Princess Nila is eager to win the Surya Championship, the famous weightlifting contest in her kingdom. But there are so many obstacles to overcome. Not least, a handsome prince and her parents’ expectations. This picture book is one if the two books chosen by its publisher Pratham Books to be read to thousands of children across India during its One Day One Story campaign for World Literacy Day.
Written by Sowmya Rajendran, illustrated by Debasmita Dasgupta
Princess Nila is worried. The Surya Championship, the famous weightlifting contest in her kingdom, is only a month away. But according to the rules, she must weigh 55 kilos. Not 53 kilos. She still has to put on two kilos!
The Surya Championship was named after the greatest athlete in all the seven kingdoms of the east. Nila has waited all her life to participate.
Nila loves to lift weights. As a child, she would lift Dogs, chairs, tables, cupboards…and even the King!
“How did practice go?” asks the Queen.
“Fine,” says Nila. “But I still have to put on two kilos!”
The Queen gives her a boiled egg.
“Eat well,” she says. “You’ll get there.”
As she eats, Nila remembers the last championship. That was four years ago, when she was just twelve. Prince Vikram of Nethil had won then. He had been far ahead of everyone else.
Nila knows that when she grows older, the King has plans of getting her married to Prince Vikram. But she has other plans. Nila wants to go to Taibar, the land of snow. It has the best sports school in the entire kingdom.
“May I have another boiled egg?” she asks the Queen.
The Queen laughs. Many years ago, she had been like Nila— wanting to run, swim, ride horses and win the Championship. But that was a long, long time ago.
As the days pass, Princess Nila trains hard.
She runs up and down the mountain. She swims in the river. She eats meat, vegetables and fruits.
Her skin turns golden brown, the colour of sunset.
The week before the Championship, she stands on a weighing scale.
55 kilos at last! Nila is thrilled.
She flexes her muscles. She cannot stop smiling. “I’ve done it!”
On the day of the Championship, Nila is ready. This year, the competition is tougher.
Nila marks out the strong weightlifters. The boy with the yellow turban. The girl with the tight plait. And of course, Prince Vikram.
They lift rocks. They lift logs. They lift treasure chests. They lift cupboards.
The judges watch. Is the arm shaking? Is the leg steady? Is the stance correct?
Nila clenches her teeth. She can feel every muscle in her body. Every drop of sweat.
Vikram is in the lead. But Nila is right behind him.
The final round begins. They have to lift the ancient iron throne.
The others are good. But Nila is better.
She applies every ounce of her strength. She grunts, biting back the pain. When she almost gives up, she thinks of Surya, and Taibar.
The iron throne rises in the air.
The final scores are displayed. Princess Nila has won!
“Now you’re worthy of being a champion’s wife,” says the King proudly.
Princess Nila smiles. “No,” she says. “Now, I am the champion.”
(Published with permission from Pratham Books and storyweaver.org.in.)