I am bored of making drawings !', My seven year old daughter complained, tossing two colorful illustrations on my study table. 'That is a tree. A fig tree', she explained. ' And that is a Princess. The tree is bored ...like me ', she giggled.
'Why do we get bored ?' , she asked after a pause.
'Why don't we ask that question to the Princess?' , I suggested.
The Fig tree was bored.
It was the only tree in the planet. It was a small planet – the planet Omega three. One could walk across the entire planet in just one day!
It had been forty two days since the little princess had walked past the big Fig tree.
‘Good morning dear Fig tree!’, the princess would say every morning as she walked past the tree. Her sweet voice would sound like a melodious wind chime.
‘Good morning dear princess!’, the Fig tree would rustle back.
‘Is there anyone else in this planet? Other than you that is …’ , the Fig tree had asked the princess once.
‘Of course!’, the princess had replied, ‘ There are several others !! ’
‘And there is a big mountain, that goes right through the cloud’, the princess said excitedly,’ They say that you can see things beyond this planet if you get to the top ...’ , her eyes had widened ‘ I am going to climb that mountain today’, she had said.
But that was forty two days ago. The Fig tree had not seen the princess since then.
‘See things beyond the planet … ’, the Fig tree had whispered. The princess had nodded, her eyes gleaming with excitement. ‘What use is that to me … ’, the tree rustled calmly ‘The sun, the wind, the earth – all I need is right here’
‘Don’t you feel bored’, the princess sounded sympathetic, ‘You cannot even move…’, she felt sad for the poor tree.
‘Bored?, how does that feel ? ’, the tree had asked.
‘You really don’t know that!’, the princess had exclaimed ‘ there are a million ways to get bored …’
‘Really?’, the tree swayed gently, ‘ Does it feel good to be bored ?’
‘No, not really ...’, the princess answered uncomfortably. ‘They say that once you see the things beyond this planet …’ the princess continued after a pause.
‘From the top on the big mountain, that goes right through the cloud?’, the tree suggested . The princess nodded.
‘Yes that mountain that I am going to climb today ... they say that once you see the things beyond this planet, you don’t get bored anymore!’
‘Just wait for me, I will be back soon’, those were her last words before she disappeared around the horizon.
The tree felt uncomfortable. It had never waited for anything. A strange feeling started to bubble up its trunk. The feeling became worse as the tree started counting days, waiting for the princess to come back.
‘Perhaps this is how it feels to be bored…’, the tree rustled restlessly, craning its branches to look beyond the horizon as it waited for the princess to come back.
Forty two days passed; there were no signs of the Princess.
It was the forty third day when the fig tree heard a voice.
‘Hi there!, the sweet voice sounded like a melodious wind chime.
The fig tree had been so busy scanning the horizon that it could not hear the voice amidst endless rustling of its leaves. ‘Hi there ...’ , the voice came again.
‘Little Princess?’, the tree swayed in excitement. Then the tree noticed that the voice was coming from a small daisy plant. The plant had a beautiful purple flower. More beautiful than any flower it had ever seen.
‘Yes it is me ...’, the sweet voice sounded like a melodious wind chime.
‘You look so … ‘, the fig tree could not hide its excitement ‘so … different’
‘I know!’ , the purple daisy giggled. ‘Do you want to know what happened on the top on the big mountain?’, the daisy asked.
‘Whoa! It is indeed big!!’, the princess stood at the foot of the towering mountain, whose peak was obscured by the clouds.
‘You can see things beyond this planet if you get to the top ...’ , she recalled what others had said.
‘Have you been there?’, she had asked. She had not got any response.
‘Once you reach there, you don’t come back … ’, she had heard others say in hushed tones. But the princess had made up her mind. She was not going to turn back.
There were several paths leading to the mountain, some old and dusty, some new and clean, some paved and smooth, some rocky and jagged.
One had golden tiles that said ‘This is the only path’. Right next to it was a sandy path. It had a sign which said the same - ‘This is the only path!'
‘How can both of them be the only path when I can see so many paths here’, the princess giggled.
Then there was a sign planted right in the middle of bushes surrounding the mountain. ‘There is no path’, it said. Then there was was another old dusty way that divided into several tracks. ’Choose any path’, it said.
‘Why all this fuss?’ The princess wondered ‘Aren’t they all pointing towards the mountain?’
She picked a less trodden grassy path and hopped along. The big mountain grew bigger and bigger as she approached it. And then she was there, right where the mountain started. It was indeed very steep. Like a looming wall that went straight up and into the clouds.
She reached out her arm to touch it.
‘Stop!’ , someone yelled from above , ‘STOP !’
A rope ladder was hanging along the side of the mountain. The ladder was hidden by a rocky bend, which is why the princess had not noticed it earlier. The ladder had golden rungs and went high, high up - disappearing into the clouds!
There was a man standing on a ledge next to the ladder. The princess found a foothold and hauled herself on the ledge. The man walked hurriedly towards her.
‘Stop! I have a question’, the main said impatiently. The man seemed distracted as he glanced at the princess and then at the rope ladder, shuffling restlessly on his feet.
‘What is this thing?’, he said , pointing at the ladder.
‘Looks like a rope ladder to me, I … ’, the princess replied.
‘Do you know anything more about it?’ the man interrupted the princess.
‘It goes all the way to the top of the mountain … I think”, the princess replied, ‘They say that you can see things beyond this planet if you get to the top’. The man stood there staring at her sifting on his feet.
‘Do you know anything about it’, the princess asked the man.
‘No I don’t – I am just curious’, he replied shrugging his shoulders. ‘I am sorry, I need to go … have to take my dog out for a walk ...’ he said abruptly then turned and walked away, disappearing around the bend of the mountain.
There was a narrow rocky path that wound along the side of the mountain, leading to another ledge high above her. There were purple daisies scattered along the path.
The princess loved purple daisies. She climbed up the narrow rocky path.
The princess was tired when she reached the second ledge. She sat down on a clump of soft moss. Cool breeze rushed through her hair as tiny droplets of sweat disappeared from her forehead. She closed her eyes.
‘Pssst...’, came a voice from just under the ledge, ‘Psst .. you there …’
The princess opened her eyes and peered down the ledge. She was surprised to see the rope ladder with the golden rungs hanging a few yards away! About twenty feet below her, there was a ridge.
The narrow ridge went along the mountain and just behind the ladder, a man was standing with a magnifying glass in one hand and a measuring tape in the other.
‘Hey, you … can you measure the width of the rope ladder up there?’, he asked, squinting his eyes as he looked up.
‘My calculations show that the width should be 17 and two third inches, he flashed a big smile.
‘Why doesn’t he just climb up the stairs and measure it himself?’, she wondered. But she was too polite to ask.
Suddenly, the man whipped out the measuring tape and started measuring the dimensions of the ladder that was hanging in front of him. Once, Twice and Thrice. ‘17 and a half inch’, he seemed pleased.
He then pulled out a note book from his pocket, scribbled something, pulled a book from his other pocket, opened up a folded page, underlined a paragraph with a pencil. He squinted and squirmed, closed his eyes, took a deep breath and opened his eyes.
‘Yes I was right - the width should be exactly 17 and two third inches over that ledge – all the way to the top of the mountain. I am absolutely certain about it! ’
‘You seem to be an expert on rope ladders!’, the princess was impressed.
The man smiled and shrugged his shoulders, feigning modesty,’ And also on the ways to climb it, if I may add’, his voice was full of passion,‘ The height between the steps, what shoes need to be worn to climb, the exact composition of gold that is used in the rungs – and the carvings in the golden rungs …’, he paused to catch his breath, ‘The carvings on the golden rung are very important !’
‘How long have you studied about the ladder’, the princess asked innocently.
‘Forty two years’, the man replied, beaming with pride.
‘Don’t you feel like climbing the ladder … sometimes?’
‘It is much better to be an expert than to try things out’, the man seemed offended, as he changed his tone. He started to measure the width of the ladder once again, ignoring the princess completely. Once, twice, thrice, ‘17and a half inch’, he remarked loudly and noted something down in his diary.
The narrow rocky path that wound along the side of the mountain, led to another ledge far above. There were even more purple daisies scattered along the path.
The princess loved purple daisies. She climbed up the narrow rocky path.
“I love this path’, the princess hummed as she climbed up. The air had becoming very refreshing and the view was magnificent. She hopped along the path, pausing to kiss a purple daisy now and then.
As she approached the third ledge, she noticed that the rope ladder with the golden rungs again. It was suspended along the side of the mountain, just next to the ledge.
There was a man on the ladder! He was climbing up slowly, his eyes fixed high above, where the ladder disappeared into the clouds. Occasionally, he would glance down the ladder, pause, look up again and then continue climbing up.
‘Hello!’, the princess chirped, hopping up on the ledge. The man stopped in his ascent and smiled at the princess.
‘Is the width of that ladder 17and two third inches up here?, the princess chirped,‘ I had met a man down there who said it would be’, she smiled.
‘I don’t know … and it does not matter, my dear’, he said kindly.
‘How about the carvings on the rungs? That man had said that the carvings on the rung were very important… ’
‘It doesn’t either. You just use the carvings as a foothold and move on …’
‘So what is it that matters?’, the princess was curious.
‘That you just keep climbing. Have focus and climb.’
The princess gave the man a polite smile. Climbing the ladder seemed to be far more serious affair and less fun than the path she had discovered on her own.
‘How about the beautiful daisies ? can you see them while you climb the ladder ?.. and the lovely breeze ? and the magnificent view …? , she asked
‘All that do not matter anything to me ..’ , the man replied. The little princes felt sorry for the poor man.
‘Why do you look down the stairs once in a while?’, the princess wanted to change the topic,’ Are you looking for someone?’
The man blushed. ’You saw me doing that?’, he said with a slight hint of embarrassment in his voice, ’It is a bad habit..’, he paused , ‘ … once in a while I get tempted to check how high have I climbed … how far ahead from other people in the ladder ..’
‘Did you see anyone else climbing the ladder ...’, He mumbled, half apologetically.
The princess had been busy enjoying the daisies, the cool breeze, and the view on her way up. She had not paid any attention to the ladder and who all were climbing it. But she did not want to disappoint the man. She shook her head.
‘Thanks! I should focus on the climb now …’, the man smiled and resumed his ascent.
The narrow rocky path that wound along the side of the mountain, led to another ledge far above. There were so many purple daisies scattered along the path that the princess had to be careful to not tread on one!
The princess was engulfed by a warm stillness as she pulled herself up the fourth ledge. She could almost see the entire planet from here! It was indeed a small planet. She could see the Fig tree right around the horizon.
She recalled her conversation with the Fig tree. ‘Why do we get bored?’ She had actually forgotten about the question totally. The daisies, the wind and the view had been so engaging.
The princess suddenly noticed the outline of a familiar looking figure perched on the side of the cliff. Just beside the figure was an anchor which held the top rung of the rope ladder that she had been seeing now-and-then all along her climb.
‘Did you get your answer, dear?’, came a soothing voice. It seemed to the princess that she had known this person forever.
‘Isn’t it funny, I had totally forgotten about the question!’, she giggled, ‘ I wanted to find out why does one get bored?’
‘And looks like you have found out the answer’, the voice had the calmness of the deepest ocean. The princess nodded.
She had found the answer not because of curiosity, like the man she had met at the bottom of the mountain.
Or because of intellectual craving, like the man measuring the rope ladder.
Nor because of her focus about seeking like the man climbing up the ladder.
The answer had come to her as she played with the daisies along the way!
‘You do love daisies, don’t you?’, the soothing voice came again.
‘More than anything else in this world!’, the princess chirped.
‘Would you like to be one?’
‘So did you climb further up? all the way to the peak?, the Fig tree asked.
The purple daisy fluttered gently in the breeze. ‘That is the funny part’, she giggled, ‘I found out that the peak was never really there!’
‘So ... so what is there beyond the clouds?’, asked the tree.
The beautiful daisy spread her petals in a beautiful smile that made the time stand still.
‘All that we see here and now’
The tree smiled. It never felt bored ever again.
‘Who was the person that you met there near the top of the mountain?’, the Fig tree had asked the daisy , many, many days later.
‘I am pretty sure that it was me’, the daisy had replied.
This story is a humble tribute to Antoine de Saint-Exupey's Little Prince, the timeless children's story suitable for all grown ups