Once upon a time there lived a King in a land not too far away. He was, Your Majesty King Year, The Great. He ruled over a kingdom, great and vast and so diverse that it felt like it encompassed the whole earth. This was the kingdom of Calendar. By God’s grace he had twelve children; all with different looks and likes and dislikes as kids are known to be, but mostly similar temperaments. They ranged from yellow-warm to pink-cold except one who was fiery hot and the others were just mellow as middle children generally are.
Now the King was a very wise old man. He wanted all his children to experience the roles and responsibilities of a ruler as any good father would want to help his children prepare for the future. So, each child would rule over the land for a fixed number of days.
When Princes January and December and Princesses February and November ruled with their pink-cold temperaments, half the subjects enjoyed the cooler climes and the other half resented them as they liked warmer climes. The subjects who enjoyed the cold would gather around fireplaces in their homes and have a great time with family and friends, while the others waited for the return of the gentle warmth.
When Princes March and April and Princesses September and October ruled with their milder, gentler touch, most of the subjects enjoyed the great outdoors. They gathered in large numbers in parks and gardens. They organized picnics at every opportunity. The kids played, the adults rested on their checkered picnic blankets and some swam in the balmy waters of the lakes and the rivers.
Perhaps the most disliked was Princess May. All the subjects grumbled about how even though she was a girl she was so fiery hot. They could barely go out when she ruled. Her heat was relentless. It felt as if it was trying to crawl into their skin and settle just under it, making them hot and sweaty all the time. May be it was because she was a hot head herself and perhaps the flaming red hair added to it.
Thus, when Princess June and Prince July came, they were thoroughly welcomed. Subjects rejoiced at the break from all the heat. From the gentle pitter-patter to the thundering storms the subjects loved it. Hordes of them came out and got wet in the rain. Children built paper boats, which competed with ducks and swans for space in the lakes. The nature rejoiced and turned green again.
In this whole cycle of coming and going of Princes and Princesses in the kingdom of Calendar only one child was left who evoked no emotion except for apathy. The subjects didn’t love her or hate her, they didn’t even like her or dislike her, they merely tolerated her. They just hoped her reign of prolonged days of non-stop rain would end soon so that Princess September could take over. This was Princess August. And she simply detested this attitude the subjects exhibited. This made her feel unworthy and she felt powerless to do anything about it.
Till one day during Prince March’s reign….
“Why are you sitting here alone my child?” asked the King when he saw Princess August sitting on the steps of the garden wearing a forlorn expression.
He had just walked into his favorite palace-garden, in full bloom. As usual Prince March had done an exceptional job. The flowers blossomed, the birds chirped, the bees buzzed. The gentle breeze caressed the skin and could easily lull you to sleep if you were on a bed-swing or easy-chair.
Looking for a place to sit, he finally gave up and sat on the steps leading down to the garden. As he sat next to Princess August he couldn’t help but notice her pallor. It was sallow, there were dark circles under her eyes. He gently touched her hair and found it to be uncombed and beginning to knot. The hair a beautiful color of pewter gray with highlights of purple just like the blooming wisteria was wasted on her head. Sighing inwardly, seeing her slumped shoulders he asked her the same question again.
She kept her eyes downcast, as she replied softly, “No one loves me. No one wants me.”
The King had an overwhelming urge to outright rubbish the declaration. But he restrained himself and instead decided to probe gently.
“Why do you feel so?” he asked wrapping his arm around her shoulder.
At this she looked up and glared at him.
‘Good, she has fire,’ he thought.
“Really, you need to ask me that Father! You know the answer to that question,” even as she spoke, she shrugged his arm away and jumped down the last two steps to hit the ground agitatedly. She started pacing the length of the stairs. After a couple of rounds, while he waited patiently, she stopped in front of him and hands on her hips said, “All the others are loved by the subjects. Even Princess May evokes a strong reaction from them, be it negative. They are not indifferent to her. That is what hurts, they are indifferent to me, they barely tolerate me,” saying thus she started crying as she was famous for her water-works.
“Come, sit here with me darling.” Holding her hand, he gently guided her to an easy-chair. After all he was a king and unused to sitting on hard surfaces, plus he was old.
“Why do they not enjoy your reign?”
“I…. I bring only gloom,” she said sniffling. The King produced a kerchief from his breast pocket and handed it to her. “I only bring grey clouds, thunder and endless showers and after Princess June and Prince July, they are just fed up of it. The novelty has worn off. What do I do?”
“You know being in the middle is always difficult. The elders get responsibilities but also respect, the younger ones get love and pampering with impunity to make mistakes and get away with it. The middles one are; well always so in the middle. They have neither responsibilities nor impunity. Find out what makes people happy. There in lies the reason to be loved,” he replied cryptically as sometimes elders tend to when you are looking for a straight forward answer.
She took her father’s advice and for the next few months Princess August roamed around the kingdom, observing and peering and peeping. Subjects discounted her peculiar behavior on account of her being peculiar. No one bothered her. So, she saw, absorbed and deducted. Then she went to meet the King.
“I think I know what makes people happy,” she declared with great self-belief.
“Well that’s good to know. So, how are you going to use that information?”
She sighed, “There in lies my problem. I am not sure what I can do?”
“Why my dear! You can do anything you want. You are the descendent of The Greatest King ‘Time’ himself. There is nothing you can’t do,” he replied smiling at her. Princess August saw a spark in his eyes, the kind of spark a father has that infuses his child with confidence.
She smiled in turn. The King was thrilled to see her face transform. He got a glimpse of the great beauty – not just in terms of physical beauty – she could be if she chose to walk this path. He sent up a silent prayer to the powers that be to guide her.
With a plan in her mind she went to her brothers and sisters January, February, November and December.
“I have come to ask something of you my brothers and sisters. I hope you will not say no,” she said tentatively.
Surprised they looked at each other; that she had even come up to them to talk much less to ask. Prince January being the eldest spoke for all of them.
“Of course, dear sister. What can we do for you?” he asked with a smile, wanting to reassure her and to make her feel comfortable for he could plainly see that she was hesitant.
“Almost a year back father had asked me a question. I went around looking for an answer and now I think I have found it but to implement it I need your help.” Feeling confident at their nods she continued, “I need you to be severe.”
“Sorry, what?” His brows furrowed, Prince January asked.
The others too were now intrigued, so they moved in closer to stand behind Prince January and listen in.
“I need you, all four of you to be severe in your temperaments. I need for people to stay indoors because it is too cold to be outside. I want them to snuggle in and make families. For I have seen there is no greater joy than family.”
In stunned silence they stared at her. Prince January cleared his throat and said, “You want us to what…….Really!” He turned to the others who looked equally stunned, “Hmmm……I see.”
“No, you don’t see,” pleaded Princess August. “Once people start having babies during my reign, they will be happy to have me. They will no longer be indifferent. They will rejoice and celebrate my coming and the various births will bring families and friends together. That will bring laughter and happiness even in the dreary damp weather,” she said looking earnestly at all of them in turn. Then she whispered almost to herself, “Like a nascent beam of sunshine.”
They understood then. How could they say no when they realized what it meant to her.
Prince January said, “Dearest sister, we will be happy to do it for you. But to be severe is not in our nature.” Princess August was crestfallen on hearing this. She felt all her plans were about to be dashed.
“But for you we will do this, we will be severe in one hemisphere of this great kingdom and be our cold-pink self in the other hemisphere of the kingdom at the same time,” said Princess February stepping forward and holding her hand.
“Yes, this way you can have your coldest climes and we don’t have to change our temperaments completely,” added Prince December.
Thoroughly ecstatic and much humbled by their loving gesture, Princess August hugged all of them and left with a determined gleam in her eyes like a Princess on a mission.
That is how in the upper hemisphere in a particular corner of the kingdom, in a land bound on three sides by the sea and on the remaining side by the biggest mountains on the earth, at one point in time a blue complexioned boy1 was born. His birth, has been celebrated year after year – the duration named so after the great King Year – for eons. The festival brings people – formerly known as subjects – together. They celebrate it with great gusto and enthusiasm and look forward to the coming of August every year.
After the success of first such celebration, when King Year saw his daughter, he noticed that she no longer had a sallow complexion. Her skin was beginning to get a healthy color. He was happy and asked her, “How is it going dear daughter?”
Princess August replied with pride glowing in her eyes, “It is going well father. Thank you for pushing me. I have lots more planned.” Thus, saying she literally hop-skipped and jumped away in the direction of her quarters where she was planning the next occasion.
In the same land a new tradition was started, when a sister tied a thread2 representing her love for her brother and he vowed to protect her. Princess August had once again come up with a plan that had brought forth the love, brothers and sisters have for each other and made a festival out of it. Each year brothers and sisters get together to celebrate it; bringing happiness and laughter in their lives and respective families.
King Year saw her and smiled and admired her lustrous locks. They fell down her back in gentle curls, the purple wisteria highlighted beautifully by the setting sun. Her skin was glowing. She looked happy. ‘Ah! She finally seems to have found the purpose in her life,’ he thought.
Another century saw the re-birth of a mighty country3. Freedom gained from tyrannical rulers through bloodshed and then perseverance and non-violence. A whole nation brought together by a deep sense of patriotism. A whole nation brought together by a deeper sense of gratitude for those who lost their lives to gain that freedom. Every year August was welcomed with great reverence. People of all ages from school children to the aged, men and women came together to honor the martyrs of this great struggle. Princess August infused people with a sense of national pride.
In the same region some sixty years down the line, a budding blogger4 and writer had her twins in August. She cried tears of happiness and gratitude for her wait was finally over. She waited every year for August to return so that she could celebrate her kids’ birthday. To add to her happiness Princess August gave her two more nieces. For her August became a time for celebration, of family and friends, of wishes and beautiful memories.
This time when King Year saw her, he was truly astonished at the transformation. The physical changes had already started. This time he saw her inner beauty shining through. Her confidence shown through her eyes. Her smile was not just on her lips it reflected in her being.
Over the eternities, Princess August garnered respect and love for herself. She had understood the value of family and friends. She had realized the importance of love and togetherness and had used that knowledge to create occasions for all to get together. Today she was no longer a dull, sallow complexioned, mousy Princess. Today she was a Princess whose arrival was eagerly anticipated.
One day King Year in the presence of all in his court announced, “Soon I will retire and the eldest will take over. Prince January would always be the first in Calendar. Each of my children will then follow. Each of them will bring their own personalities to their reign. To all I have given as equally as I could the number of days to rule; thirty or thirty-one. Only to Princess February I have given twenty-eight days on her insistence that she be given time to pursue her love of books and also by sacrificing her days she has helped me to better distribute the days between her brothers and sisters. For this I am very grateful to her and as a matter of showing my love to her, every fourth year she will get one extra day.”
This was followed by a loud round of applause. Everyone congratulated Prince January. The King then raised his hand and the court quieted down. “Before we make merry, there is one more announcement I would like to make.” He looked over to where Princess August was standing, resplendent in a periwinkle blue gown trimmed with azalea pink and studded with diamonds, she was a sight to behold. Extending his hands in her direction he invited her to stand next to him, “Dear daughter come to me.” Kissing her forehead, he continued, “I have seen the path you have travelled to be where you are today. In terms of journeys yours has been the longest and the hardest. But you have shown great courage and initiative. That is why I bestow upon you the honor, that for generations to come any gathering which is hallmarked with dignity and grandeur will be referred to as an ‘August Gathering’. August will mean magnificent.”
Teary eyed, Princess August hugged the King.
Month of August ushers in the festivities
Month of August portends celebrations
Month of August heralds happiness.
The story is written keeping in mind the author’s perspective of August. That is why the referennce to the various festivals/days is a reflection of what she celebrates in her hometown Mumbai, India.
- Blue complexioned boy refers to Lord Krishna and the festival is Janmashtami. It is celebrated to mark his birth. The tradition gained popularity in 15th century.
- The thread is the Raksha thread a sister ties on her brother’s wrist during Rakshbandhan. It is said that Draupadi had tied such a thread on Lord Krishna’s wrist, though there is reference of this practice in mythological stories of Indra and Vishnu. A modern version of this was also started by Rabindra Nath Tagore to improve communal ties between Hindus and Muslims around 1905.
- This refers to India gaining her independence on 15th August 1947.
- The fourth incident refers to the author.
Connect with Penmancy: