Once upon a time there was a young man who was living in a small village, up in the high hills. He was a gentle, pleasant young man, with a loving heart. And since he came to the world in a golden autumn morning, they called him Sanjiv.
Sanjiv grew to be a dreamer. With his heart filled with love, his easily flying spirit and keen eyes for beauty, he soon started to turn his dreams into words, then he turned those words into verses. Each day when he finished his daily chores around the house, he would go to sit under the old fig tree in the yard and write another poem on a smooth leaf or on a silky petal of a flower. He then would read these poems to his friends, his family, the people passing by, or simply to the singing birds sitting in the tree above him.
People were listening to him, the return to their work or to their home, shaking their head and smiling.
-Hear, hear!-the y exclaimed. What a poem has our Sanjiv written again! This boy is such a poet!
But the young man with sparkling eyes and hazelnut hair didn’t mind them laughing at him. He kept weaving his poems of morning dew and warming sunshine, of seas of grass and boisterous winds in the hills. Birds and butterflies followed him in the meadows and stars were springing from his footsteps in the night.
One day, love knocked on the door of his heart. On his way to the river that was flowing outside the village, he saw a beautiful girl sitting on the riverbank, braiding flowers in her long, night- black hair. She was so delicate and graceful that for a moment the young man was left breathless. If he was to describe her, all the words coming to his mind would’ve sounded hollow and senseless. He stepped back, not to frighten her and returned home with an aching heart.
This encounter took place many times in the following days, and slowly, the two of them started to talk like good friends. Amrita enjoyed Sanjiv’s poems and she smiled a lot, listening to them. After awhile it became obvious to everyone that they have fallen in love with each other. But when the young man was asking the girl where did she live, she just smiled, pointing somewhere up the highest hill. Oh, the young poet didn’t care much about that! All he needed was to see her day by day. He could barely sleep at night, waiting for the dawn to lit up the skies. He finished his house chores at high speed and filling his pocket with a handful of poetry written on rose petals, he hurried to the river to meet Amrita.
Then once, when he overslept a bit after a hard work’s day, he arrived at their usual meeting place and didn’t find her. He desperately looked around, then up in the sky and he saw a dark cloud carrying away his beloved. She called his name and he ran over hills and meadows and ravines, calling her name but the cloud was faster and disappeared in the skies, leaving Sanjiv alone and heartbroken.
-How can I live without her?-he cried out desperately. I see no beauty anymore and my poems have dried out. I must find her! I must find her!
With the blessing and wishes of good luck from his family, friends and neighbors, Sanjiv began his quest for Amrita. He walked a long way ahead, up and down the hills, the mountains and valleys, he passed through villages and cities, day and night, asking everyone about her. But no one could help him because they didn’t know where she was taken. That dark cloud has seemingly vanished into nothingness. Many days had passed this way, perhaps even a year, when he arrived at the entrance of a dark forest that encircled the feet of the highest mountain ever seen.
Sarat boldly took the narrow pathway leading through the massive columns of the trees and by evening he reached a small clearing with à tidy little house in its center. There was light inside, so he knocked on the door. The door opened and an elderly woman stood before him, looking at him questioningly.
-Good evening, venerable mother-said the young man with a bow. Could you please help me? I need some guidance in this place.
She smiled at him and she opened wide the door of the house, gesturing to let him in.
-Good evening, my son. Come inside and have some rest. Your clothes carry the dust of many long roads and your shoes are worn out. It’s been awhile since I had company, so while we eat dinner, you can tell me your story. Then we’ll see what can be done.
The dinner was delicious and Sanjiv told his host all about his quest for Amrita. The elderly lady listened carefully, then she said.
-I know your beloved, my son and you are in the right place. But first of all, you need à good sleep. Then in the morning, I’ll give you the necessary advice to find her.
Sanjiv thanked her and for the first time after so much time, he went to sleep with new hope in his heart. The next morning, after a generous breakfast, he was drinking à tea with his venerable host when she took out à pair of new shoes and gave him, saying:
-Take these shoes, Sanjiv. They are magical and they will carry you further much easier. In the evening, you will reach the house of my younger sister. I wrote her a letter and she will help you on. Walk in peace, my son and don’t give up on your dream!
The young man thanked her and took again the narrow path. Just as he’s been told, another little house was standing before him and the lady inhabiting it was kind and generous too. She listened to his story, shaking her head thoughtfully and in the morning, she gave him a walking stick and a ball of silver thread.
-You will need this stick to climb the mountain. Take care of that ball of thread because you might need it once you arrive atop. Walk in peace and give my regards to our younger sister! She will be your host tonight.
Sanjiv walked with renewed hope in his heart and as the night was spreading its velvet wings upon the land, he was standing before the third sister. She was the youngest of all and she had some playful sparks in her dark brown eyes. She treated him well and she asked him to recite her some of his poems.
-You have embarked on a very difficult mission, young man. The girl you love is the daughter of the Spirit of the Mountain. She’s been engaged since her childhood to the King of the Clouds but she rebelled against the will of his father and ran away. The dark cloud was sent by her fiance to find her and it brought her back here. But she was adamant in refusing him. Now, her father locked Amrita in a floating tower up high, where no one can reach her. Knowing the Spirit of the Mountain, I would say that your attempt is futile. But listening to your poems, I see some hope. Now get some sleep and we’ll talk again in the morning.
When the morning broke, Sanjiv jumped to his feet, eager to get close to his lost love. After breakfast, the youngest sister gave him à rose and a pomegranate.
-Here, take these -she said. This rose has 100 petals and each of it can carry à poem without withering. The pomegranate will feed you all along your final quest. Good luck, young poet! Follow your heart!
Sanjiv thanked her, bowing respectfully and then took the pathway till he left the forest and found himself at the feet of the mountain. It was a sky high mountain of glass, steep and slippery, impossible to climb without the special shoes and the walking stick he got from the sisters. It took him 3 days and 3 night to reach the top but in the morning of the fourth day , he found himself standing on a large and empty plateau, covered by grass. He raised his head, looking for the tower. It was there, up high. The golden building reminded him of a golden cage built to hold captive a precious singing bird, a beautiful but sad place and a cruel endeavour.
Sanjiv sighed. How would he get up there? Suddenly, the ball of silver thread fell off his pocket. The young man took it and threw it up, towards the sky. The ball flew, unfolding its thread, until it reached the tower and fell inside an open window, sticking to the floor. A young girl peeked out that window, looking down where Sanjiv was standing.
-Who are you and what do you want? -she asked.
-I am Sanjiv, the poet and I am looking for my beloved Amrita. I came for her from faraway. Is she there with you, my lady?
-Hush, there, young man!-said the girl. If her father finds out about you, we will be all in grave danger. He has erased her memories, hoping that she will submit to his will but he did not succeed. I don’t think she knows who you are anymore. I’m sorry that you came so far, but…
-Stop! Listen to me! I’ll send you up a poem through this silver thread. Please, leave it next to Amrita’s bed.
Sanjiv took of a petal of the rose and wrote a poem upon it, the put it on the silver thread. The girl took up the petal and released the thread. She placed the red petal next to her mistress, without saying a word. When Amrita woke up, she found the petal and the poem written on it. She read it carefully and she smiled for the first time after so many days. The poem was beautiful and it was warming up her saddened heart. She placed the petal in a crystal jar, hiding it carefully.
Down on the plateau, Sanjiv took a seed of pomegranate and went to sleep, thinking about Amrita. He followed this ritual 99 days, sending up 99 red petals of poetry and love, recounting the story of love he and Amrita had shared at the river. Each day, the memories of the beautiful girl cleared and returned bit by bit. She could hardly believed her ears when her maiden told her about Sanjiv. On the hundredth day, she opened the window and looked down to the plateau. She saw Sarat tying up the last petal of the rose.
-Sanjiv! My beloved Sanjiv! I’m here!-she exclaimed.
-Amrita!-shouted the young man from below. I finally found you!
But the Spirit of the Mountain heard them talking and came in a hurry, angered by the daring young man and his rebellious daughter.
-Who are you?!-boomed his voice-And how dare you trespass my land?! What do you want from my daughter, you Earthling?
But Sanjiv wasn’t easily scared. He bowed curtly and confronted the Spirit.
-Sire, I came here from far away because I love Amrita and I know that she loves me to. I might not be a prince or a king, but my heart is pure and my love sincere. So I ask you to let us fulfil our love and release your daughter from her prison!
-Hmmmm-growled the Spirit. You’re quite bold for an Earthling. If you want to free your beloved, so be it! But you have to build a ladder for her to come down! If you can’t do it, she’ll remain à prisoner and I will crush you like a vermin!
Hearing the sentence of her father, Amrita burst into tears. She feared for Sanjiv’s life. She pleaded with him to leave her and save his own life. But love is a powerful magic and in an instant, the young man found the solution.
-Amrita!-he shouted. Bring the rose petal poems and let them fly!
She rushed to her room, took the crystal jar and went to the window. She released the blazing red petals to the earth. Sanjiv tied the last petal to the silver thread and then, one after the other, the 99 petals stick together in a ladder connecting earth and sky. Each poem, each word connected in a strong rope and the young man stepped forward, holding it in place.
-Come, my love!-he shouted. You can descend now! I’m waiting for you!
The moment Amrita put her feet on the first step, the love connecting their hearts ran through the ladder of poems, making it even stronger. The girl descended safely, right in the arms of her loving poet.
It was the turn of the Spirit of the Mountain to recognize his defeat and to respect his promise. He gave his blessing to the love that has proved itself so powerful and from that day, Sanjiv and Amrita lived happily together in the little, peaceful village up in the hills. Their love is remembered till these days. The legend says that all the poets will find one day the love that will stay with them forever.