Zeenath Jahan


Once upon a time there was a Master puppeteer. A ' Master' because he trained his puppets to know the steps of the dance even before he started up the music. Moving from village to village putting up a show, sometimes here and sometimes there, his fame grew. In time, when news of his show spread, villagers from all around came to watch the Master puppeteer make his puppets dance.

One day, while resting in an enchanted forest, he found a piece of wood. There was something different about it. Intrigued by its shape and feel and colour, he decided to make a new puppet from it. The wood was raw and unseasoned and all who watched him struggling to fashion the puppet were doubtful whether it would ever dance as well as the seasoned, well-rehearsed ones; but the puppeteer had faith in his own expertise. Gently bending and twisting his new puppet into shape, he was finally satisfied with it and smiled. The warmth of his smile thawed the sap in the raw wood, and its arms and legs went all awry, dancing a mad, mad dance. The Master puppeteer was irritated and frowned. His icy glare froze the puppet back into the shape, forcing the sap out of it's wide-open eyes.

Each time this happened the sap grew less and less and the distortions decreased since the Master almost never smiled at the puppet, although he was pleased for longer and longer periods. Finally he believed the sap had dried up since the puppet performed more perfectly than the other puppets. It's wooden face and expressionless, wide-open eyes were sapless, as is the case with any good puppet. Everyone was amazed at the transformation. The Master puppeteer was well pleased at his creation and smiled broadly, he had succeeded in making the perfect puppet!

His pleasure was so great, and his smile so warm, it squeezed out the last remnant of sap that lay hidden in the puppet's heart. The puppet danced riotously, wildly flinging out its arms to the sky, reveling in its Master's pleasure. The Master puppeteer was furious. Taking a sharp knife out of his bag he pushed the point into the puppets heart, squeezing out the last drop of sap. The puppet twitched a few times, then shriveled up and died. Although a Master at his trade, the puppeteer had not realized that it was the sap had made the puppet so perfect, giving it that extra flexibility that the other puppets lacked and what had given him so much pleasure. Disgustedly throwing the dead puppet on the wayside he went on to the next performance in a distant village.

The villagers were already gathered when he got there. They watched with hushed breath as he set up his stage. The puppets were soon ready and the show began. Each puppet obeying his every command, every slight movement of his long fingers until at last, amidst a burst of applause, the show was over. The villagers were impressed, but the Master knew none of his puppets had performed as perfectly as the puppet he had destroyed. They did not have the same effusive spontaneity of movement, the same joy of dancing to his command, and he was dissatisfied.

This went on for days and days, until one day he passed by the place where the discarded puppet lay motionless, covered by the dust. Picking it up, he smiled nostalgically, remembering its antics while it lived. The warmth of his smile revived the long dead puppet. Moving slowly at first, then throwing up its arms to the sky, it danced for the pleasure of its Master. The Master puppeteer threw back his head and roared with laughter at its awkward movements, and put the puppet in his pocket. This puppet he would keep for his own pleasure, it was the only one that danced for him alone.

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