again. You will have your glory just as you always did’

The queen answered, ‘No, I do not wish to live any longer! Sooner than later, she will have a son and that son will inherit the kingdom. People will say how lucky she is to be a king’s dam. And they will say, look at the ugly queen, she had the king’s love but she could never give him a son. Shame on her! Fie! If one sees her face by mistake, the whole day is sure to be ruined, and one goes without food. Look sister, I will not be able to bear it. Either give me some poison so that I may die, or so that I can feed it to her!’

The witch said, ‘Shh! Someone might hear you saying all this! Do not worry, I will secretly bring yu some poison, give that to her. Now, farewell me so that I may go in search of the brew.’

The old woman went looking. She looked far and wide till in the darkening hours of the evening, she cast a spell on a sleeping snake she found in a bush and brought all its venom to the queen.

The queen made sweets of various kinds and mixed the snake’s evil into all of them. She then arranged them on a plate and said to her friend the witch, ‘Can you go and sell these to the queen?’

The witch took the platter of sweets and went to the new palace.

The queen saw her and said in a kindly manner, ‘Welcome, you have not come to see me for so long! All because I was only the second queen.’

The old woman answered, ‘What a thing to say! I eat, by your grace! I am clothed, by your grace! How can I forget you? Here, have some of these sweets I made.’

The queen saw the sweets all piled high with loving care that the old woman had brought. She crossed the witch’s palms with gold and bade her farewell, the woman went away with a smile on her lips.

She then broke a piece of the milk cake and ate it; her tongue grew numb. She ate a piece of the lentil cake and her throat grew dry as wood. She put a piece of Motichur in her mouth and her heart began to burn. She called the monkey and said, ‘I wonder what the Brahmani fed me! I feel so strange, as if I will not live for much longer!’

The monkey said, ‘Mother, come and lie down.’

She stood up and all the venom of the snake rose into her brain. She felt everything grow dark around her, spun around and her golden limbs struck the stone floors.

The monkey supported her head in his arms and checked her pulse and pulled her eyelids to look at her eyes. The queen was truly unconscious.

He lifted the golden queen and laid her on her golden bed before going to look for medicines in the forest. Who knows what he brought from the forest, but he began to crush the roots and leaves on a new grinding stone and gave the queen a little at a time.

The king heard that the queen had taken poison. He dropped whatever he was doing and rushed to be by her side. The minister saw the king and followed him. After that came the royal physician, mumbling incantations. Then the palace filled up with all the servants and gadabouts of the kingdom.

The monkey asked, ‘Why have you brought so many people with you my king? I have given my mother medicines and she is sleeping a little. Ask all these people to leave.

The king gave the sweets to the royal physician to be tested. He gave the command of the kingdom to his minister and remained at the side of his sickening queen.

The queen remained senseless for three days and three nights. On the fourth day, she opened her eyes.

The monkey went to the king and said, ‘The queen has woken up. You have a son with all the auspicious marks of being a fitting heir.’

The king took his diamond necklace off and gave it to the monkey saying, ‘Let us go and see the mother and son.’

The monkey answered, ‘I have read his fortunes. If you see him now, you will become blind. See him when he gets married. Now go and see what harm the younger queen did to my mother.’