Sunaina, the young princess of Bhringpuri is very curious. One day she finds a new device. Join her as she becomes the time travelling Princess.
First published in May 2016
Once upon a time in a small kingdom called Bhringpuri, there lived a princess called Sunaina. She was taught by the best tutors a king could afford and loved her lessons. She would run down to the library at the appointed hour, waiting for her tutor to arrive so they could start her lesson.
Out of all her tutors, she loved Mohammed sir the best. He was an old, wrinkled man with a smile which lit up his whole face like the winter sun. He taught her mathematics and botany. They would take long walks in the palace gardens where he would point out different plants and Sunaina would try to name them. He also told her of distant places, places even farther than Britain.
She also liked Miss Thorne, her British governess, the only Britisher in the entire kingdom. She kept insisting to King Chandaka, Sunaina’s father, that she was the only one that Sunaina needed.
“Spending time with withered old fools is not what a young lady should be doing”, she used to say. However, the king himself had been schooled by Mohammed and did not want his daughter to miss out on his infinite knowledge.
Miss Thorne taught Sunaina geography, literature, foreign languages and history. Sunaina hated history. She did not understand why people had to keep studying the past when everything in it was long dead and gone.
One day, when she had already done her algebra homework, she decided to look into her father’s court. She loved going there and simply observing the scores of people, ordinary citizens and exotic visitors alike, who sought an audience with the king.
Presently, she found herself staring at an official looking British man holding a scroll. He was standing straight with his back stiff, observing the court’s proceedings with only a mild interest. He stood among the king’s ministers, waiting for his turn to present.
In the other corner of the vast hall, she saw an old man partly hidden in the shadows of the rich curtains. Beside him, she saw a huge metal orb covered in dials and knobs. It rested on three clunky metal legs. She was still staring at this object when she noticed the British man walking up to the dais.
He straightened his shoulders and stretched out the scroll in front of himself. He announced Britain’s intention of associating with the traders of Bhringpuri and said that the British would increase the opportunities for the people of Bhringpuri and that they would become richer. His speech impressed the ministers and they seemed ready to accept his terms and conditions at that very moment.
However, the king was a wise and patient man. He thanked the man for his offer and asked for some time to think about this decision. Sunaina, on the other hand, had already lost interest in the discussion and was about to return to her room when she saw the man in the shadows move out. Two guards wheeled the metal object to the front.
He was a tall, skinny old man in a white kurta-pyjama and a shawl draped around his shoulders. He moved with great effort but his eyes were twinkling with the energy of the young. “Your highness”, he said. “My name is Tayib Madan and I am a professor at the Royal University. Here I have an extraordinary machine. It can show you the mysteries of the past, indeed, and even take you to the future! I have worked on it tirelessly for years. Travelling across countries is easy. Anybody can do it. With this device, however, you can travel through time! I hope you accept this as a gift, your highness.”
The king raised his bushy eyebrows. He was not convinced of these tall claims. “Show me”, he said.
“Why yes your majesty. Of course I will show you. There is just one problem; it is not quite complete yet. I hoped you would fund my research. I wanted to make use of the palace laboratory as I am very close to finishing this and I am sure I will in a few months. In fact, I have sent a letter to my future self and have told myself to turn up in court on this very day at 12 noon. It is almost 12 now. I should arrive here any minute”, Tayib said.
The entire court waited, their breath caught in the back of their throats. They waited for ten minutes and then waited for an hour but no one came. One of the ministers became irate and dismissed the professor’s invention as pure nonsense. King Chandaka stopped him, not wanting the professor to face such humiliation. He thanked the professor for his presentation and asked the guards to take the time machine to the storage room.
He retreated to his room and Sunaina followed. She wanted to discuss what she had just seen with her father. Manohar, the treasurer was standing in front of the king’s chambers. “I need to discuss the trade agreement with you, sire”, he said.
“Not now. I need to think about it”, he replied. Sunaina walked up to him and smiled her widest smile. “Hello, Sunaina! I shall tell you a story at night. Right now, I have to work. I hope you understand. Now, off you go!” he said and ruffled her hair.
Sunaina did not like this one bit. He always used to make time for her. She decided to go and look at the time machine up close, so she hurried to the storage room.
This room was filled with strange artefacts from faraway kingdoms. There were paintings of kings and queens and maps big enough to cover the wall. She saw the time machine in the very centre of the room. The time machine was made of steel and it was the shiniest thing she had ever seen. It had a small door and was covered in elaborate dials and switches. She could not make sense of any of them. She opened the door and looked inside. It had one seat facing a panel with more knobs and dials.
She went inside and closed the door behind her. She pressed a purple button on the console. It was the biggest one there. As soon as she did this, the machine started shaking. Smoke poured in from above. She screamed but there was no one to hear.
Suddenly someone pulled open the door and dragged her outside. “That would have been the death of you, little girl!”, Tayib said. He looked even older now. Sunaina was surprised to see him there, but not as surprised as she was at looking around to see another time machine.
This one was quite plain and looked like a simple wooden box. It was long enough to hold one person and the only extraordinary detail about it was the small panel with knobs and switches in the front.
Tayib glanced at his watch and said, “Oh I got the time right. No wait, I was late by an hour or so. Messed up the location though. Where is this, little girl? I was supposed to show up in the king’s court.”
Sunaina understood what had happened and her eyes widened with excitement. “So you really can travel in time!”, she exclaimed.
“Of course I can, it just took me a few years after presenting to the king to do it. I never should have been so excited. I should have waited. Well, the past is the past, eh, little girl? Do you want to travel in the time machine?”
Sunaina nodded yes. She could not wait to have an adventure of her own, just like the characters in her father’s stories. They stepped into the time machine together. Tayib pressed a few knobs, flicked a few switches and off they went.
When the machine finally stopped moving, Sunaina stepped out and saw that they were underneath a staircase. She stepped out and saw many boys wearing identical clothes playing in the corridors, the stairs and even on the ground which lay in front. She rushed back before anyone spotted her. Or so she thought. She went back to the time machine but Tayib had simply vanished. She was now alone in a strange time, her only companion had vanished and she didn’t know what to do. So she stared intensely at nothing in particular when suddenly, a boy walked right underneath the staircase.
“Hah. I knew I saw something. Whoa. Where did you even come from? Why are you dressed up like this? Is your school having a fancy dress competition?”
“I..uh..yes. That is the reason I am dressed up like this. I am a princess. And I am lost. Where am I?”
“Oh. This is Bhringpuri.”
“Do you know what happened to King Chandaka? He had a daughter too. Have you heard of them?”
“Yes! King Chandaka was very wise. He refused to trade with the British. His daughter Sunaina was his trusted advisor and she even ruled for some time after his death.”
“Why was he wise to not trade with the British?”
“Haven’t you studied history at all? Don’t you know that India was a colony of the British?”
“Well, even for a pretend princess you sure are stupid. Stop your scowling. It means that the British ruled over India. They ruled us for 200 years. They used up our resources and made our people their servants. There were some kings like King Chandaka who refused to trade with them. They remained free till the very end until they joined up with the other states to form India.”
“Yes. Whoa. At least now you know this. Now I have to go. My class is about to start. Find your way out of here, princess.”
“Thank you. What is your name?” she said but he had already left.
A few seconds later, he came back, smiled and said, “The name’s Rohan” and rushed off again.
Tayib chose this moment to appear out of the shadows.
“Do you see, little princess? You have the power to change the course of history. We must hurry now. You know what you must do when you get back.”
Tayib dropped her off in her year and left for his own. She ran to her father’s room.
She knocked loudly and her father came out, looking very concerned.
“What happened Sunaina? Why do you look so serious?”
“Father, I have to talk to you about something very important” she replied and walked inside.
She did not hate history all that much anymore.