When Mandakini turned eighteen,she was the loveliest woman of Giri. The men of Giri had eyes for none other women and the women envied her day and night. Attired always in the richest silk that her parents could easily afford, she looked resplendent and heavenly.With skin as white and soft as milk and comely features, she loved to tread and crush the feeble hearts of men like a brilliant shot of lightning. Her hazel eyes never missed the slightest attention she received from the opposite sex.She took extreme pleasure in her beauty which was more of self pride most common with women her age. She was stubborn and careless, but in matters of morality and religion, she was respectful. Raised as she was by god fearing protective parents, she was haughty yet innocent. She did as she pleased but never transgressed the moral limits set by the religious heads in her society. She had experienced not a single occasion of scarcity ever and she attributed this to her being a strict god fearing person. She was the most beautiful woman having the richest things in the world and living in the most beautiful house in the town.

Soon after her eighteenth birthday, the parents decided to find a suitable groom for Mandakini. They didn’t have to look long enough as people far and wide had heard about the beautiful Mandakini of Giri. Every day the parents entertained in their lavish drawing room, gentlemen from different regions belonging to different trades for a few hours where after a thorough discussion of their abilities and income they decided if they could consider them as their prospective son in law. Mandakini was never brought to the room where the question of the prized possession was being settled, but she had to content herself from the gentleman’s image she could make out from the small keyhole at the far end of the chamber. Ah..lovely strong and swarthy hands..! was the impression of the first gentleman who had arrived in her house one evening. After he left, the parents spent another two hours reflecting about the pros and cons of having such a son in law and most often than not, the suitor was ruled out. “Such hairy hands!” exclaimed the father, “like a bear!” “Well, the merchant’s son will be here tomorrow, I heard he is fair.” replied the mother.

After nine months of entertaining hundreds of such fine men, the parents were still dissatisfied.They wanted the best for their child just as they had brought her the finest dolls from abroad when she was small. The gentlemen they met did not fit their definition of the best son in law. Some were fat, others too thin, some were very handsome but their business showed little promise, still others were completely dumb and not so good looking. But nobody asked Mandakini. She had liked quite a few of them, from what she could make out from the little key hole.She loved the deep voice of the merchant’s son, the hazel eyes of the minister’s son, just like hers, the delicate hands of the architect’s son. She was enamored by the different men and she became desperate. The garland of flowers she was ready to throw around her husband’s neck withered in her fair hands. Her eyes
began to lose their luster, her cheeks lost color and her face hardened.

After a year of having failed to obtain a successful son in law, the parents suddenly put an end to all this foolery. Mandakini, her desperation having reached its limit, soon began to show signs of physical weakness. She took to bed immediately and spent two summers within the confines of her beautiful house. Sunlight burned her eyes and the cold sent shivers through her body. Her golden white hair turned grey and thin. Numerous visits from the doctor yielded no results. Something was sapping all the liveliness from her body and her parents could do nothing but watch their child die. She lived for some more months when she overheard her parents discussing her marriage. But soon those talks ended as her weakness increased. Now all that she learnt was the different names of medicines and the different names of illnesses attributed to her condition.

One quiet day in Fall, the most beautiful house in Giri was overshadowed by grief. Mandakini was no more.Nobody remembered her and she was lost in the ravages of time. The beautiful wings of the butterfly were clipped and it lay dead in the mud from where it emerged for a transient moment.

~ Inspired by a true event..


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