The Most Precious Thing

Image Credit: Anjali Rao

Have you ever wondered what the most precious thing is in the whole world? Well, this story is about that. And a girl named Sanaya. So, settle in and let me tell you about it.

In the town of Gemsland, there lived a lovely little girl named Sanaya. She loved to go out, make friends and help others. But the one thing that she enjoyed the most was reading. Yes, she read fantasy books, encyclopedias, mystery, adventure, and so on. And in her leisure, she would often climb a tree and read a book there. She could savour the details there undisturbed, which she liked very much. Now, there was a forest that bordered the town. And though Gemsland had quite a few trees, Sanaya would at times go into the woods with a book and perch herself on a branch and read. There was nothing like reading amidst nature and she absolutely loved it.

The town was part of a large kingdom ruled by a good and kind King. However, of late the King had  grown sad and mournful. It was because his only child, the little Prince had fallen ill and showed no signs of recovery. Physicians came from far and wide but their medicines were of little help. Then, one night the Queen had a dream in which a white dove appeared. “Your son will get well,” it said, “if you touch his forehead with a box containing the most precious thing on earth.” The next morning, the Queen narrated her dream to the King. He immediately made it known throughout the kingdom that whoever could bring the most precious thing and cure his son would get half the kingdom.

Soon, many began to flock to the palace with boxes of various sizes. Some brought gold and silver, while others arrived with precious stones. There were even expensive silken handkerchiefs and exquisite artifacts. The King and Queen put each of these boxes in contact with their son’s forehead but alas! The situation remained the same. The little boy’s fever did not subside and he remained in bed. News of this reached Gemsland too and Sanaya heard about it. However, she was also at a loss to figure out how to cure the Prince.

One morning, late in the day when Sanaya was done with her work she took a book and went into the woods. As usual, she climbed up a tree and seated herself comfortably to read. However, as she was quite tired she had read no more than a few pages when she fell fast asleep. But soon, she found herself awoken by sounds of loud neighing and whimpering. Sanaya rubbed her eyes and looked around. Close to the nearby lake in the forest, what should she see but a unicorn! It was white and majestic with a gleaming horn on its forehead. But it was fretting a lot and neighing from time to time. The girl climbed down from the tree and gingerly walked up to it. The animal stopped neighing for a bit when it saw her approaching.

“Is something the matter? Can I help in any way?” said the little girl.

The unicorn winced, “There’s a thorn stuck underneath my right hoof, at the front. And I cannot get it out. That’s so painful!”

“Worry not,” Sanaya said gently, “Let me pull it out for you.”

She asked the unicorn to sit and then took the injured hoof in her hand and pulled out the thorn deftly. The animal gave a cry of relief.  Then the girl fetched a few leaves, dabbed them in the water of the lake and nursed the hoof.  Soon, the animal’s leg was alright and it was feeling better.

“You have helped me so much,” said the unicorn. “What can I do for you in return?”

Image Credit: Anjali Rao

Sanaya smiled.  “I like helping others and you don’t have to give me anything in return. However, the little Prince in our land has long been ailing and it is believed that only a box of the most precious thing on earth can save him. I only wish I knew what it was and could take it to him.”

The animal thought for a while. “There is a glass mountain nearby on top of which lives a wise man, a sage. No ordinary animal can climb the glass mountain as they are sure to slip and fall. But I can go up on it. I can take you to the wise man and he may help.”

Sanaya was delighted. She seated herself on the unicorn and off they rode to the glass mountain. Made of smooth glass with tall, sharp spikes at the edges, the mountain soon towered in front of them. The girl looked on in amazement. How on earth was an animal supposed to ride up on such a smooth surface? But the unicorn galloped along and made it seem like a breeze.

At last, when they reached the top a small hut could be seen with the sage seated outside in meditation. Sanaya went up to him. The man opened his eyes and greeted her. “What makes you visit my humble abode, dear one?” he said.  The girl told him about the little Prince and how she wanted to take a box of the most precious thing in the world to him. “Wait a minute,” said the sage and went into his hut. He soon emerged with a small wooden box.

“This is the answer to the solution.” And the wise man handed Sanaya the box.

When she gave him a puzzled look, he whispered something in her ear. Immediately, the girl nodded and smiled in acknowledgement. She thanked the sage and went back to the unicorn with the box. And they rode down the glass mountain.

At the edge of the woods, Sanaya parted from the unicorn.  She hugged and thanked it, and then returned home.

The next day, Sanaya put on her best clothes and set out to the palace with the box.  The guards initially refused to let her in. How could a child bring the most precious thing to cure the prince when so many, including noblemen had failed? But the girl stood her ground and requested to see the King and Queen. When the King heard of it, he commanded that she be brought before him. “Let us try out her box, like we have with the others,” he said to the Queen. So they took Sanaya’s little wooden box and touched it on the forehead of the Prince lying in bed. And lo behold, he turned and his face lit up with a smile! A few moments later, he sat up and stretched his arms. The long-drawn fever was gone and his body temperature returned to normal. The King and Queen were overjoyed and announced a daylong celebration throughout the kingdom. A grand feast was also planned at the palace.

Image Credit: Anjali Rao

But the King was curious to know what the box contained and so he opened it in court, in Sanaya’s presence. As all the ministers and courtiers looked on in anticipation, the lid was taken off and the box turned upside down. However, nothing emerged from within! The King looked at the girl in surprise and demanded an explanation. How could the most precious thing in the world be nothing?

Now, it was Sanaya’s turn to smile. “Your majesty,” she said. “It may appear that the box contains nothing. But that isn’t really the case.”

The court listened in spellbound silence.

“The box contains air, your Highness, without which no living being – plant, human or animal can survive. It is the primary cause of us being alive. And so, this is the most precious thing on earth.”

The King clapped at the answer and the courtiers broke out in cheer. Sanaya was invited to the feast and as promised, the King gave her half his kingdom. And though her life turned into one of great luxury she never forgot her friend, the unicorn and the help from the sage. Every now and then, she paid a visit to the woods to meet them and took with her the choicest food.  And most of all, she was thankful for learning the value of the most precious thing in the world, for it had changed her life forever.

***

      The central character is based on Sanaya Kaushal.

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