Image Credit: Anjali Rao
Down the valley by the creek, where the bluebirds always sing merrier than usual, lived a little girl named Korina. She had loving parents, a caring older brother and a sprightly pet dog named Cash. Korina was a kind little soul. She was always ready to help others, be it at school or at home. In the evenings, she would typically go out cycling with Cash running alongside her. They would have a lovely time together. Often, she would carry a ball and then, parking the bicycle at a place they would play “catch.” It was a pretty sight to watch.
One day, Korina had cycled away a long distance. Cash was with her. She parked the cycle next to a tree and sat down, tired, stroking the dog. Looking around, she realized that she had never been to this place before. It seemed unfamiliar. Also, it was somewhat deserted. She decided to take some rest and then be on her way home soon.
As Korina’s eyes wandered, she found an old woman sitting on a bench some distance away. Her back was bent and she had a hooked stick in one hand. Korina found her looking up at the tree, against which she was sitting and sighing. Now, what could be the reason for her sigh, wondered the little girl. But she didn’t have to think for long as the old woman soon looked in her direction and said feebly, “Could you please help me, dear one?” Korina got up and approached her.
“How can I help you?”
“I am an aged person and barely manage to get by. That tree over there is full of ripe berries. It would be great if I could have some of the choicest fruit from that tree. These would go a long way as a snack.”
Compassionate as she was, Korina readily agreed to do her best. As Cash watched, she climbed up the tree and began to pluck the good, ripe berries. But while she was doing so, what should she find but a golden berry! Yes, it was solid gold and gleamed in the evening light. The girl was amazed. Never had she seen such a sight. She plucked it and handed it over to the old woman, along with the other fruit. “I found this in the tree,” she said, pointing to the golden fruit. “I’m sure this will help you a lot.”
The old woman’s eyes lit up and she gave a wide smile. “Thank you,” she mumbled, “You are a kind girl. But now, you must have got dirty climbing that tree. Yonder is a small pond. Take two dips there and you will be clean again. But remember, do not take more than two dips, no matter how refreshing the water.” Korina felt somewhat puzzled by the strange injunction. Whatever could this mean?
However, she had indeed become dirty and so decided to do just as the woman said. She went to the pool and dipped herself but when she stepped out, not only was she clean but her dress had changed to a silver, shimmery one, with tiny crystals sewn all through! Korina gasped and turned to look at the old woman, who was still smiling. “Now, dip one more time and that’s it,” she said. So, the girl dipped again and this time there were silver bracelets on her wrists and a small heart-shaped pendant across her neck. She stared in bewilderment at the ornaments. Cash jumped up and down, wagging his tail, clearly surprised too at her transformation.
Image Credit: Anjali Rao
As Korina approached the old woman to thank her, she suddenly transformed into a beautiful fairy with a long, magic wand. “That is a magic pond, Korina,” she said. “And the dress and jewelry are your reward for being sincere and earnest.” And before the girl could say anything more, the smiling fairy vanished into thin air.
Korina got back on her bicycle. The water must have had other magical qualities, for she was already dry. With Cash running next to her, she made her way back home.
Her family was not a little surprised to learn what had happened. Soon, when she was invited to a birthday party, Korina wore the beautiful dress there, along with the jewelry. Everyone marveled at her and one of her neighbors, Jenny asked her about where she had got the dress. Korina told her the story and Jenny secretly resolved to get a similar dress for herself, in the same way.
Now, Jenny was selfish and greedy as well. And without wasting time, the next day she decided to go look for the pond by the berry tree. After wandering much, she spotted the place and on approaching the tree, she found the old woman sitting on the bench. When she requested Jenny to get her some berries from the tree, the girl hurriedly plucked some fruit. She found a golden berry among them, but hid it in her pocket, giving the woman only the ordinary fruit. The old lady thanked her for her efforts and then suggested that she dip herself in the pool twice to become clean. “Aha!” thought Jenny to herself. “This is my chance.”
The girl dipped herself once and sure enough, she was wearing a beautiful silver dress just like Korina’s. When she dipped a second time, the bracelets and pendant appeared on her body. But Jenny was greedy for more. Who knew what else she might get if she dipped herself one more time? Despite the old woman’s warning, she took another dip. But this time, the new dress had disappeared and her ordinary clothes were in its place! Jenny stared in dismay. The woman was now nowhere to be seen. Jenny guessed that she had disappeared.
“Well, perhaps if I take another dip, the silver dress will return,” said the girl to herself and took a dip. However, the jewels disappeared now, and the girl still had her old dress! Jenny gave a cry of disappointment and dipped again. And what do you think happened this time? Her dress was covered in moss and seaweed. When she dipped again, she started smelling. Jenny now wept bitterly. She dipped herself a few more times in the pond but it was of no good. Things did not change for the better at all.
Image Credit: Anjali Rao
At last, she gave up. Tired, stinking, and covered in seaweed, Jenny returned home. When she checked her pocket, the golden berry was also gone. The girl realized the price of greed. Had she been more giving and courteous, and been content with what she got, she would have had all that she wanted.
And as for Korina, she still has the beautiful dress and jewelry. Though she has not met the fairy in the guise of the old woman again, if she does, she would like to thank her. The magic pond is perhaps still there or maybe it has disappeared, only to appear again at some other place, some other time. All I know is that it is sure to catch off-guard whoever takes the first dip!
The central character is based on Korina Sarkar.