The Sentiment of a Condiment*

When I was small, my dad told this story,
A simple social allegory
About a King of might and wealth
Who tested his daughters with peculiar stealth.
He asked each one, ‘How much do you love me?’
And in his turn, he listened intently.
The oldest of the three assured
A love that could be accurately measured
‘Three times to the stars and home’
She said, returning to her tome.
The middle one, a busy bee,
Replied a little peevishly:
‘Three times round the moon!’ she said
Shaking her distracted head.
The youngest one, an innocent,
Knew exactly her extent:
‘I love you as much as a pinch of salt’
She said- and, oh! The royal sense of insult!
The years passed: the King’s time came
To get his own back in this game.
Bequeathed he all wealth to the older,
Now honourably married to a soldier
And seeing his middle daughter as no fool,
He gifted her with all his jewels.
The youngest, having hurt him so
Received but nothing.
So there you go!…
The story, though, won’t finish here,
For with the passage of further years,
This third young woman prepared a banquet.
Her father, thinking ‘tis time to forget,
Accepted his invitation sagely
All too eager for to see
His family there reunited, whole,
Not foreseeing a possible own goal…
The spread was a marvel, a joy to behold
The oldest daughter clearly hoping for gold
But when the King his soup imbibed,
He choked and spluttered, rudely cried
“Bring me the salt! I demand the salt!”
A split second later realising his fault…
And so, here ends this well-known story
A brief, inherited allegory,
Crafted to express the notion
That small things keep the world in motion.
This time of year so fraught with choice,
Financial value displacing voice,
The urgent need to get things done
Rather replacing any seasonal fun…
It shouldn’t be about the money we spend
So much as the message we intend.



*My dad, Indian by birth, grew up in a railway colony with a community culture of oral story-telling.  I was enthralled his stories as a child- Enid Blyton seems eternally pedestrian by comparison! He patiently retold this particular story on request throughout my childhood: I never knew, or sought to know, its origins…


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