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Hope and Tenderness

[set in Ancient India, at the time of the mighty Raj.]

The young man had spent many years overseas, studying the new sciences of alchemy and medicine, learning various mathematics and even the movements of the stars.

And even though he was born in an exotic land, he was well accepted by the genteel courts of Europe.

He was friends with learned scholars from around the world, and called ‘colleague’ by people of great importance, leaders of countries and strong armies.

He had learned western etiquette well, and how to comport himself in polite society. Yes, he even learned how to dance with nubile young ladies... in short he had done all he needed to belong...

Was he happy ? ... well, he thought so...

And then it happened - that fateful day when his father - yes, the Mighty Raj himself - sent an emissary to call him back, back to his duties: “The country needs you, my son - the crown needs you; it’s time for you to come back, come home...”

And so, being the dutiful son, he did the right thing - with regret he gave up his prestigious apartment in London, wrote good-bye letters to his many friends in Prussia, distributed his lecture duties among a few of his esteemed colleagues ... and sailed back to his motherland.

Oh yes, there was still one more duty that waited for him - marriage - and as any good parent would do they had arranged for his bride to be.

“She’s a good girl” his mother had written “from a good family, well learned, and quite capable too... She’ll make you happy.”

He was too polite to display his feelings openly... so he just nodded to himself, even if a bit curtly, and thought “How can a simple Indian girl compare to the sophisticated beauties of Europe... What does she know of culture...?”

And in that frame of mind he arrived in the land of his ancestors - with great fanfare and celebrations he was greeted - and feted throughout his journey back to the palace.

His good mother was so happy to see him she had tears in her eyes, and his father too...

The hours flew swiftly as they spent the day talking together - him recalling some of his [more acceptable] escapades, while his parent brought him up-to-date on the new advancements they had implemented... and his younger sisters just added gossip.... and all agreed that, for the moment, they should keep away from the many dignitaries who all wanted to gather more information about these ‘foreign lands’.

Days passed in family unity, maybe not as happy as he could have been, but certainly not unhappy.

And even though he would not forget Europe, he learned to remember the rural beauty of his land... gone were the stiff collar-and-ties of a proper gentleman, now replaced by the robes of his culture...[and, if he was to be truthful, they were a lot more comfortable, too]

And now the fateful day arrived - his wedding day.

Actually the celebration had been going on for ten days already, but today would be the main ceremony - today, for the first time, he would meet the girl - no, the woman - who will share the rest of his life.

Was he apprehensive ? More than he wanted to admit.

His cousins had been teasing him mercilessly, with horrible tales of her crooked teeth, squint eyes, and shaggy hair... Surely his own mother would not have chosen such a one... would she ?

And now here he sits on a small cushion, facing the holy sacred fire, while the old Brahmin chants on, performing one of the most ancient ceremonies - one of union and progeny.... Here he sits wondering if he is ready for this new beginning, and what the future may bring ...

So focused was he that he didn’t pay attention... until the whole congregation grew quiet.

All went still, and in that stillness he heard her walk closer and closer...until she was standing there, right there, next to him...

And for the first time he saw the one that would be his wife, the one that would share his dreams, that would support him... the one with whom he will create a family together...

Oh, how to describe her - skin like soft honey, long, dark hair, lustrous but perfectly coiffed, supple of posture but standing confident in her femininity... and her lips...beyond description...

But most of all it was her eyes, shining bright, as if they had a hidden light in them… and the way she looked at him… looking and truly seeing him, and not some expected prince, as if she already knew the man inside… and recognized the value within…

That’s when everything changed – when all confusion fell away, all posturing gone, all the learned behaviors dissolved… and he stood before her… just as himself, and no other.

Unknown to him he had stood when she arrived, and his hand - of its own volition - reached out to her... even as she shyly looked down, and reached out to him, too...

And as they touched he knew her to be even more than he could ever have aspired to... and in that moment he fervently hoped and desired for a long, long life - that he may have all the time possible to spend with her.

He felt the change within him - gone was the young man, seeking recognition among scholars, reaching for power in foreign lands... gone were the postures and habits of others’ making... gone was the time of youth and exploration... for now he was awake, and knew himself a man [and all because she was standing there, next to him]

“Welcome home” he heard the wind say ...

“I have arrived” he replied ...

And so a new dynasty emerged - a new era of hope...and yes, tenderness - and of a life well lived...

[what a lucky young man, to have found a jewel so precious that would awaken his wisdom... ]

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