PodCastle 195: Lavanya and Deepika

by Shveta Thakrar.
Read by TCA Lakshmi Narasimhan.
Originally appeared in Demeter’s Spicebox. Read the text there.

Once upon a time, in a land radiant with stars and redolent of
sandalwood, where peacocks breakfasted on dreams salty with the
residue of slumber, a rani mourned. On the surface, the rani had
everything: a kingdom to care for, fine jewels to wear in her long
black hair, silken saris threaded through with silver and gold, and a
garden of roses and jasmine to rival that of Lord Indra in his
celestial realm. When she rode atop her warrior elephant, her subjects
bowed before her in awe and love. But one thing remained out of
reach–an heir. She longed for a small, smiling face to call her own.

Gulabi Rani consulted midwives, healers schooled in the art of
Ayurveda, and magicians. Knowing better than to refuse a monarch, they
plied her with charms and salves, medications and horoscopes. She ate
the roots and leaves of the shatavari plant as they recommended, and
drank creamy buttermilk while fastidiously avoiding the color black.
Yet her belly stayed flat. At last the healers admitted that, without
a husband, there was no hope.

But the rani did not want a husband. Nor did she suffer from a lack of
hope. After dismissing the healers and her servants both, she readied
a place in the garden. If no one else could help her, she would find
the answer herself. Surrounded by her beloved roses, garnet and pink
and ivory, Gulabi meditated for weeks on end.

Rated PG.