Chapter 5 – Happily Ever After

Grandma Begum just couldn’t understand why the Teenaged Begum couldn’t be like other young princesses.
“When I was a young girl, I bathed in milk and rose water.
  My mother put flowers in my lovely long hair
  But hai! Look at my granddaughter!”
  She cried in despair.

Grandma Begum was old fashioned and believed that young Begums ought to be like the princesses one finds in fairy tales.
“Why can’t you be spoilt like the princess in The Princess and the Pea?
Or as helpless as Rapunzel in her ivory tower, with her lustrous long hair?
Or patient as Beauty in Beauty and the Beast?
Or virtuous like Snow White and Cinderella?
Or, or perhaps like….” And the list went on.

Truth was, the Teenaged Begum found fairy tales awfully silly from a princess’s perspective. And she certainly did not care for pale, delicate skin or long curls. She couldn’t relate to their slim figures and jewel studded gowns.

While the Begum was pretty in her own way (everyone is pretty in their own way), she had grazed knees from climbing too many trees as a child and a tan from playing too much cricket in the sun. She was healthy, had a good appetite (she especially liked to eat on the street) and had a loud laugh. While some of her friends liked to dress up and dream of fairy tale weddings, she preferred to wear her khakis and go riding. And why, she didn’t even keep a diary!

The Teenaged Begum lived in a time when girls and boys were treated differently. Boys got to do most of the exciting, fun things but girls had to sit indoors and do girlie things as they were considered weaker.

The Teenaged Begum decided to prove everyone wrong. Girls too could do what boys did, and better.

She joined the military and learned to shoot.
She gave up her robe and wore pants and boots.
She played sports and games until a ripe old age.
She performed stunts on cars and sang on stage.
She moved out of the palace to live on her own
Saying, “I’m not a little girl anymore, I’ve grown!”

But the highest point in her life was when she was older.
She proved that she was stronger and bolder.
She put up a fight
And caught a burglar at night.
She landed him a few karate chops,
Then tied him up and turned him over to the cops!

“Hai!” Cried Grandma Begum, “This girl feels no fear!
Will she turn into a lady when my end is near?”
So Granny Begum continued to sigh and moan.
Finally, she decided to speak to her alone.
“Enough is enough, I will have a talk
She will be convinced by the end of this walk.”

And so, Grandma Begum took the Young Begum for a long walk hoping that somehow, at the end of it, she would be magically transformed into a lady.

Grandma Begum lectured her one last time.
To be unladylike was nothing short of crime.
“You will rule this kingdom one day.
Who knows what will come your way?
How can you expect respect from your staff
With that loud, unbegumlike laugh?
I suggest you grow your hair long
Stop playing cricket and pingpong.
After all, who knows when
Prince Charming may come along?”
She said.

The Young Begum replied in her defence,
“ I don’t think it makes much sense.
After all, my laugh can’t cause a war
And pretty clothes and hair won’t help me drive a car.
I don’t want a Nizam in Shining Turban to rescue me.
I’ll fight my own battles successfully.
It’s when I’m riding and exploring that I’m happiest.
That’s just the way I am - please let me be, Granny dearest!”

The argument went back and forth and forth and back.
It went to and fro and then from and to.
All the royal family, the courtiers and palace staff looked on anxiously from their balconies.
Ponies in the royal stables swished flies away with an impatient flick of their tails so as not to miss any part of the conversation.
Flowers in the garden opened up before time as the petals strained to catch every word.
Everyone waited with bated breath to see if the Young Begum would return a lady.

Text by Janhavi Acharekar, Copyright Crossover Media

© Janhavi Stories 2009