Six months went by.
The seed sprouted into a young and comely Night Queen with a voice that was musical, quite different from the one in which she had first asked the stone with childlike candor, why was he so hard to rest against so that her head was aching from leaning against him for a day, and could he be a little softer, she would be grateful to him for that. The stone, made unhappy by the request, replied that he was sorry but that was the way how he was made and it was not in his power to change himself. But soon there would come powerful northerly winds and they would lift the seed, lighter than a leaf, into their arms and lay her upon the soft ground, where she would find food, water and a comfortable rest. After that he had fallen silent, till the seed had prodded him to ask where was she.
‘In the Himalayas,’ replied the stone in a pensive voice.
‘It’s a beautiful place,’ said the seed, looking down into the valley, where there was an abundance of ladies-mantles and primroses and orchids spread one after another, swaying together in the wind in a cyclorama of newness.
‘Yes, it is.’
‘Then why are you so sad?’
‘I wish I could be softer, and make you more comfortable.’
The seed then realized her request had hurt the stone. She tried to think of something to make him feel better.
‘But if you were softer, you couldn’t have freed me, isn’t that so? God knows for how long I would have remained inside that locket,’ she said, and was happy the next moment at having thought of such a convincing argument so soon by herself. She felt it meant she was growing up.
His spirits revived by the seed’s words the stone rolled back a bit, just enough not to let the seed fall down. So where have you come from, he then asked her, and the seed replied she had come from a place that was far away down south. There was a Night Queen in a beautiful orchard on the side of a pond next to a big temple in a place called Gaya, where men worshipped a fat man with a very benevolent smile, and on that Night Queen, there was a fruit in which she had lived with many of her friends. The stone, baffled by the chain of references and not understanding much of what was said either, contented himself with asking what was Gaya.
‘Gaya, is a city,’ emphasized the seed.
‘What’s a city?’
‘Huh…’ sighed the seed. She had really come far from civilization.
‘A city is a place where many men live together.’
The stone became curious. He had never seen many men together. Just a few solitary wayfarers, who had sometimes passed by him in their quest for the next resting place.
‘Men live together?’
‘Not like sheep. They make houses for themselves to live in.’
‘They make what?’
‘Houses. It’s a place in which they go inside, and it covers them up completely, and neither sun, nor rain, nor wind can touch them unless they want it to be so.’
‘How do they do that?’
‘They take… Forget it.’
‘I have forgotten how they make houses.’
‘Oh! You also lived in one?’
‘No! I lived in an orchard by the side of a pond next to a temple, and a temple is a place where you worship gods, and god is…’
The seed gave up. It was a rather uphill task, explaining things to a stone.
‘I know what god is,’ the birch cut in at this point.
The discovery that the seed could indeed talk had astonished him, and for a while he was in the lookout for a way to join the conversation.
‘I am tall, and so I can see far and hear sharp, and I had once seen groups of men talking about god who lives somewhere yonder, among those peaks,’ he said pointing with his longest branch westward. ‘He is a crazy fellow they said, dark in color, is drunk half the time, and always sits thinking about something with his eyes closed, he has three of them by the way, and woe betide you if he opens his third eye. And that’s not the end; he actually has snakes entwined round his neck! Eeks! I wonder how he survives! Once a krait climbed up my trunk, and I got so scared, I almost fainted. Shook it off as soon as it climbed a branch.’
‘True, snakes are scary,’ agreed the stone, happy to have finally made sense of something and quite disliking god for allowing a snake to curl around his neck, ‘once one of them…’
‘That’s rubbish,’ the seed interrupted hotly before the stone could go further with his tale, ‘god doesn’t have any snake round his neck, or a third eye. He isn’t dark either. He is fat, fair, looks quite good you know, and his face always shines because there is sun behind his head. And he lives not on a mountaintop, but in a temple, where he is worshipped by many other fat men who carry bowls in their hands and go around with their heads bowed. Ya, he thinks all the time, on that I agree.’
‘Why does he think so much?’ asked the stone, getting pretty confused again and latching onto the one trait of god that both his friends agreed upon.
‘How could he have made the world if he didn’t think enough,’ it was the birch. ‘And by the way little girl, nice to know you can speak so early in life, but you should also learn to differentiate between reality and fairy tales. How can there be sun behind god’s head? We all can see the sun clearly. Is there a head in front of it? Don’t believe everything people tell you, men or not.’
‘I think I heard somebody saying god had snakes round his neck!’ was the reply he got.
‘When he’s made the world, he can have anything round his neck.’
‘When he’s made the world, he can have anything behind his head.’
‘Grow up kid.’
‘You stop acting so high and mighty first.’
‘To hell with god, whether he has made the world or not,’ exclaimed the stone, fed up with god by now, ‘why are you fighting about somebody who lives miles away, whether in a temple or on a hilltop. He might do as he pleases with his neck or head and no one the worse for it. Let him be, and think to his heart’s content. We have better things to talk about.’
And so the stone tried to turn the conversation to more cheerful things, but the birch and seed were not convinced and shortly fell silent. Though later on, when she felt the birch was not looking, the seed whispered to the stone that it was likely the birch was right too. The fruit in which she had lived with her friends had once told them that long ago, when god had decided to come down on earth, he was not fat the way men worshipped him in temples nowadays. He was a lean and thin fellow, roaming here and there, making many friends, and telling people good things so that they became happy. And then one day, deciding to go back from where he had come, he had died. But maybe that was not true, and it was probable that while wandering he had just got lost, and had sat down on the hilltop – tired after so much of walking. There he must be still – dark because of sitting in sun for a long time which he must have removed hence – and finding no one else, would have made friends with even such a scary thing as a snake. Quite possible, though she couldn’t imagine how he had grown a third eye or was threatening people with it. He had the most beautiful smile she was told. Maybe he had just grown grumpy with solitude. Hmm… that must be it.
She went on talking like this till the northerly winds arrived in the night, lifted her in their arms, and laid her upon the ground nearby. After that she promptly fell asleep.