The Portrait

    “How much it would cost?” Sheetal asked.
    “Forty Thousand Only!” came the response from the salesman. “Isn’t it too much for this portrait?” Sheetal tried to negotiate. “You can buy some other portrait, madam. This one is special.”
     “What’s so special about this one?” she couldn’t take eyes of the green eyes of the man in the portrait.
    “Do you know Raja Kishan Singh of Rajgarh?”
    “Heard about him!”
     “Well, this is his portrait.”
    “So what? Aren’t their other King’s Portraits in this world? What’s so special about it?”
    “There will be many such portraits, Madam. Yet you cannot take your eyes off this one. Isn’t it?” The smart salesman replied. “Ok. Let me tell you his story. Maybe then the price will be justified.”
    “Ok.” Sheetal had all the time in the world. She had not much to do in the new city on a weekend. She recently shifted to Jaipur. Being an orphan she was a very bright child to start off. After excelling in academics, she excelled in her business too. But since childhood, her love for travel brought her to the City of her dreams, Jaipur. Being a spinster by choice she was enjoying all the freedom she was getting. She bought a nice big house on the city road and every weekend she started strolling around the city center, looking for good interiors to decorate her house.
    “Please continue,” Sheetal was ready to listen to the King’s story.
    The salesman ordered tea for Sheetal. He took a chair himself and started.
    “This portrait is approximately 400 years old. In 1608, there was Raja Kishan Singh ruling this land. The legend says he was one of the noblest kings Rajgarh ever had. One day an old lady wanted to meet the King desperately. Listening to all the noise she created with the guards outside the castle, pradhanji Sunandan called the lady inside.
    She looked really old. With a heavy bag on her back, she stood in front of Pradhanji Sunandan. Pradhanji asked her, “Why are you here? Why were you creating such a noise outside the castle?”
    The lady replied, “I want to meet Rajaji.”
     “What for?” came the response.
    “I am going to die soon, Pradhanji. I am not keeping well in the last few months. And I know my end is very near. My last wish is to draw Rajaji’s portrait and gift it to him.”
    Hearing this, Raja Kishan Singh came out in the council area. Knowing his nature Pradhanji was sure that Rajaji will help the lady fulfill her dream.
    Pradhanji asked her, “You could have asked for many other things from our most kind Rajaji. You could have asked for food, for shelter for your remaining life. Why a portrait?”
    “After I am gone, Rajaji should remember me in some way. And the only way is by seeing his own portrait painted by me.”
     Before Pradhanji could say anything more, Rajaji stopped him and told the lady to complete her wish. That evening the lady painted one of her most perfect portraits. By the time she finished the portrait it was already late evening. Only Rajaji and the lady were left in the council room. Rajaji had already ordered the rest to leave.
    The portrait was ready.
    The only problem was, the next day morning neither the lady nor the King was found anywhere in the castle. The portrait was kept right in the place where the king sat while the lady was drawing his portrait.”
    “Are you trying to say that this King Kishan Singh was never seen by anyone since then?” Sheetal was quite lost in the narration.
    “Yes! The legend also says that the lady was a witch and she captured the king in the portrait. That was her revenge for being abandoned by Rajgarh, as per King’s order for all the wrongdoings she did. So she transformed into an old lady and went to the king to draw his portrait.”
    “Interesting!” Sheetal continued, “So you mean this portrait is not just a mere portrait, but an actual King being trapped in? Dude, this should be in some museum. Nice story!”
    “Well. I don’t know how this portrait came into this shop. Since I joined here, I have seen this portrait. Many people have heard this story. But after hearing the story, nobody wants to buy it. All I know is it costs forty thousand rupees. Not a penny more, not a penny less!”
    Sheetal signed the cheque and handed it to the salesman, “You have no idea what you are selling to me. I can earn a million on this just by letting the world know about it. I am not buying it by believing the captured king's story. I am buying it because it’s an antique piece.”
    The portrait was packed and handed to Sheetal. Sheetal left the shop and went home.
    Once she left, the salesman was awarded for his fictional tale and selling a painting for forty thousand. The shop made an instant profit!
    Sheetal happily hung the portrait on the living room wall. She admired the detailing of the King’s portrait. As the day passed and approached midnight, the portrait started looking much more realistic. As if it was not a sketch but a real king caught in the portrait for more than 400 years!
    Sheetal looked calmly at the portrait and said, “And you thought you will abandon me? I am still free. Look at me. That day when I locked you in that canvas, it was my victory. But I had to leave you there so that people of Rajgarh know my powers. It took four centuries and three births to finally find you. So how does it feel to be locked in the canvas for four centuries? You will stay in this canvas till eternity Raja Kishan Singh!”
    A screaming voice was heard on the Jaipur City road that night. Since then every night the same voice was heard by people around Sheetal’s house.



    Author : Jasmine Mehta


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