How the onion got its Layers
How the onion got its Layers
One day Ajji took all the children on a shopping spree. They went to the biggest clothes store in the town. Ajji had filled her purse with notes and told all the seven children, ‘Each one of you can buy one dress. It is our gift to you. Remember, I have Rs 500 for each of you to buy one dress.’
At the store she chose a nice comfortable chair. The children were allowed to decide which clothes they wanted and which color. They could go to the trial room and try them out before buying. After an hour, everybody had whatever they wanted except Krishna. She tried on many dresses but found fault with all of them. She told Ajji,” This store does not have anything nice for me. Shall we go to another one?
‘What is wrong with this one? It is a well-known store,’ Ajji remarked. But Krishna pouted and complained that she already had the cuts and colors available here, so everyone trooped of the next shop. There, too, after a lot of thought, finally, Krishna chose her dress. Ajji had been watching all this with her typical soft smile. On the way back, as they piled into the taxi, she whispered to Krishna, ‘It’s good you chose a dress finally. But beware, or else you may turn out to be like that princess. . .’
Which princess Ajji?
“The one in the story.’ Ajji was now looking out of the window. “Tell us, oh tell us! So Ajji told them a story of the princess who never liked any of her clothes.
The king and queen of Bombardia were very sad. No one was attacking them, the subjects were happy, the farmers had grown a bumper crop. . . then why were they so sad? Because they longed for a child and did not have one. One day, they learn of a place in the forest in the kingdom, where if you prayed hard and well, you were granted your wish. They went there and for many days prayed to the goddess of the forest. Finally, their prayers were heard and the goddess appeared before them and asked what they wished for.
The king and king and queen bowed down and asked, ‘We wish to have a child.
‘So be it, you will soon have a little girl,’ said the goddess, shimmering in the greenery. ‘But remember, she although she will be a loving child, she will have one flaw. She will love new clothes too much and it will make life difficult for you. Do you still want such a child? The king and the queen wanted a baby so much that they would have agreed to anything. So, the goddess granted them their wish and vanished back among the trees.
Soon, as had been said, the queen gave birth to a lovely baby girl. Oh! What a beauty the little girl was, with her jet-black hair and thick eyelashes and long toes and fingers. They named her Beena. The kingdom rejoiced in their king’s happiness and for a while there was complete joy everywhere.
Beena grew up a child loved by everyone. She became prettier by the day, and with her charming manners and ready laughter, she filled everyone’s heart with joy. But as goddess had said, she did have one flaw- she loved new clothes! She loved clothes so much she had to have a new outfit every day. She would refuse to wear the same clothes twice! Tailors from all over the kingdom and even outside created beautiful, extraordinary clothes for her. Silk, cotton, wool, you name it, and Beena had a dress or sari of that material. Blues, greens, reds, yellows, every color in nature was present in her wardrobe. For a while the king and the queen were happy to let her have new clothes every day. But soon they realized they were spending all their money and time finding new tailors and clothes for their daughter! This had to stop.
They coaxed and cajoled and pleaded and scolded, but Beena remained unmoved. Her parents understood this was the flaw the goddess had warned them about, and finally decided to send Beena to the goddess to find a solution. Beena entered the dark, green forest and waited for the goddess to appear. She came in a flash of green light, which lite up everything around her. Folding her hands, Beena told the goddess why she had come.
‘I know your problem, my child. I will send you a new outfit every day. It will be unique; its colors and design will delight you. But you should remember one thing: you cannot wear anything else, or exchange these clothes with anyone else. If you ever do that, your life will be miserable.’
Happily, Beena agreed to this. After all, why would she be unhappy it she got a new dress every day? From then on, Beena woke up every morning to find an extraordinary new sari or dress lying by her bed, ready to be worn. It was a dream come true for her! She enjoyed herself no end, choosing matching earrings and bangles and shoes, and everyone kept telling her how pretty she looked. Yet after some months the excitement died down. No one remarked when Beena sashayed in wearing another fantastic dress. ‘Oh, it’s the goddess’s gift,’ they all said. ‘It’s not something you or I can ever have,’ all her friends said and struggled and went their way. Beena grew sad. Then one festival day, while walking near the river, she noticed a girl wearing a simple cotton sari. There was something about the way the girl walked and how attractive she looked which made everyone turn and stare. Beena noticed how the people were admiring her. She became jealous because no one noticed her beautiful clothes any longer, yet they had such praise for this simple dressed girl. She forgot all the goddess’s warning and went up to the girl and said, ‘Will you take my dress and give your sari in return? It is so lovely that people can’t take their eyes off it.’ The girl was astonished. The famous Princess Beena was offering to take her sari, and was giving her marvelous outfit in exchange! She could not believe her luck and happily gave her sari to Beena. She then wore Beena’s dress and went away. No sooner had Beena worn the girl’s sari than there was a flash and a bang. Her surroundings changed, and she found herself transported deep inside the forest, in front of the goddess.
‘Beena,’ The goddess called. ‘I had told you that you cannot exchange or give the clothes I gave you. But you have just done that! I am afraid here is a punishment for not listening to me. I will take you away from the world of humans forever.’
Beena looked down in sadness. She thought of her parents’ tear-stained faces, the grief of the people in her kingdom who had loved her dearly. Then she spoke aloud, ‘I will go away, but do grant me one last wish. Turn me into something that will remind everyone about their beloved princess, something they may find useful.’
The goddess smiled and turned Beena into a plant. Do you know what plant Beena become? An onion! Have you noticed how the onion has so many layers? Those are all the dresses Beena one wore. And have you noticed your mother’s eyes water while she cuts onions? That is because unknown to ourselves, like all the people in Beena’s kingdom, we still shed tears for the beautiful, kind hearted princess!
After listening to this story, Krishna wailed, ‘Ajji, I don’t want to be like Beena. I don’t want to get turned into an onion! I promise not to fuss over my clothes from now on!’