There aren’t many things i like about examinations.
Let me rephrase that.
I don’t like examinations. But i have to admit that the first question of the english-1 paper according to the ISC board format is a thing of beauty. It is a 30 marks worth composition with optional topics ranging from grave national concerns to original short stories and it’s probably the only place a substantial number of us (namely frustrated, overworked 12th grade students) indulge in self-expression, even though given a choice, we rather wouldn’t. ( We like to use our vocabularies in long, irrelevant chats and YouTube comments, you know. We are cool that way.)
I, personally, always go for the short story. There are some that got me a 28, and since that automatically makes my “work” “critically acclaimed” in a way, its only fair that i post what i remember of them on my blog. So here is one.
No Damsel in Distress
The resonance of the drum beats startled me out of my sleep. The nightmare of being rescued by a gallant prince from supposed dangers only to be caged forever in plastic palaces of pretensions and masks had haunted me for years now. I woke up with a lurch and realized with relief that it was only a dream (like i had countless times). My back, which was regrettably accustomed to plush blankets and pillows, was now black and blue against the bed of concrete and newspapers. As the disorientation of sleep dissolved into reason, I knew I had to move. The festival in commemoration of the great king was underway and this was my only chance to slip away from the “royal pains”. I gathered my belongings and sprinted away from the sounds emanating from the glorious parade and into the underbelly of the city.
My name is Snow White, but I prefer to be called Snow. The fact that i was named after the paleness of my complexion infuriates me every time I think about it. Why could I not have a name like Hope or Harmony, things that have beauty of a much less apparent nature? Like my friends, I was on the run from the treacherous forces of archetypes that were threatening to transform me into a prim and proper princess, someone I was “born to be” according to the rock hard traditions of Mysticopolis.
The rising tide of feminism was stirring the resolve of us maidens into outright rebellion and bending and twisting the plots of the fairy tale lives we were bound to lead. Cinderella refused to try on any glass slippers. The Little Mermaid ran away to travel the world as soon as she got her feet. Sleeping beauty slept when she pleased and woke up whenever she wanted to. Countless proposals from eligible bachelors were turned down every single day and new hobbies like archery and horse riding were being taken up by delicate little princesses the world over. To summarize, things were finally looking up.
Since the day I was born, I was a princess and everyone acknowledged that. What they failed to see however was that I was never JUST that. There is a picture of an ideal woman that exists and needs to be incinerated. I refuse to be defined by the man I marry and the family I am born in. I like to believe my life has a greater purpose than to be disposed off to a grotesque restricting life as soon as I turn 18. Ilove dancing and painting and sword fighting and I hated that I could never do any of those things independently.
And that is why I ran away.
For ten days i had scrambled through the gutters and dealt with seven strange men to survive. I could not help but laugh at the beautiful irony of my fate. Now that I was a damsel finally in distress, I was happier than I ever was because no prince would interrupt me during my introductory conversations with reality. I was free and I was, truly and unapologetically, me.
I wandered through the filthy streets marveling at things that were all too real.The darkness and the stench in the air were far more beautiful than the smell of flowery perfumes and chandelier lights of palace balls. While i was walking past a particularly shady area, littered with cigarette butts and torn newspapers, i heard a shrill voice calling my name. I turned around surprised, only to glimpse a petite blonde woman for a second before she slammed into me with a generous hug. After a moment of confusion, I realized it was Cinderella. She was wearing jeans and her hair was tied up in a practical pony tail. She jumped up and down and exclaimed in her sing-song voice,”Snow! I can’t believe you got out! You will not believe what Sleeping beauty and I have been up to. Fairy Godmother has been breaking princesses out from behind palace walls with her magic and we are becoming a league of maidens, specializing in military etiquette. The ladies would love to have you as an accomplice! You could be an amazing navigator since you know your way around the forest. Please join us Snow! We have been waiting for you. You will not regret it”
I was baffled when Cinderella finished her explanation, but then,slowly,a smile spread on my face and i agreed to her proposal in a burst of euphoria. I could not wait to get rid of my filthy gown. I could feel sunlight and electricity pulsing through my veins.
And when we walked shoulder to shoulder, comrades in a ferocious battle against unflinching mindsets, it dawned on me that this was what I was meant for, regardless of what I was born for. I needed a hero so that’s what I was going to become.
I could not hear the drums anymore.