Long ago, in a small village there lived a sculptor. The soil of this village was unusually red and the red clay was immensely mouldable and ideal for making various forms and figures. The sculptor was one of many who were of the same profession in this village. They would live by each day making various objects like dolls, cars, animals, toys, small figurines,etc. which would be sold in the village fair for a nominal sum. Sometimes traders would order and buy in bulk and then take these objects to be sold in handicraft exhibitions in the city for a considerable amount. But the main income of these sculptors was during the Pujas, i.e. the religious festivals when various forms of divine Gods and Goddesses had to be created which were then invoked and worshipped.
Now, this young sculptor was a tad different from others of his profession. He would use vivid imagination and unorthodox methods to make his creations. He would create the Goddess Lakshmi, who is the divine form of Wealth, and paint her face black. He would create Sarswati, the Goddess of knowledge and music, and give her a proud,dancing posture instead of the traditional poise of standing next to a swan. He once made a statue in the likeness of a notorious dacoit but depicted him as a victim instead of an executer of crime.
One day, the sculptor was playing with his clay. The festivals were approaching and there was a lot of pressure and competition among his fellow sculptors to create divine forms of the religious deities. But this young man was not feeling like creating anything divine. He sat by the banks of the river which flowed through the village, watching boatmen ferry their passengers to and fro across the river. He was lost in his own world among the chirping of sparrows and the gentle splashing of water. His mind was blank.
Suddenly, his eyes caught a slight movement...there was a ripple and a girl emerged from the river. She was very young with long, dark hair which was wet and hung loose draping her drenched, slender frame. She was neither beautiful, nor ugly. But what caught the sculptor’s attention and mesmerised him were the eyes. She had the most haunting pair of eyes covered by a mystic veil beyond which he knew, there were a thousand words waiting to be uttered. He captured the intensity of the moment in a timeless zone of his mind. He realised absentmindedly that he had found the muse for his next creation.
The young man selected a clearing among coconut tress by the river bank and worked passionately for days on end with his clay. Often he would shut his eyes for hours and capture the essence of the moment when he had set his eyes on her. Then he would look at the river, and the sky, and sit idly. Passersby often inquired what he was up to. People questioned him for his lack of interest in the festival season. His co-professionals were sure he had lost his head and lamented the loss of a good talent. Some even took pleasure in taunting him.
Late in the night, under a full moon, the sculptor would resume his work. Often he would destroy hours of labour and start afresh, never letting a slight diversion come between him and his inspiration.
At last after toiling for twenty seven days and nights, he laid the final touches to his creation. In his heart he knew this was more divine than all the forms of Gods and Goddesses he had ever created. He smiled at his lady and she replied with her eyes. He told her that he had waited for her all his life and she responded with her smile. He never expressed his devotion for her for it would have been superfluous. His devotion was writ all over her, in her flawless form, her perfect face, her haunting eyes. She was the embodiment of suppressed expression, of all that is unsaid in the world.
Soon the word spread that the sculptor had created something strikingly different. People thronged to catch a glimpse of his creation. The young man yearned for the world to see what he had seen, to feel what he had felt.
To his dismay, an old lady came forward and touched the feet of the statue. She had found her Mother Parvati (Hindu Goddess). To his greater dismay, the statue gave her blessings to the old woman pouring out love and blessings with her eyes.
A fisherman came forward and hugged the statue. She was the daughter he had lost. He wept profusely and she cried with him over an era of mutual loss and separation.
People gave his creation different names, attributes, traits and even history and to his intense annoyance she responded to each one of them as if she was created exclusively for that person.
In the evening, after most of the crowd had dispersed, the young sculptor sat in the twilight watching flocks of birds confidently following their flight patterns to return to their nests. He watched idly the last boats ferry their fare across the river. A small boy of about eight was playing by the river bank. He was chasing a ball and running barefoot. All of a sudden, he came face to face with the statue of the girl among coconut trees. He looked at the statue and exclaimed “Hey, that is my sister.” The sculptor looked at the boy, silently amused. He was still battling with his thoughts and trying to find some reason. What had seemed to him to be his greatest creation till date had been his greatest failure. Nobody had seen in the girl what he had. Nobody understood her the way she was meant to be understood. Yet she seemed to have a life of her own and responded whole-heartedly to the whims and fancies of each and every man and woman.
The boy, not getting any response, declared, “She got married three weeks ago and has left this village. She now lives with my jijaji in the neighbouring town. My jijaji is the postmaster there.” Having broken the sculptor’s world without knowledge or intent, the boy ran away, chasing his ball.
The sculptor sat transfixed for a long time and then, letting go of all his conflicting emotions, he broke down and began to cry. His “Maiden of Unexpressed Thoughts” had another identity which seemed to be beyond controversy and related by blood.
The sun set it the distance and the river bank was wrapped in a warm dark blanket. The last boat had safely ferried its passenger and now rested for the night. As the tears overflowed without restraint, he thought he heard a distinct laughter, low and melodious, like the gurgling of the river. He looked up and saw his statue. She was smiling, just for him. To his surprise, the veil was stripped from those eyes and she was playfully stirring his soul. And then he heard her voice, or it may have been the breeze playing with the leaves, but the voice found expression beyond words and told him that she has come to life for him, to understand the river of emotions that flowed in his heart and to give them an identity and a place... in her eyes, her haunting, beautiful eyes that contained all the words, yet unspoken.
And then he understood....how all the people had seen her, she was real, in all her distinct identities; more real than anyone in flesh and blood; and his heart leaped in pride to rejoice the humble achievement of his greatest ever creation.