Thursday 21 February 2013

Romantic Friday Writers Fanfiction Challenge: We Love Lovers

This time the challenge over at Romantic Friday Writers is to write fan fiction.  A quick definition of that is an original story based on well known characters created by other writers, from literature, theatre, films etc.  Since it is the Valentine month, RFW has created the challenge based on well-known fictional lovers.
And here is my entry:

I’m NOT Wearing Your Ring

Anu was looking distinctly upset when Priya came in and put down her baskets of plucked fruits and flowers carefully, the flowers to be threaded into garlands, the fruits offered before the deities and then distributed in the ashram, a job they were both supposed to complete before dawn.  But Anu had refused to get out today.  Priya had heard her muttering in her sleep and waking up suddenly even before the sacred moment for the pre-dawn rituals.  Today, of all days!  When there was so much to be done!

“Alright, out with it! What’s bugging you now?”

“I had the most disturbing dream.”

Priya rolled her eyes.  Anu was always getting these odd dreams, and always at the most inconvenient times.

“Shunckoo had gone bathing,” Anu spoke rather disjointedly,” The ring slipped off, then a huge fish swam by and swallowed it up. And the King was smirking in the most insulting way!  What’s with this sudden wedding anyways?  Why this indecent hurry? Like he just wants to get into her bed.”

“Shame on you!  And when did kings have to marry anyone to do that?”  Priya sounded thoroughly fed up. “Now c’mon.  We have to get her ready.”

“I just don’t like it, Priya!  I know you don’t believe me, but dreams are important.  I saw a Great Sage too, in an awful fury. Something dreadful is going to happen!”

“Just zip it, gal! If Shunckoo hears you, she’ll be terribly hurt.  And if the Great King hears you, then your head will decorate the ramparts of his fort.”

Anu fell silent, but her lips were pressed mutinously together.  She was going to warn Shunckoo, never mind the greatness of kings and their rampart decorations.

The bride was ready, they had had to keep things simple. No traditional finery in a forest retreat, and that too without any notice.   So she had wristlets and armbands made out of hibiscus and oleander; hair-part embellishments, and earrings of red rangan, a girdle of heavy bunches of ashoka flowers.  She wore a coarse, homespun silk that had been dyed mud-red with lac.  She looked breath-taking, Anu thought privately, far too good for any mortal king.

“Priya, dear,” Shakuntala’s voice showed the slightest tremor,” I think it’s time.  Will you please request Great King Dushyant to come to the grove?”

“Let Anu go, I’ll stay with you.”

“No, no,” the bride insisted, suddenly and uncharacteristically astute, ”Anu doesn’t like him much, you know.  She’ll probably say something to make him get all upset.  You go.”

Priyamvada smiled and left, and Anusuya sat dumbstruck – had she been so transparent?  Shakuntala smiled upon her childhood friend,” There’s no need to look so upset.  I know you don’t approve of my relationship.  You’ll fall in love yourself one day and you’ll understand. Till then no hard feelings, alright?”

“I’d never allow any hard feelings between us,” Anu said lightly, and then her tone turned serious. “I don’t dislike your relationship. Just that I’m uncomfortable with this gandharva marriage caper.  Why can’t you guys wait till Rishi Kanva comes back and gives you away as per regulations?”

“He’s been gone for ages already, who knows when he’ll return?” Shakuntala sighed and coloured, ”Neither of us is prepared to wait indefinitely.”

“Listen, Shunckoo,” Anu talked urgently, her voice frantic, ”Priya doesn’t like me talking of dreams, but they show the future.  They foretold the king coming here, about this very love beforehand, didn’t they? So listen to me – I’ve had a very troubling dream last night.  Hear me out and then make up your mind.”

“Tell me.”

“It’s all a little fuzzy, but I dreamed of a royal ring on your finger; and a Great Sage in a fury cursed you.  And the King forgot you, he didn’t come back, though you waited for him.  I saw the ring slip off.  And a huge fish swallowed it. And you were humiliated in the royal audience chamber, and your son ran into the forest with a lion. I haven’t had a wink of sleep Shunckoo, I don’t know what all this means. I wish you’d wait till your foster-father is back.”

“Oh, Anu!  You poor thing! Of course the king will come back.  He loves me beyond any doubt.  Why would he marry me otherwise? Just calm down and stop worrying.  Everything will be fine.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“I will make it quite sure.”


Shakuntala woke up with Dushyant’s sleeping arm across her, his fingers still loosely cupping her left breast. The flowers were strewn all over, the cottage smelt of stale flowers and hours of glorious lovemaking.  She drew in a deep breath, her cheeks tingling slightly at the memories, and wriggled till her breast fitted comfortably into the hollow of his palm, the swollen nipple just brushing against the calluses made by hilts and bow-strings.  Who knew that just breathing in and out could become so intensely, impossibly pleasurable? She nuzzled into his flank till he woke up, and gave in.

Outside the cottage, a white mare stood stock-still, her polished harness glinting in the slanted soft dawn light.  She waited till  the rough door opened and her master came out; she whinnied a little in greeting, but didn’t move.   He came and stroked her nose, and Shakuntala followed him a little after, her hair impeccably done up, the folds of her outfit faultless; but her face was a strange mixture of languorous and panicked.

“When will you come back?”

“Soon, beloved.  As soon as I can.  Till then,” he took off his ring and made as if to offer it to her,” this will remind you of me.”

Her eyes suddenly held a far-away look, then came back shrewd and cool.

“I hate to say this, but that’s way too loose for my finger.  It might slip off, and then some nasty character might misuse your royal insignia.  Give me your angad instead, will you beloved?”




Gandharva wedding – One of the eight forms of marriage recognised by Hinduism which is based on the consent of the bride and groom alone, without the consent/involvement of either of their families. The man and woman take the vows themselves without priests presiding, and the rituals are condensed to an exchange of garlands. 

Angad – an ornament like an armband, worn either on the forearm or upper arm, usually by noblemen/kings.  Like rings, angads could also be signature pieces, used to conclusively identify the wearer.


Some of you may be familiar with the Mahabharata already.  For those of you who aren’t, it is an Indian epic that has a tale-in-a-tale format, originally written in Sanskrit.  Several very famous romances form part of it.  Shakuntala and Dushyant’s love story is one of them, told and retold and translated many times over for more than two and a half thousand years, not just in India but right across the world.  Read a translation of the full text of Kalidasa’s Sanskrit play based on it here, and/or a synopsis here.

The original story in short is this - Shankuntala is abandoned at birth and brought up by a sage, Kanva, in his forest retreat.  She grows up with two other girls, Anusuya and Priyamvada, and all three become fast friends.  The king of the region, Dushyant spots Shakuntala while out hunting and the two fall in love.  They decide to marry, in the absence of Kanva, who is out on a pilgrimage.  Afterwards Dushyant returns to his capital, but promises to come back as soon as possible, giving her his ring as a token. Shakuntala pines for him and neglects her duties at the ashram.  One day, a very hot tempered sage visits them, but Shakuntala taken up with her own problems, forgets herself and does not greet him in the traditional manner.  The sage is angered and curses her - the person that occupies your attention such that you forget to greet me, he too will forget you.  Shakuntala's friends intervene and he can't take the curse back, but he relents enough to say that if she can show him some token of his affection then he will eventually remember. As per the curse, the king forgets his love, so after many days Shakuntala travels to find him. On the way, she stops to bathe in the river, and the ring slips off and is swallowed by a fish.  She arrives at the palace, but of course the king can't recognise her, and nor can she produce the ring.  She leaves humiliated.  However the ring is found finally by a fisherman, and the insignia recognised, is taken to the king. And so the king remembers.  She finally wins him back and does get to be queen.  My story is a twist of this original, based on the fact that exchange of rings is not a formal part of Hindu weddings.
Today is also Bhasha Dibosh observed by Bengalis everywhere, and as International Mother Language Day elsewhere in the world.  So it feels entirely apt that my post should be based on something from my own culture.  If you are celebrating your language, Happy Language Day to you! And thank you, RFW, for the opportunity to dovetail the two celebrations into each other.

Read all the entries here:

1. Nilanjana Bose 6. Michael @ In Time ... 11. J.L. Campbell
2. Donna Hole 7. Dawn Embers 12. Denise Covey - Direct Link
3. Rekha Seshadri 8. Writing Worlds 13. Charmaine Clancy - Wagging Tales
4. Linda Katmarian 9. N. R. Williams 14. Anna of Annas Adornments
5. Sally Stackhouse 10. Erin Kane Spock 15. Yolanda Renee

(Submissions close in 3d 20h 56m)

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  1. Great story and it was really nice to read the background to the culture as well and the explanation of some of the words. Dreams sometimes have a way of coming true.

    1. Sometimes in ways that we can't imagine. Thank you for reading.

  2. Thursday February 21, 2013

    Dear Nilanjana,

    Thank you so much for visiting my post! You are first and get an extra link.

    I love the tale you have spun out of this very well-known epic. And with delicate humour too! I love all the details about rings and garlands and clothing.

    Thank you for wishing me happy Mother Tongue Day! What a great idea. In neighbouring Finland, the Swedish-speaking minority (about 6% of the population) have a holiday celebrating their mother tongue.

    But as far as this text goes, I'm afraid I must clear a misunderstanding. I know, I have used touches of Swedish in my January post before this one, but in this story, the main character, Elisabet, Gösta Berling's wife, is originally from Italy. So it is her mother tongue, Italian, that I am using in the text and not my own mother tongue, Swedish. This story is set in Sweden, so they would be speaking Swedish and the foreign language for them is Italian. Elisabet's background makes her something of an outsider. But it also gives her clearer vision. She loves Gösta Berling and is not at all disturbed by the fact that he has been a drunkard and is a clergyman removed from his parish. She loves him anyway and wants to help him any way she can.

    As I explained in a tiny footnote, I went to Google to get these passages translated. I do not know the Italian language well enough to write freely in it, although I can imagine it might be fun to learn. Many years ago, I spent a week in Rome for a holiday looking at churches, Roman ruins and eating good food, so something along those lines would be a fun way to learn a language.

    I am so glad that you took this opportunity to present a classic from you culture and language. That was also my idea with my post about Selma Lagerlöf and her first novel.

    Best wishes,

    1. Hi Anna,

      Thank you for reading and your detailed feedback, as always. Thanks also for clarifying about Elisabet. I of course, read neither Swedish nor Italian unfortunately, however, will "read" the passages correctly on the second round. Agree that it is wonderful to be able to get to know the different cultures through this platform.

  3. Nilanjana, I confess I scrolled to the end and read the background first, as I didn't know this story of course. It is fascinating...and so well written. It is a good thing to show readers more of your culture -- I for one am always intrigued by these colourful stories/legends. Happy Bhasha Dibosh to you! As always, thank you for sharing your considerable talent with us at RFW and beyond.

    (Your email re linking problems arrived too late for me to do anything about it last night, but all sorted now. There is always someone who has this 'no cross' problem. I just went to the email I receive when you linked and deleted your first link.)

    All the best


    1. Thank you, Denise for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed the story. I know the challenge required me to give the background as a preamble, but I left it to the end because I wanted the story to stand on its own even if the reader didn't know the original classic/characters. Thanks for providing this forum to share it, and also for taking care of the technicalities. Must confess I have never faced the no-cross problem before :)

  4. Thank you for sharing part of your culture. I love the way you wound it around and saved the bride from losing a loose fitting ring.
    Dreams are very telling, even my own.

    Excellent, Happy Language Day!

    1. They are, aren't they? Thanks much for reading and the feedback, Yolanda.

  5. Hi!

    I found your blog on Indiblogger and adored it, and hence I'm giving you this Liebster Award! Congratulations!
    Here take a look :)

    Don't forget to pass around the love!


  6. Hi,

    Oops I did just the same just now. Awarded you with the Liebster! :)

    1. Thank you both, Chhavi and Aishwarya! I always feel a bit inadequate when this blog's considered for any award :)

  7. That's a cool twist to the tale...wish to know how the story would have progressed. Nice write.

    1. Thank you....and maybe the king could be the subject of the sage's curse? :D

  8. That was beautifully written Nilanjana. What rich culture you have integrated. I loved the dream interpretation aspect. This was intriguing.

    Thank you for participating in this month's RFW challenge.


    1. Thank you, Donna. I had great fun writing it. Glad you enjoyed it too. RFW always nudges me out of my comfort zone, either in the subject or in the execution,and I really like that challenge. Thanks again for the opportunity.

  9. Abhijnana Shakuntala a very famous work by kalidasa, The work remains unmistabely marvelous and unbeatable for the Uapma(metaphor) in it, I really loved your interpretation of the same... Beautifully written. I so much want to make the post but then not sure how to get to it... You inspire me a lot :D thanks for that Nilanjana...

    Bhasha Dibosh, and your contribution to it very well done!

    1. Many thanks, dear Ramya, but I don't really like doing that inspiring bit :D makes me feel like I am hundred years old :D Seriously, though I've read the it translated into Bengali, I love Abhijynana Shakuntala, it is probably the first "romance" that I have ever read, and remains a favourite even now. A rich lode of literature we got so lucky!

  10. nice...a very cool story...and it also allowed me to look in on a culture that is different than mine....wonderfully written as well...and enjoyed...smiles.

    1. Many thanks for being here esp for a non-poetry post :)

  11. Hi Nilanjana
    Legends are wonderful aren't they. So many from all over the world and of course love stories are the best, many designed to hold some kind of warning that we all ignore in our youth. I think you did a great job capturing the culture and essence of this tale and setting it into a drama that we all can relate to. Well done.

    1. The old tales are indeed comfort food...thank you.