The Tale of Shishir and Basanta

Collected by Karunakar Baidhya.

(Translated from Nepali by Aiman Tamang.)

Once there lived an eminent king in a distant country. He had an awesomely gorgeous queen who loved her two sons Shishir and Basanta very much.

One day, the king went out for hunting. The queen was knitting sweaters sitting at the window. Suddenly, her eyes fell on the nest of a sparrow. She was delighted seeing the way mother sparrow frequently brought comestibles griping in her beaks for her nestlings. However, for the mother sparrow, it was unfortunate that this was the last time she fed her nestlings. When she went to get food another time, she was shot by a sling shooter and was killed. The event saddened the queen.  After some moment, the father sparrow came with some food. He fed his babies and chirped for the female sparrow and searched for her everywhere but she was nowhere to be found.  For a moment, he drowned in melancholy and dropped his work for a long, long time. 

The next day, when the queen looked at the nest through her window, she found that the male sparrow had brought another female sparrow. For some days, the new female sparrow did the same like the previous mother. But gradually she got irritated to do so. Thinking that it was a rubbish job to feed those unsatisfying babies, the cold-hearted female bird pulled away the nestlings with her beaks and threw them away them out of the nest. The nestlings, whose wings were not yet strong, fell off on the earth and died.

The queen’s heart filled with the black clouds of anxiety and it darkened her heart on knowing that the soul of a step mother was so callous. She thought, ‘The king is bound to get married if I die earlier. What will be my sons’ destiny then?’   She cried and cried.  She passed her whole day lamenting.

In the evening, the king came back from hunting. Seeing the queen in such grief, he was worried and asked, “My queen, May I know what made my dear weeping?  

“Your Majesty, I’m worried that one day I have to leave this beautiful world,” said the queen. “It is a fact, my dear.  And I know you are not the one who worries and adds pain in pleasure for a fact that does not have any option save accepting it.  Tell me, there must be another reason of your anguish.”

“No, Lord there is no any reason. I fear that one day I will have to die.  My worry is not for me but for my two princes.”

Thinking that there must be something that made the queen worried about the princes he asked, “Why are you worrying about them?”

The queen narrated the entire thing she saw in the sparrow’s family and said, “My Lord, you are sure to get married if I die earlier.  And I’m worried what will happen to my sons.”

The king instantly hugged the queen and said, “That won’t happen.  You are too young to die now.  You will still live for many years.  Even if death carries you away, I won’t get married.”The king assured the queen but it seemed as if she was not satisfied truly. Doubt still prevailed in her heart. The images of the poor nestling always visited her mind. She was extremely haunted by worry and that worry led her to way towards death.  She looked as if she had no any disease, but day after day she grew thinner and one day, she passed away.

An entire kingdom mourned when she passed away. The king did not allow any thought of marrying another girl enter his mind for some days. But that thought did not rule his mind for a long time. The ministers also complained and said, “Majesty, the throne without the queen is an imperfect one.  We, if our Lord wishes, would search for a new queen.”  After some days he did what he promised not to do.

The first few days passed happily with a new queen.  To influence the king, the new queen behaved herself as a lovely mother and showed her pretentious love towards the children. But in fact she had been diseased with the feeling of a step mother.  Even the sounds of the boys vexed her. 

One day, while the two boys were playing football, the ball instantly hit the mirror of the queen. She was making up herself. The ball scattered her lipsticks, eyeliners and other makeup things here and there. “I won’t return this ball to these brats,” said she in resentment and grasped the ball in her lap. After sometimes Basanta entered the queen’s chamber in hurry and pleaded, “Mama! The ball reached your chamber accidently. It was not our intention. We apologize! Please return our ball.”

Her eyes reddened and in extreme rage she said, “I loves you as my own kids. But in returned you treated me as an enemy and hit with the ball. I just dismiss your request. I won’t return the ball. ”

Basanta could say nothing.  He went back to his brother Shishir with a pale face and said, “Mama is so angry with us and said that she won’t return our ball.”

Shishir went to the queen’s chamber and asked for the ball.  But the queen scolded him and said insistently that she would not return the ball. It was intolerable for Shishir. So he went to the queen, snatched the ball from her lap and went away. 

The queen’s anger crossed its limits. She undid her makeup, rumpled her hair and began to weep, locking the door. When king came in the evening, she hardly opened the door. She kept on sobbing inside her chamber. The king convinced her and eventually she unlocked the door. He was terrified by the way she looked. When he asked the reason behind that, she cooked a brutal fake story about the princes and said, “Your sons hit me with the ball. When I asked why they did so to me, they pulled my hair away. This brutality is unbearable for me.”

Believing the words of queen he said, “My queen! Worry not. Tell me what punishment you want me to give these rascals.”

A great opportunity was in the hands of the queen! Asking the king to keep his vow, she said suddenly, “If so, order your soldiers to take princes to the woods and ask them to rip their chests and bring home their hearts.”

The king fell into a trap. If he did what was asked by the queen, his sons would not be alive and if not, he had a promise to keep. He thought but his thoughts did not work in favour of his sons. 

The next day, he called his ministers and ordered to take the princes to the jungle and bring their hearts.

The ministers had no option but to obey the king. But whose heart permits to kill such young princes? As per the order they went to a dense forest, taking the boys along with them.  They killed two deer and took home the hearts of those deer. They left the princes in the jungle.

What could those pitiable kids do in the dense forest! They knew nothing. Slowly, the night came darting and chill began to rule over them. They collected some wood logs but they had nothing to make fire with. So Shishir told Basanta, “If we stay like this, we will die of cold. You stay here; I will bring fire from the nearby village.”

Leaving Basanta alone, Shishir went in search of fire. He came out of the forest and when he eyed his surroundings, east he saw flaming fire somewhere in the east at a far-off distance. He headed towards it. But the more he walked, the fire seemed moving further away.

He walked overnight, till the east reddened and the sun rose, lighting the landscape. In the bright morning light, his eyes saw a big town.  No sooner had he stepped forward into the town than an amazingly embellished elephant came and gave a signal to follow him. The elephant led him to a palace. As soon as he reached there an already prepared priest and ministers anointed him with gold and crowned him their king.

Shishir felt as if all the events were dreams. He knew not why he was made the king. They organized a feast in honor of the new king. 

After the feast, Sishir came to know the reality. The fact was that the kingdom changes its king every new day. According to the ministers, a new king enjoyed his whole day and in the night went to sleep in the queen’s chamber. But every morning the king was found to be dead. They were fed up with this problem since they had not discovered the reason of the death of the king every morning.

Shishir also spent his day in delight. ‘What will happen? Will I be killed?’ This fear burned him with the beginning of the night. It was bed time; he went to the chamber of the queen. He was flabbergasted seeing a beautiful queen. The queen also felt happy to find such a young boy as her husband. They, without sleeping, had a lovely talk till late night. Slowly, the queen felt asleep. She began to yawn intermittently.  Seeing that the queen was feeling asleep, Sishir laid the queen down on bed and he remained awaken holding a sword cautiously in his hand. 

It was midnight. Silence ruled all over the world. No sound was there, save the sound of the breath that was taken by the queen in her deep sleep. Spell-bound by the beauty of the queen, Shirshir continued looking on her face.  Meanwhile, something that looked like a thread came out of the queen’s nostril. Much before Sishir could think what that stuff was, it changed into a big-black serpent and slithered towards him.  Least fearing the reptile, he cut it into pieces with his sword.  He knew the fact of the death of the earlier kings. He remained awake, thinking other things might come again.

In the morning, ministers woke up the elephant to search a new king since they thought that Shishir had had the same fate as other kings did. But the elephant did not move.  This surprised them. They shaved off their hair and went to the king’s chamber to bring the corpse of Shishir . When they knocked on the door, they heard someone mumble inside the chamber. For their surprised king answered the door and said, “Is it daybreak?”

The message that the king was alive blew out all over the palace. Ministers, priests, gurus and everyone else gathered and knew that it was the snake that had been killing the kings. They had been fed up of changing the king every day. Now they felt happy for the thing that they got a perpetual king. A great celebration was organized with dancing and singing in the palace.

Now let’s have a look on Basanta.

Basanta was alone, waiting for his brother. He hoped that his brother would bring a flame of fire and they could protect from the severe cold. His whole body shuddered by the cold in the jungle. When he heard the sound of animals walking nearby, his heart leapt up with the feeling that his brother had arrived. But all his hope turned into despair when he did not see his brother. He passed his whole night in cold. The night passed and the sun rose in the east but there was no sign of his brother’s arrival.  

Basanta, with no option at hand, commenced a new journey in search of his brother. His royal and soft hands and legs were hurt mercilessly by thrones. With a great difficulty he came out of the jungle and headed towards the town. He happened to reach a shop owned by a greedy merchant.  No sooner had he seen Basanta than he requested him to stay with him. He thought that a young and handsome Basanta could be his help in his business. The merchant also said that Basanta would be his son since he had no child.

Since Basanta was helpless, he accepted the request of the merchant. He started working in the shop. The merchant’s business doubled as Basanta began to work. The business doubled uninterruptedly and the merchant grew richereach day. For his fortune his wife bore a child. The merchant was full of wealth and with a family. He thought that Basanta was of no use there since he had child. So he thought of sending Basanta away.  But this fool man forgot that Basanta was omen for his all success. He began to have his bad eyes upon Basanta.

Basanta tolerated as much he could without raising voice against the merchant.  To reduce the pain he went to the woods. He sang a song. The song had a story about him and his brother.  The entire forest sounded with his song.  Since the song was melodious, all the animals were spell-bound and they listened to the song silently. It was Basanta’s luck that his song was also heard by the king, who had come for hunting there. The king came near to him wandering who this person was, singing so beautifully.  Seeing a young boy, the king asked, “Who are you?”

“I am an unfortunate boy,” replied Basanta. But the king did not believe.  He assured that Basanta must not belong to an ordinary family. So he took Basanta with him and headed to the palace. The king brought up Basanta as a prince. When Basanta grew young enough to marry, Sishir found for him a king’s daughter and Basanta got married.

Basanta was happy for somedays. But he was worried considering the merchant might think about him since he had not informed him yet. He thought of returning to the merchant. The king loaded Basanta with a lot of dowry and servants. Then Basanta, together with his bride, headed towards the house of the merchant. 

On the way Basanta thought that the merchant did not need anything because he was a wealthy man. So he asked all the servants to return to the palace with the things they carried.  He also thought that there was no enough place in the house of the merchant to keep all those servants and the materials.  

As soon as he reached to merchant’s house, the merchant asked, “Where had you been for all these days? And who is this beautiful girl with you?” Basanta replied that he had been in another country for a special work and the girl was a servant for the merchant.

An evil thought rose in the mind of the merchant as soon as he saw the beautiful wife of Basanta. He brought six leather smiths in his favour and asked them to sew a strong sack of leather. With the help of those leather smiths, he put Basanta into the sack and threw him into the reiver.  He did not realize that he had been so rich because of Basanta.  He took Basanta’s wife into the palace of Shishir with greed of earning more. Shirshir was pleased to see an awesomely beautiful girl. He abundantly awarded the merchant. Shirshir was a loyal and a chaste husband.  So he did not think of getting married to her. Instead he assumed, ‘The girl is better bride for my brother.’ In order to know about his brother he commanded his soldiers to bring a man who could tell ‘The tale of Shirshir and Basanta.’

The river carried Basanta and threw him at one of its bank further downstream.  The fishermen, who were in a group, saw the flowing sack. No sooner had they seen the sack than they dived into the river in order to see the thing inside it. They brought it into the bank and opened it.  To their astonishment, there was a handsome young man.  An old fisherman said that he would take Basanta with him to his own home since he had no child.

Shishir began to search for his brother. Every air was full with the waves of message that the king was searching a man who could tell the tale of Shishir and Basanta. Basanta also happened to hear this message. He was astonished to think why the king was so much interested in the story of Shishir-Basanta. To know why the king was so fascinated in the story he sent a message to the king that he knew some part of the story. As soon as the message was delivered to the king, Basanta was called to the palace. 

Basanta went to the palace and greeted the king. Now he knew the reason behind the king’s fascination for the story, but he thought that he should not introduce himself so early.  How could he introduce himself as the brother of such a great king? He had been a son to a poor fisherman.  Basanta knew everything but Shishir could not recognize Basanta. Basanta had lost his royal appearance since he had gone through hunger, thirst and different other troubles. 

“Do you know the story of Shirshir-Basanta?” asked the king. 

“Majesty!  Not all but I can tell you the story of Basanta after his separation with his brother in the jungle,” said Basanta. 

“That is full enough. Tell me as much as you know.”

“As your command, My Lord! But you should make a promise that you will not weep until I tell the story.”

The king promised that he would weep.

Then Basanta commenced telling the story. He told about the birth of Shishir and Basanta, their bringing up, torture by the stepmother, their trouble in the jungle and Basanta’s loneliness in a cold night with a hope of bringing fire by his brother after Shishir went out in search of the fire.  

This was enough for Shishir. He could not control himself.  Tears rolled down from his eyes. Basanta said, “My Lord, you have promise to keep.”

When Basanta said so,the king wiped the tears from his eyes. He controlled himself and said, “I am not weeping. Keep on telling the story.”

Then Basanta resumed the story and told that Basanta got married with the daughter of a king. When he came back to the merchant with his beautiful wife, the merchant betrayed him and with the help of some leather smiths put him into the sack and flung into the river. 

Shishir was out of control as he heard this. Shishir had assumed that his brother Basanta had died in the betrayal of the merchant. So he began to cry. 

Seeing the crying king, Basanta said, “My Lord. Why are you so overwhelmed with sorrow? 

“Worry not! Basanta has not died away.”

With an enchanted face, the king said, “Are you sure? If then we will meet someday. Now tell me more.”

Basanta continued, “Then Basanta reached the riverbank. The fishermen in the riverbank brought the sack out to the bank and opened with curiosity. But they found Basanta inside the sack. An old fisherman took Basanta to his home as his son. While staying at fisherman’s home, Basanta came to know that the king wanted to listen to the story of Shirshir and Basanta. So he went to the palace. No sooner had he confronted the king, he knew that the king was his own brother.”

Basanta had hardly finished the story when Shishir instantly got up from the throne and embraced his brother. Their eyes filled with tears of happiness. Shishir said, “Brother, I do not think that your bride is lost. The merchant had brought a beautiful girl for me. Since I am married, I have kept the girl for my brother. She will be your bride.”

Shishir ordered his soldiers to bring the girl. As the girl saw Basnata in the palace she ran towards him and hugged him crying out, “My Lord!”

Nothing was now wanting make their happiness complete. 

What destiny did with the fraud merchant?  Basanta was of kind heart and he could not forget the merchant’s help in his pathetic condition. But it too was true that the greedy the merchant had put Basanta inside the leather sack and thrown into the river. In order to get reward from the king, he took the beautiful wife of Basanta in the palace. Dear, readers and the listeners think yourselves about the fate of the merchant!