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“Eilean Donan Castle, this is one of the most beautiful and most photographed castles of Scotland”, the guide explained as the tourists entered the fortress. Rajiv looked around. The beautifully carved pillars and the majestic walls enchant a magic spell on everyone present there. Love birds were busy clicking pictures while few were engaged in making notes. But he was aimlessly strolling around lost in his own world.

Why did he come here when he had no clear objective? Why did he pay attention to the words of the Tarot card reader? Many ‘why’s dominated his fragile mind.

“And this is the picture of Shamus, the great ruler of Scotland. He had a strange ability to talk to birds and because of this skill, he could safeguard Scotland from enemies. He had his first drink from a ravine skull and then he was blessed by this power. From a naughty, mischievous child, he transformed to a most disciplined and hard-working ruler”, the guide’s words reverberated in his ears.

He stood in front of the portrait.

“Is it true? Did something like this really happen?”, he wondered.

For a long time, he kept standing in front of the portrait, unaware that all the people had moved on.

When he regained his senses, he saw around. There was no one. He was all alone. He rushed towards the entrance. There was pin drop silence.  He checked his mobile. No network. He was tired. He sat down on the stairs. A tear trickled down from his eyes. Why destiny is always cruel to him? Why? And he started sobbing incessantly.

A whiff of soft breeze kissed him. He saw around. Was there someone hugging him? A ghost…?

“Cuckdoo -Koo

Hello Mr. …?”

Rajiv was in a state of shock. A hen was talking to him. Or was it a dream?

“Sir..your name?”, asked the hen


“Mr. Rajiv, Why are you so sad? If you wish, you can share your problems with me”, said the hen.

Should he share his problems? Or should he leave? Many doubts clouded his mind.

“You can share and remove all the baggage of your mind and heart if you wish”, said the hen.

After a brief pause.

“What should I call you?”, asked Rajiv

” Shamus”, replied the hen.

“Oh! That great ruler?”

“Yes. Earlier, I was a ruler. Now I am a hen in this birth”, replied the hen.

“Why? What happened?”, asked Rajeev.

“Oh! That’s a long story. First, you share yours, then I will share mine”, replied Shamus.

“I was born in a poor family. My father worked day and night to make the ends meet. I was intelligent and did most of my studies through scholarship. After completing my education, we started a small garment factory, and soon, because of my and my father’s hard work, the company’s profits grew manifold. I have been blessed with a son and a daughter. The daughter has gotten married and is well settled in her family. But son…”…Rajiv paused.

“What happened?”

“My son is a young adult and is a carefree and reckless guy. Though his name is Deepak, he is the sole reason for the darkness in my life. He just loves to spend lavishly on high-end branded clothes and cars and in maintaining his status symbol. Partying all night, having alcohol, sleeping with many women, getting up late in the morning, and roaming about with his useless friends is his routine. Because of this nature, he already had one divorce. He takes no interest in his business or any other work.  Born with a silver spoon, he doesn’t value money at all. He doesn’t understand that a lot of sweat and sacrifices have gone into making this empire. Twice he has gone to a rehabilitation centre. A few months into it, everything goes well and when he is out, he is back to the same old habits. Many times I have scolded him, tried to talk to him, and warned him of the consequences; but he is least bothered. Every time he just has one reply, “Dad! Just chill. I am the only legal heir of the empire you have created. You have earned it, let me enjoy it now. When the right time will come, I will take the reins into my hands. He is already thirty. If not now, then when? His mother has got depression and high blood pressure because of his habits. I have done every pooja, visited all the big temples, and showed his horoscope to all the astrologers but in vain. I don’t know what to do. Two years back, my father passed away. Singlehandedly, I am managing my business, facing battles on personal and corporate fronts. Loneliness befriends me when I am at home. No one to talk to, no one to share my feelings with. Anxiety about my son’s future, clouds of doubt, and despair have shackled my mind and heart in their arms. Everything is slipping off: time, reputation, health, and wealth. I want to save it but I can’t. Then one day a Tarot card reader told me to visit this castle. “Your life will change”, he said.

Nothing has changed till now, nothing will change in the future. It looks as if I have wasted my days and hard-earned money in coming here. “

Rajeev wanted to control his anger, his frustration but he couldn’t and the anguish flowed through his eyes.

There was silence between the two.

“Is there actually a ravine out here? I will take the water from there and hopefully, everything will be alright”, sighed Rajeev.

The hen kept quiet. After a few minutes, he broke the silence.

“Rajeev, your story broke my heart. You sculpted your dreams with your hard work. You reached a position you aspired for and I am really proud of you. I know it hurts when everything starts going to dust. But what can you do now? Childhood and youth have gone in creating your empire, your present passing in anxiety and your future is still unknown. But when did you live for yourself, just your happiness? What is the use of this money which can’t buy you a few moments of peace? You have made all the efforts to get your child on the right path but they have been futile. Now what? If your tears could have any effect on him, your child would have taken steps to improve himself but I think he is least bothered as long as his requirements are getting fulfilled. Stop being so emotional because it will hurt only you and no one else.

Have you heard that statement that the first two generations work hard to earn but the third generation just enjoys the fruit in most cases? Similar is the case here. So, stop bothering yourself with emotional traumas. You will remain a sufferer and others will enjoy it at your expense.

See those two trees. One is lush green laden with flowers while the other is leafless. Your life is like that. It will remain a leafless tree as you continue living like it.”

“But I want to change my son”, interrupted Rajiv.

“My heart aches when people relish chicken. They take away my eggs. Can you stop everyone from having meat?”, asked the hen.

“How can I do that? I can just stop myself, not others”, replied Rajeev.

“Same applies to life. You can’t change others. You need to change yourself and your attitude “, said the hen.

Rajiv turned silent. Shamus was correct. Black clouds of despair were looming large.

“Warn Deepak sternly about the consequences if he doesn’t improve. Make your daughter the nominee or form a trust, as per your sole discretion. This way you will be at peace that your hard-earned money is not getting wasted”, replied the hen


“And there is no such ravine whose water can change or improve people. It is a myth. If it had been there, I would have given water to my own son from it to improve him”, said Shamus.

There was pin-drop silence as Shamus completed his sentence. Rajiv could feel the pain in his words.

“Yes, I was blessed with the power to converse with birds. I had saved one sparrow from dying and his mother blessed me with this power. But she warned me, never to kill or eat any bird or its egg, otherwise, my power will transfer to that bird. I followed the advice. I became a strict vegetarian. Killing birds was an offense at our place. Birds were our best friends and they helped us to protect our territory. But my son was the opposite. He misused his power and took pride in belittling our staff. He would use abusive language, throw tantrums, and didn’t respect anyone. He was in bad company and he held grudges with everyone, including me. One day my son got a chicken made in our kitchen and I ate it by mistake. I lost my powers. I was overthrown by my own son. My heart shattered when my kingdom turned into ruins. I shed tears and begged him but he mocked me. So, I know how it feels when your own children don’t listen to you. Like thorns, their harsh words prick. Helplessness and hopelessness become a part of your life. I have gone through every suffering, you don’t do the same. I have understood one thing that grief and hurt never die. They occupy a small room in your heart and then become a permanent tenant in it. And one day when you close your eyes, you realize that you wasted your precious time. I am buried here somewhere but my soul has never been at peace. I just wander around aimlessly in this guise of a hen and you are the first person who could see me. Today, I am at peace, after sharing my story with you. I don’t want you to spend your remaining days in the prison of despair. I have done it, you don’t repeat the same mistake.  Go home, and spend time with your wife. She needs you by her side. Leave your son or I would say throw him out of the house. Let life teach him lessons. Enjoy your present. You have done enough, it is now time to reap the fruits of your labour”, said Shamus.

The time to bid adieu has arrived. All the pain, and guilt I had in my heart have gone. Now is the time for salvation. Goodbye, my friend. Remember my words. You are the architect of your life. Plan it according to your wishes. Don’t hang it on pillars of dead emotions. Because when one pillar falls, the entire structure gets crumbled. “

“Mr. Rajiv, where are you?”

Rajiv heard a voice echoing. He turned around. It was the driver’s voice.

“I am here”, he replied.

He turned back to Shamus. He was gone.

The saffron hues had painted the Sky with peace and optimism.

“Your life will change”. Tarot reader words reverberated in his ears.

Rajiv got up and moved towards the bus. His mind was at peace after ages. He smiled and waved his hand towards the Sky.



Name: Tarot card reader

Place: Eilean Donan Castle

Animal: Hen


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    The story conveyed a bitter truth… the idea that you developed out of the difficult prompts was praiseworthy.. well written

  2. Avatar

    You have crafted a much necessary message with your story. I loved the flow of the story, the words flowed simple and humble, which touched my heart. I am myself not very good at this, but I could see many punctuation errors in the story, it needed editing. Also, the tarot card prompt has been under-used, some of the dialogues between Shamus and Rajeev could have been curtailed to give more space to the name prompt. I loved the hen in your story; along with its backstory. Animals/birds rolling out words of wisdom always appeal to me, maybe it’s the effect of all the fables I grew up reading.

  3. Avatar
    Vaijayanti Panchal

    A weird plot, but an excellent life lesson. You had a difficult set of prompts and you have tried your best to work with them. Well done!

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