Grapes Are Sour

By Shobha Diwakar

As the wind howled and trees bowed down to the mighty wail, the birds twittered fiercely, flapped their tiny wings even as they spread them cautiously to shield the little birdies tucked warmly inside. After a while, it was calm once again as the sky drowned with the enveloping clouds scattered and dispersed. A few stars blinked and receded into the background even as the moon majestically strode higher and higher into the vast expanse and swelled with pride, inspecting the earth beneath. Everything seemed serene; the tranquil surroundings filled it with  mirth. Somewhere in his majestic palace sat the crown prince along with his queen mother and the princess waiting to be crowned. A desperate retinue frantically waited outside to sneak and gratify their tempestuous hunger to catch a glimpse of the adoring trio… reason was there were countless lotteries to be won and distributed, and everyone thought he was going to be the lucky winner. Nothing but chaos followed.

As the night deepened and the sturdy wind now perplexed whether it should carry the weight of the dust laden palace or wait for another day swept past the windows, and before long, rose hastily and sped away to screen behind the tall bushes (a little further away from the ‘glass palace’), swaying them (the bushes), gently to let them fall asleep. It rested there awhile and breathed a sigh of relief. It was a much- needed rest after its long, long journey, sweeping away the filth and reckless cankering of the past few years that had loaded it with piles and piles of garbage.  However, it made no attempt to cleanse the adjacent environment of the palace. Probably the wind thought, ‘There are some places that need no cleansing because it makes no difference to its inhabitants. An unsoiled environment might pollute their otherwise, shrewd and charming singularities.’  Reflecting upon this supposition, now relaxed, it ‘reluctantly’ crept away to rest upon an old, old banyan tree, ruefully cut down and deprived of its gracious blooming branches by thoughtless people. ‘It is surprising,’ sighed the wind, ‘ how man can be so inhuman and not see the gashing wounds inflicted so heartlessly upon this ancient tree that housed so many little birds and provided them shelter.’ So saying it caressed it gently so as not to hurt the gaping wounds and after a while rolled itself up snugly to take a nap within its stubby arms.

Meanwhile, far away in the palace some commotion a brew and chased away the sleepy wind back to the  filthy surroundings of the palace. It shuddered and shrank at the hideous accusations hurled at one another. ‘Oh! Ho! Raged the wind sourly at the livid and harsh accusations, so here is why the accompanying wind had deserted the palace. Let them brook their own doings and erect their own brusque, brittle ramparts, evading reality. Their age- old secrets are stripped; their so- called loyalty is bemoaning its fissures; its contemplative enamor.  Why should I appease them with my cool breeze?’ Saying so, the wind rapidly spread its vast wings, and sped away like a ghost out of the blue, and did not rest until it perceived a vineyard laden with the choicest grapes longing to be plucked and devoured.

The tired wind gasping for breath thought it best to relax amidst the mouth- watering grapes. It settled comfortably on a strong and sturdy twining line and sang itself a lullaby until it fell asleep. Oh! Ho! It was not long before the wind felt two blazing eyes glaring fiercely at it. It woke up with a start, ‘Why are you hanging out late in my premises? Why are you scheming to overshadow me? Don’t you know I am monarch of all I survey?’ The wind was taken aback. It pretended not to have heard the indecent mocking hoot of the owl that had cunningly perched itself in these surroundings for years and years and years until the wind could count the years no longer and so it yawned and stretched, gave it a dainty wink and fell asleep once again.  As night stole the day, the owl scooted off for its nightly meal; of course, he would spend time hunting for a mouse or a snake to pacify his knawing hunger. The wind realized it was not its cup of joy to rest in a contaminated and rugged area occupied by none other than an  impertinent, manner less owl who knew nothing about courtesy and so promptly it rose, shook its glistening wings and dashed away. It floated graciously high into the mountains, then dived and circled around it until once again it found itself near the disgruntled palace. ‘Oh, no,’ it wailed and suddenly became violent; it thrashed the trees; it raised a storm and banged the glass windows that shrieked with the scattered pieces of glass and rushed out to shelter itself from its own nasty temper. It raced and scampered into the wild forest where it found peace amongst the green hue of the enchanting foliage.  Tired and shrunk of its strength it softly curdled into a deep slumber until the glaring rays of the sun fell upon it and shook it off its sleep.

Once again, it swept away but not before it had gathered the lingering perfume of the pretty trees of the forest that tempted it to roost on its branches and so it swung to and fro until it spied an orchard and daintily settled itself on a strapping branch that could hold its weight. Not before long, the peace was shattered. A monkey sitting up and munching ripe mangoes was haughtily roving about his ancestors. Mankind had evolved from his dynasty hence all others were his ‘tools.’ Believe it or not, the wind became interested in the story and so gave him (the monkey), a patient hearing. The winding tale seemed to have no end amidst an uproar of how excellent his clan was and how he had led them into forming small groups of robust ones that could lead the band and rise to the occasion when needed. Just when each of the attendants was whisking his moustache and raising his arms in unity, from nowhere in particular a frog croaked and interrupted the congregation. Silence enveloped and seemed to last for long… the wind tired of lingering to listen any further decided it was time to fly off to a more amiable corner… so it hastily rose and sailed away.

Halt! What did it perceive on its way out? A fox encroaching stealthily upon the scene was demanding that the monkeys either disperse or offer it a juicy mango. The ‘leader’ monkey sneered… ‘How dare you invade upon my privacy? How dare you brag and expel me from my perch? Get off my premises before I let loose my team of monkeys to hound you.’ The lonely, hungry fox had no choice, it pleaded, ‘Just give me a mango and I’ll scoot. I am hungry.’ The ambitious and powerful monkey stamped his tail and refused. The fox licked his ‘sweating tongue’ ‘OK, don’t squeal and ‘try’ to frighten me I know those mangoes are sour.’ Saying so, the fox raced off to hunt for food elsewhere.

Watching this scenario the wind raced out of sight. It sailed, it danced, it galloped, and it rested until finally it turned around to steal a last glance of the ‘glass palace.’ Aha! What did it witness? A round table conference still headed by the crowned queen, on the left and right throne sat the crown prince and the princess  as before followed by other superiors, nagging and interrupting. The table was laden with green and black grapes in beautifully carved glass bowls that shone with golden hue… giving it a real stately effect. They all picked and chose a grape to suck as discussions resumed. After what seemed an hour the meeting dispersed. No one appeared to be contented. Some screwed up their nose, others looked dejected and yet others bowed down to the throne and decided it was time to take leave. No one seemed to have liked the grapes set before him / her. As the wind hung outside it could hear the chirps of the departing people. ‘How could you eat those sour grapes?’

The wind did not falter, it had no wish to stay there for a minute longer… it was aware that human beings would never co ordinate and find solutions on any problems amicably. If anyone did try to solve them, there would always be a clog in the wheel in the hope that it would raise his / her (or their) prestige and power over others. The limelight would project their disgruntled ego. The wind hurriedly raised itself having realized that it had no chance of survival in such a repugnant milieu. It floated away hastily and happily singing to itself… ‘Grapes are sour, grapes are sour,’ and as it flew it danced and swung from tree to tree until finally it calmed down and decided to rest its tired wings on an old, old, banyan tree once again, which opened its arms and cuddled it to sleep.

This is a work of fiction. Resemblance to any person living or dead is a mere coincidence.

About the Authors:

Dr. Shobha Diwakar lives in Jabalpur, India and retired as the head of English department at C.P. Mahila Mahavidhyalaya, Jabalpur. She has published many research papers, stories, poems and essays in national, international and online journals. She contributes regularly to writerslifeline and Indian Periodical. 

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