Rick and Rhea were almost twins, just eleven months apart. They were their Mother’s pet. Their father had a transferable job which kept him very busy. Maa was their everything. She would indulge in them like none other. Saturday afternoon and every night she would tell them stories about all magical beings and spirits. She told them stories about the nasty wizard who held beautiful maidens captive and about the old woman who lived on the moon and spun her wheel to make dresses for the fairies. Rick’s favorite was the tiger which could whistle and lure his prey, make them dance like madmen, and then kill and eat them. But most of all he loved the story of the dazzling Unicorn. Maa told them that it could fly beyond the horizon and travel to the magical land of golden apples. She would describe how little children who lost their parents, flew on the Unicorn’s back to meet them. She would describe everything in such gorgeous and compelling details that Rick would want to visit those enchanting lands. Every time he would insist Maa to tell the Unicorn’s story. Rhea would always want to hear about those pretty maidens who waited for their prince charming to rescue them from the nasty wizard. Almost every night, at bedtime, the siblings would fight over this. One wanted to hear about the Unicorn the other about the maidens. This was one thing they could never agree upon. But both would be elated to let listen to all those fantastical stories. In their sleep, many a time both sailed to those mystical realms where the fairies and elves danced and partied.
Silly Joy would never believe in the Unicorn.
“Maa, Joy says there isn’t any such thing as a Unicorn. Isn’t he stupid? I told him my mother never tells a lie. I think I will take him to the base of the Banayan tree where you said it lives. He will then believe me. Silly boy!”
The February afternoon sun was glittering like gold when Papa had returned from the burning ghat after cremating Maa. She was gone! All of a sudden. The eight-year-old Rhea could not fully understand what hit them. As for Rick, he was clueless. At night lying next to their Papa, the two little angels sobbed.
Rick said, “Papa, Granny says Maa has become a star, can I find her among so many? How will I recognise her?”
Their father said that mother would smile at them from above and they would know that the star was Maa. “Now sleep, Rhea and Rick,” Papa said.
Throughout the night Rick didn’t sleep. Time and again he rewound the story Maa had told them once about the Unicorn residing in the jungle behind their campus.
“It fulfills the wishes of children who are well behaved and who do not trouble their mothers.”
“Any wish?” He had asked
“Yes. But the child has to be very obedient.”
Rick looked at the sky, visible through the bedroom window, and spotted a bright start. “That must be Maa”, he thought. Flashing a broad grin, he reached across to the other side but Rhea was fast asleep, so was Papa. He gazed at the star for some time, smiled, gave it a flying kiss, and went off to sleep.
The next morning when Rhea woke him up Rick was all smiles. When Rhea asked him the reason, he just nodded his head, grinned even broader, and ran to the washroom to refresh himself.
In the afternoon he sneaked out of the house when Rhea was with Granny. Papa was too busy to notice he was gone. Rick entered the forest in search of the Unicorn, mother had told him about.
He remembered his mother had told him once that on full moon night the Unicorn would look magnificent!
Under the pinkish, silver light of the moon, it would shine like a fairy’s mascot. Its sparkling silver wings, studded with gems would glow and illuminate the whole forest. Even the leaves of the trees would look like silver leaves and inside the forest, it would be like a rain of stardust.
In the afternoon faint light penetrated the thickness and where there were fewer trees, the sun glowed brightly. Can he find a Unicorn in daylight?
The February breeze was soothing. The early, Indian spring wafted with mild fragrance and the forest was bedecked in vibrant colors. So many varieties of flowers grew there. Rick picked up some as he walked into it. Few meters and he thought he should have brought Rhea along. But no, he will give her a surprise. His small, little mind had planned something so big and he wanted to keep it a secret. He may just share it with his best friend Ali. No! Ali was sissy, he might tell everything to Rhea. So he decided not to tell anyone, till he accomplished his mission.
He walked quite deep inside the forest but could not trace the Unicorn. The sun was beginning to go down for its sleep, so Rick decided he would try the next day.
He had a wish to make and for that, he needed to meet the Unicorn. The full moon was five days away.
When he returned home, except for Rhea nobody had noticed he was missing from home. When she asked him as to where he was roaming, he lied that he had gone to meet his friend Ankur.
The next afternoon Rick left home to wander in the forest. That day he thought he spotted the Banyan tree, Maa had told him about. “This is where the Unicorn resided. Yes!”
He spotted that small Shiva temple there. Maa had said that nobody goes there and there was a huge bell hanging in the doorway. There were thousands of threads tied around the Banyan tree. He looked everywhere for the Unicorn, but couldn’t trace it! He must come the next day too. A little later maybe. Hadn’t Maa said that the Unicorn is to be sighted only in the dark? Silly to be searching it in daylight!
He mumbled and cursed himself.
Rick decided that he would go there on the full moon night. When everyone will sit to have dinner, he will quietly sneak out!
He was extremely excited and thinking about his mission he would chuckle to himself. Papa, Rhea, Granny, and aunt, everybody asked him the reason for his joys. But Rick wouldn’t breathe a word.
Rhea was curious. She noticed strange changes in him. He didn’t seem to be missing Maa. On the contrary, he appeared to be happier.
“What is wrong with him, Papa? Why does he not talk to me the way he used to?” She asked her father.
Her father told her not to worry. Even Granny was worried. But Rick seemed lost in his own world.
He was anxiously waiting for the full moon night.
So many times he thought he would tell Rhea but he reminded himself not to. He wouldn’t tell anyone.
But he shared everything with his toy Pokemon ‘Pikachu’. After all that night he needed someone to accompany him!
As the Full moon phase approached, he grew restless. At night, from his bed, he would look at the sky outside. The moon waxing bigger filled him with delight. Lying down in his bed we would giggle and if Rhea caught him doing that, he would pretend he is sleeping.
It was Ali’s birthday on the full moon. Rick was all the more happier. He could sneak out from there itself. Nobody will notice then.
In the evening Rhea and he left for Ali’s house. He had slid ‘Pikachu’ in his trousers pocket. Granny couldn’t help noticing his sprightly steps.
“Best friend’s birthday. See how happy my darling grandson is!”
Rick saw the most beautiful creature on earth. The whole forest was decorated like a marriage hall or a carnival. It seemed as if stars were raining down. So incredibly gorgeous. Maa had said that it was mesmerizing. Yes! There it stood. And as it saw Rick, it called out his name. Rick was ecstatic. As he approached it, it flashed its diamond teeth at him.
When he stood near it, it bowed down in obeisance.
“Master I am at your service. Tell me your wish and I will try to fulfill it.” It spoke and Rick was stupified.
He collected himself and spoke, “My mother told me so much about you, I know you are very kind. You know Unicorn, my Maa left me and Rhea. I don’t get sleep without her. Granny says she has become a star and Papa said that she is the brightest star in the sky. I see her every night but I want to meet her. Will you take me to her?”
“My name is Wushlord, call me that sir. Yes, I will take you to her. Just sit on my back and hold my wings tight and if you feel the wind hard, then cling on to my neck. Don’t be afraid, I will take you to the wondrous land of paradise.”
Rick mounted on Wushlord and off he went. They sailed across the lilac clouds, into the purple and silver folds of the vault, brushed against the strawberry, super moon and kissed it. Where was the old woman with her silken white hair, spinning gossamer dresses for the fairies? Must be asleep because it was quite late in the night. The lavender-scented air swaddled him and he felt so light, almost like a feather. Oh, what an enchanting ride it was!
Wushlord galloped past the constellations and Rick touched Orion’s belt. After crossing an amaranthine lake with innumerable blooming lotus, they reached a huge golden gate with exquisite, intricate designs on it! Precious gems and jewels were embedded in it.
Two exceedingly beautiful fairies, in sparkling white gown, wearing emerald tiaras and huge ruby rings ushered them in. Rick was beyond himself with happiness. He was about to meet Maa. Inside the gate was a massive lake of milk and honey beside which sat so many fairies and elves playing and laughing. When they saw Wushlord they all got up and bowed before him. He waved at them by flapping his wings and nodding his slender majestic neck.
They crossed that chamber and reached another that had a radiant yellow roof festooned with strings of pearls. Huge chrysanthemums of all colours filled the room. A beautiful nymph in a golden, flowing gown, with a glittering star in her right hand, was crooning in the most mellifluous voice. For once Rick thought she could be Maa. But no, she wasn’t. The nymph walked up to Wushlord and kissed him on his forehead. So gracefully she stood on her toes while kissing him. Rick saw her dainty and fair feet, just like Maa.
Past that they entered a garden, where honey streamed down the waterfall and fountains of rose petals filled the lawns. Merry, vibrant butterflies fluttered all over. This place seemed to be so ethereally exquisite.
Adjacent to that was the sunflower garden. Enormous sunflowers bloomed there. Pretty nymphs in golden dresses danced to the tune of dulcet and lyre. This garden was so incredibly gorgeous that Rick thought he would stay put there.
Thereafter they flew out into a sea of fluffy clouds.
Wushlord told Rick that now they would enter the main gates of heaven. Rick was very excited. He reached out for Wushlord’s neck and in doing so, his chest touched the Unicorn’s back. Wushlord heard Rick’s heartthrob and galloped faster.
Flying across many gardens of grandeur they came and stood in front of the most magnificent gates ever. The arch was made of diamond and emerald. Two handsome gatekeepers, bowed as they saw Wushlord approach. No sooner four loveliest of the nymphs, in their silver and white attire, stepped forward and blew the conch. Several bells chimed simultaneously. Rose petals were thrown on them and scented water sprinkled. The lake here was filled with Ambrosia with carmine rose petals floating on it.
Angels and fairies lined up on both sides of the lake and as Wushlord trotted with Rick on his back, they swayed from side to side making soft, inebriating music. Such an elysian feel. Rick could see the golden steps ahead. Designs on the steps were made with the costliest gemstones. What divine regalia! Maa must be there inside, he thought.
Wushlord trotted, acknowledging all the courtesans and courtiers.
Oh, no! Maa was still not in sight. Rick was impatient by now, though he was enamored by the beauties of heaven. Crossing the golden steps, they entered the most beautiful chamber. Here Wushlord asked Rick to climb down. Though Rick did not want to still he obeyed and got off the Unicorn’s back.
Two fairies lifted him and kissed him, it felt like Maa’s kiss but none of them were Maa!
Here Wushlord and Rick were served with all the delicious chocolates and icecreams. Rick put so many lollypops into his pocket. It is then he noticed
‘Pikachu’ wasn’t in his pocket. When did ‘Pikachu’ fall down he didn’t realise. He felt so sorry for ‘Pikachu’!
But the prospect of meeting Maa was so overpowering that he forgot all his sadness. While gorging onto his favorite blueberry ice cream he asked Wushlord when would Maa arrive. Wushlord just nuzzled him and smiled.
The breeze was extraordinarily soothing and fragrant. The tiffany, silken curtains of the chamber floated in the breeze. Outside was the heavenly garden where the night flowering coral jasmine bloomed all over. Swinging on a floral swing from the Ailanthus tree was a beautiful woman dressed in a mauve flowing gown. She seemed to be humming a familiar tune.
Rick recognized her instantly. He left his ice cream, kissed Wushlord on his forehead, and ran towards the swing.
It was Maa of course! Seeing him she stood up. Tears streaked down her cheeks. She lifted him and kissed him fervently. He clung to her and cried.
Then he sat on her lap as she cafune him and he told her all about his journey on Wushlord’s back to meet her. She told him to behave and be a good boy when he went back home. She said she cannot go along with him because God wanted her to train some nymphs to be good mothers. He promised her he would be the most obedient boy and would also not trouble Papa at all.
Both the son and the mother had a wonderful time chatting and he also told her how much Rhea and Papa missed her. The king of the skies, the sun, was getting ready to send his glow on earth. Rick had to return but before that one last kiss and the tightest of hugs to Maa. As Maa kissed him, she wanted him to make a promise that come what may, he would never again leave home without telling anyone and wander like this.
She said she would be terribly upset then and would never meet him. He hugged her and promised that he would never do this again! She kissed him passionately and carried him on her lap to Wushlord. Placing her son on his back, she told Wushlord to protect him but never again bring him there. Wushlord bowed in respect.
There outside the Operation Theatre, Papa, aunt, and Granny were fretting as Rhea stood all in tears.
Just then the surgeon came out and declared that the stitches were done and Rick would be shifted to the cabin. They could meet as soon as he was out of anesthesia.
Rhea kept on saying through her sobs, ” Papa, I didn’t push Rick. He fell on his own while running. I had told him not to run but he didn’t listen. Amir uncle saw it all.”
Her father lifted her in his lap and kissed her, “Your brother is alright now. Don’t cry, my child.”
One hour later, they stood beside Rick’s bed. He opened his eyes and smiled broadly.
His father stooped down and kissed him. He smiled and blinked his eyes in sheer joy.
“How are you feeling my son?”
Rick held his father’s cheeks, bringing his face down, kissed him, and whispered, “I promise to be the most obedient son Papa, I just promised Maa that. She still looks as beautiful!”
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