(Inspired by a sculpture at Sanchi Stupa. This is a story. No history. A work of imagination.)

These were times before Christ. Little girl Athena. Travelled long. With her father. From Greece to India.

Athena was her father’s màti. Her father’s eye. A beauty. Sea blue eyes. Flowing golden hair. Waist long. Skin the color of olives of Greece.

She came to India at a very early age. And grew with the flowers, birds and rivers of the country. She sang like the cuckoo. Her hairs had the fragrance of the Champa flower. And she travelled like the river. Freely. Somber at times. Turbulent at other.

It was one summer. That there was the annual horse racing competition. In Ambala. The young Greek boys sped on the barren land. On their horses. And the girls watched. In awe. In the first wonder of an alien feeling. Infatuation. Germinating love.

Athena approached her father. The King’s general. “Father, may I?” Father nodded to his màti.’ Yes, my darling. And may you win’. Athena was in seventh heaven. She began a rigorous training.

Every morning she trained. Speeding on the rough terrains of Ambala. With the boys. And she did very well. Yet.

On the penultimate day. Her coach called her. ‘Athena, my brightest disciple. You amaze me. With your zeal. Strength. Your skill. You will do very good. But you know the disadvantage. That comes naturally with you. Your free-flowing hair. As you speed ahead. Your hair flows back. Oh what a beauty that sight is. The golden hairs flying in air. Have you seen the spectators? They watch in great enthusiasm. Your surge ahead. And your hair flowing behind. You will do very good. You will be the most beautiful spectacle on the tract. Yet. Your hair will pull you back. You will not win the race. But you will be the most talked about participant. The finest entertainment in the race.’

Athena left.

Next day. As the horses lined up. With their jockeys. The boys in this gallery looked far and near. To see the wonder with the golden hair.

None. None with the free flowing long hair. Athena. The entertainment. Nowhere.

The race began. And as the black horse touched the finishing line the crowd erupted in joyous thunder.

The jockey climbed down. Turned around. Bowed. And removed the head gear.

To everyone’s amazement, bewilderment. Athena. With her hair touching her shoulder.

For Athena, had participated to win. Not to entertain.

She had sacrificed. Her most precious. Yet her biggest impediment. Her golden hair.

And remained immortal. In sculpture.

Athena

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