Kamadhenus were a family of revered bovine cows, celebrated for their wish-fulfilling attributes. They miraculously provide their owners with whatever they desire.
It was an anxious day at the Kamadhenu household. Surabhi, the mom whispered to Kama, her husband, complaining about their daughter, “Dhenu is refusing to wield our gift of granting wishes. I have tried cajoling her, admonishing her, and cautioning her. She doesn’t listen. I have never seen her do one single wish-granting. She simply ignores me and is busy, ruminating and mooing with her friends!”
Dad chewed on his cud for a while before replying, “She seems to be hell-bent on bringing shame to our glorious past. We have been the official Kamadhenus of the Ambanis, stocking and restocking their wealth, keeping a watch out for any shortfall. Our two other daughters are skilled at granting wishes. With both of them working for the Adanis and Shiv Nadar family, Dhenu cannot remain the jobless one.
They both ruminated together for a while and suddenly, Kama turned his neck slowly towards her and said, “You remember I once worked with that Yaksha from Kerala? He had been worried about his son who wanted to marry a young girl and settle down rather than haunt her. I know my friend somehow got him cured and now he is a well-feared spirit, malefic and sinister. I will check with him how he brought about the change.”
Dhenu was hanging out with her friends as they languidly grazed on the grass. She lifted her head and said in a brooding voice, “My dad has found a school that he wants me to attend. Called the “International Institute for Mythical Beings’, or IIMB. It seems at this institute, they cure legends with disorders who cannot carry through their mythical deeds. My mom was telling me that when Ramba developed an inferiority complex and refused to take part in the ‘Miss Devalokha Beauty Pageant’, she was sent to IIMB. She not only got cured, but she also went on to be crowned ‘Miss Devalokha’ by Indra himself.
Her friends looked up at her one by one and sounded bored as they mooed one after the other.
Dhenu spoke passionately “If some died-in-the-wool principal thinks that she can ‘cure’ me, she has another thought coming. I am not interested in some stupid ‘wish fulfilling’ future. I am a free bird, errr a free cow and no one is going to make me any different.”
She looked up to see that all her friends had moved away looking for tender shoots of grass.
With an irritated sigh, she went back to her grazing.
Harmonia, the Greek Goddess, was the benevolent principal of IIMB. Known for her empathy and goodwill, she was liked by the students and the parents. Professor Horace Slughorn, former Potions master at Hogwarts was her trusted vice principal. Together they ran the school.
Harmonia believed that all the nonconformities her students suffered from could be traced to some kind of emotional issues. The first job at the institute was identifying them through counseling and analyzing for the missing hormones that were connected to the aberrant behavior. After which, Horace would brew a special potion for each one of them, using the apt herbs that would bring about the necessary changes. The students would be watched for a couple of months to check if the changes are happening and then with a final graduation ceremony, they were sent home.
Their success rate had been very good. Harmonica had an excellent aptitude for identification of the reason for anomalous behaviors. Professor Slughorn’s skills in brewing the right potions were legendary. They cultivated their own garden at the school grounds that produced the necessary herbs for the concoctions. They were assisted in their efforts by a few more teachers like the brutal and vicious ghost, Mononoke from Japan for those hardcore beings who refuse to cooperate. Their support staff consisted of a few human beings whose memories were replaced with alternate ones when they went home for the holidays.
Their successes had made them so famous that they were privately consulted for some delicate problems.
She remembered the famous and bizarre case of the spy- James Bond!
Horace in his usual way was stammering and stuttering with embarrassment. “Harmonia, you know this problem 007 is having? It’s I bbbbbelieve a ccccommon feature with most pppeople supposed to be having a great sssstamina… I mean.. You undderssttanndd… “
Harmonia replied with a suppressed grin “I believe the technical term is erectile dysfunction.”
Covering up his discomfort with more stutter, Horace replied “I underssstand. The muggles, I mmmean the humans have a counteragent called vvviagara. I have ppput together sssomething sssimilar. I hope it wwwwillll wwwork wwwelll for James.”
And looked like it had! Harmonia thought about the recent mail from 007, detailing his latest adventures, with an attachment of a picture of himself with his hands around the waist of the newest Bond Girl.
Dhenu was hating it! Her first interview with Harmonia was scheduled for today and she was waiting in the huge cavernous hall, with the other students. She was standing listlessly, shuffling her feet while the others occupied the chairs.
She looked all around.
There was Hulk, the supposedly strongest man on the earth. An avenger, no less. Hulk sat there hulking and sulking. She had heard that he was developing muscle cramps, weakening his confidence while facing his arch-enemy, Abomination, the Gamma-powered monster.
Next to him, she saw the young spider boy. He was nervously taking his famous stance and throwing up his wrists and trying to create the web that he could swing from during his adventures. But only some white thin goo appeared, that fell lose with a plop.
Sabrina the teenage witch had taken admission to cure her of dual personality disorder. She wanted to be either a witch or a human. Not the witch-human hybrid she was.
There were a couple of zombies sitting on the chairs and looking, well, dead! Dhenu had heard from the others that every year a few of them turn up, asking to become undead and join the living.
Kumbakharna sat on a giant stool looking wide awake. Yep! She had heard that he wanted some meds for his insomnia.
There were gnomes wanting to become taller, giants who wanted to be shorter, toads who wanted to be handsome, and a couple of saucers who wanted to learn the art of flying so that they could join their magical ‘flying saucer’ cousins.
Cinderella was here to find a cure for her giant feet syndrome. The shoe sellers were unable to find glass slippers that fit her.
A gigantic cyclops hovered in the room, wanting a special lens fitted to his one eye because he had developed short sight.
A cute little pixie with pointy ears sat by himself, his tiny hands neatly resting on his lap. His parents had sent him to learn how to be evil.
Count Dracula had brought his teenage son to IIMB. It seems the vampire youngster was fond of gallivanting around during the daytime, singing the latest songs in a boisterous voice, eating pizzas, and guzzling cokes. At nights he was found snoring loudly in the coffin. He did not like the taste of blood, preferring the soft drinks favored by the teenagers.
Dhenu’s eyes came to rest on a grotesque figure with jutting teeth smeared with blood, sitting opposite to her.
Kalamuki was a seven feet high, well-built Rakshasi whose looks could curdle one’s blood. Rakshasis were supposed to intimidate human beings but Kalamuki was terrified of them. One look at the humans, she would cover her face and quiver in fear. She was at IIMB to get cured of her fears and terrify the human beings as any self-respecting Rakshasi should.
Dhenu’s eternal frown was replaced with a sudden smile when she watched the cutest person in the room- a baby dragon called Kaida. She was so adorable. She had delicate coral pink wings and dark ringed eyes and a dainty little tail. Her soft rosy lips were curled in an unhappy pout right then.
She hopped into the middle of the waiting hall to demonstrate her problem.
With immense concentration, she inhaled a lungful air and breathed out of her mouth. Instead of the angry flames that were expected to gush out, a weak red-colored fog emanated and disappeared in a second.
Kaida jumped back to her seat with a disgusted snort.
The door opened and Aladdin strode in with a neatly rolled-up carpet, under his arms. Dhenu had heard that he came to IIMB every year to upgrade his magic carpet. This year, he explained, he wanted Harmonia to fit it with radars so that the carpet could detect the aircraft flying in the air and make sure it would remain hidden.
It was late in the evening and Harmonia and Horace were sipping on their teas and discussing the new students.
Harmonia said, “We seem to have a few unusual cases and the usual ones, this year.”
Horace waved a letter and said with a sigh, “Another usual request. Uncle $crooge asking for a discount in fees for the admission of his nephews. He wants us to cure them of their desires.”
Harmonia spoke with a smile on her lips, “Haha! I think it’s Scrooge who needs to take our squanderopods brew and stop being a miser.” She reflected a second with a soft smile on her lips and said, “Do you know who is my favorite new student? Kaida, the dragon baby from China. She is a darling. The poor little thing does try very hard.”
Horace continued “Unlike our royal highness Dhenu. She doesn’t even want to have a go at getting the wish-granting skills right. Any youngster would have jumped at the chance to be deified and celebrated. I wonder why she won’t even try!”
“My observation? It is not that she won’t but it is a case of she can’t. For some reason, she is unable to get it right. My gut feeling is that she has tried secretly a couple of times and realized that it’s not happening. With her sisters being high achievers, the pressure on her must have been tremendous. Maybe that is what is hampering her from using her natural gift.”
Horace replied, “Yes, she is going to be our biggest challenge, this year.”
Harmonia continued in a pensive voice. “I am just thinking aloud. I feel whenever she tries to grant a wish, the synapses in her brain that transmit her nerve impulses are not activated.”
Horace sounded reflective as he pronounced “As of now our study of herbology has not advanced enough to cure this problem. But If we can somehow pull this off, it will be the biggest achievement of our career.”
Dhenu was apprehensive about who was going to be her roommate. She wanted it for herself but the strict rules of IIMB made sure there had to be two in a room.
She looked up when she heard the room open. She had to turn back to hide the hatred that filled her when she saw Kalamuki step in. Why had she been saddled by this Rakshasi? She moved to her side of the room and lowered herself on the straw mattress.
Kalamuki, sensing the hostility, did not try to get friendy. She busied herself elongating her bed magically to suit her length.
Dhenu spoke in a voice that was more for herself than a conversation.
“I hate this place. I am waiting for the year to be up so I can go back home.”
Kalamuki sat on her bed, folding her long legs under her, with difficulty, and replied in an equally neutral voice “Oh, is it? Do you know what made me decide to join IIMB? There was this annoying little human kid who realized that I was scared of her and chased me all the way to my forest. Imagine a 7 feet high, fierce-looking demoness being hounded by a chit of a girl? That was the last straw. I am willing to undergo any amount of hardships to be my true self.”
Dhenu felt a little unease. Was she dealing with her problems in the wrong way?
Covering her disquiet, she spoke disinterestedly. “I will somehow endure this one year and run away back home. It is my parents who have forced me to attend this institute. I have absolutely no interest or inclination in granting wishes.”
Thus began their first day together.
Dhenu had begun to appreciate Kalamuki’s candor and a nebulous friendship had developed between them.
Kalamuki had playfully asked Dhenu “Why are you fighting your fate. Wouldnt you be famous and popular if you grant wishes?”
Dhenu looked contrite. With a long-drawn sigh, she replied, “Do you think I don’t want to? I would love to grant wishes left and right and be fawned upon by everyone. But it doesn’t work. I have tried and tried. My sisters had aced the technique when they were babies. Both my parents are experts in the art of wish-granting. How can I admit that I am incapable of it?
Six months had rushed by.
Each day the students had dutifully gone to the herbarium to take their brews. They had attended classes about ‘Positive Approach to Problems’, ‘History of Herbs’ and discussed case studies.
Many of them were already showing improvements. Kaida was able to spit out a decent stream of fire. Hulk was looking confident after his cramps had subsided.
The pixie had grown evil enough to hatch a plot along with spider boy to make nets and trip up the zombies.
The Dracula teenager and Sabrina had fallen in love and could be seen holding hands during sunsets.
Cinderella’s feet had shrunk to a dainty size.
Cyclops had already checked out his trial lenses and finalized them. They had been sent to the manufacturers.
Kumbakarna’s roomie had put in a request to be allotted another room because he was unable to put up with his monstrous snoring at nights.
The only two people who had not improved in any way were Dhenu and Kalamuki.
They were sitting before Honoria, shivering with fright.
“I am sorry girls, but there is no other go. I have tried everything I can for both of you. According to IIMB rules, if you do not show progress in six months you have to study under Mononoke. I understand your apprehensions. She can be a little harsh on her students. But there is nothing I can do about it. You will be starting classes with her from tomorrow.”
Mononoke had her own private tower.
Kalamuki and Dhenu entered the castle gates with trepidation. Kalamuki noticed with fear that the gates were manned by two well-built rough-looking men. She stood petrified staring at the men till Dhenu nudged her inside. They could see a lake that separated the front gates and the tower entrance. The tower looked menacing.
They were at Mononoke’s private chambers for their interview. The room seemed to be icy and desolate. Mononoke looked glacial and joyless, dressed in a grey frosty sheath. Their minds filling with terror they stood while she hovered behind the table, grimly observing them.
Her icy voice floated up to them. “Come my Kanojos, I had been lonely and looking forward to you both.”
Her voice enveloped them in cold fear. Suddenly she glided forward in the air, enveloping them in a wintry gust.
“Go and rest for today, my Anatatachi. I will begin my lessons tomorrow. Have a dreamless sleep. For, tomorrow onwards you will have no respite from your nightmares. Here, let me sing you a lullaby.”
She began singing in a spooky, eerie voice ‘Sakura Sakura, Yo Yo Ino so rawa’. Both of them fled from her office.
Their rooms were cold and bleak. Their minds were filled with terror, Dhenu and Kalamuki were huddled together and talking in whispers, even though they had not seen a single soul, except Mononoke, after entering the tower.
Dhenu murmured in a hoarse voice. “I think we have to run away before we become deranged.”
“Past those men guarding the gates? I’d rather die.” Kalamuki’s voice trembled.
“Kalamuki, this is our only chance. I have heard from the other students that once we start classes with Mononoke, she freezes our senses and keeps us in the brumal chamber. It is supposed to be excruciatingly painful. My friend says that death will seem like a merciful release.”
Kalamuki shuddered with fear as they ambled together in the stygian darkness. The gates were approaching in a blur. The guards loomed up like impending doom.
The lake was impenetrably dark. Suddenly a ghostly figure emitting an unearthly light was moving towards them. They heard a disjointed voice float up ‘Sakura Sakura’.
Kalamuki glanced at Dhenu in terror. She could see that Dhenu’s dark luminous eyes were staring in panic.
Her voice convulsing in dismay, Kalamuki whispered to Dhenu “I am terrified. We are caught between the spooky Mononoko and the ghastly guards. If only the principal had not sent us to this tower. Our room feels like a haven of peace. How I wish we were back in that dear old room at IIMB”.
She saw Dhenu stop in her tracks and turn towards her.
There was a loud crack and everything disappeared. The gates, the tower, the lake, and the creepy-crawly singing voice.
They were both in the safety of their old cozy room.
Dhenu had granted her first wish.
When the principal summoned them, the girls went to meet her with trepidation. They noticed with consternation that Mononoke was already there. They hesitatingly entered and saw that Harmonia and Mononoke were exchanging a high-five, while Horace watched with a benovelent smile.
Mononoke left after giving the girls a theatrical wink.
Harmonia explained to Dhenu “I knew you had a mental block about granting wishes. So we created a do or die situation and you automatically strived to do what you were meant to do.”
Professor Slughorn continued “When the need arose and you became desperate, the synapses got activated and you could easily grant a wish.”
Harmonia looked kindly at Dhenu and continued in a soft voice. “Not all wishes are about money and wealth, Dhenu! I guess your calling is to grant the wishes of day-today ordinary people. Those whose aspirations and powers give them more happiness than make them rich. You are a very special Kamadhenu and that’s why your gift had taken a long time to manifest.”
She turned towards Kalamuki and continued. “I needed your help in making Dhenu successful. That’s why we gave you the placebo herbs and you could not get over your fear.”
Slughorn observed “Now both of you will be our star people during the graduation ceremony. Your parents are going to be so proud of you.”
Mononoke: A Japanese evil spirit
Anatathachi: both of you
Sakura Sakura is a famous Japanese song about the cherry blossoms.
Sakura Sakura: Cherry blossoms, Cherry Blossoms
Yo Yo Ino so rawa: In fields, mountains and villages
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