Neeli, Peeli and Lali were three brothers. And they were butterflies. The most handsome butterflies in all the land, and best friends, too. Their mother, Rangberangi, had taught them all they knew. She told them many things, “But”, she said, “the most important thing of all to remember is that you must always depend on and support each other. Together, you will be stronger than the Sun, Wind and Rain combined even though you fly on delicate gossamer wings. Individually you are just ordinary butterflies, weak and fragile. So never let each other down.”
When they grew up, Neeli, Peeli and Lali decided to explore the world, just as every good fairytale character must do. So they set off, discovering wonders that they had never dreamed possible. Excited and laughing, they flew restlessly about as though there was no tomorrow.
Then a mean, black cloud spotted them and felt jealous of the fun that they were having. “Ha,” he laughed to himself, “let’s see how loyal they really are to each other. I’ll put them to the test.”
He began to rain. Neeli’s wings got wet, Peeli’s wings got wet and Lali’s wings got wet. Soon, it was difficult for them to fly with wet, heavy wings. “We must find some shelter before our wings get damaged,” they cried.
A gulmohar tree sparkled with red flowers. “Oh good Gulmohar, please let us take shelter in your flowers until the rain cloud has passed.”
“I can take Lali, the red butterfly,” said the Gulmohar, “for my flowers are red. But I can’t take the other two”.
“If you will not take in my brothers, I will not take shelter here either,” said Lali angrily. Peeli and Neeli tried to persuade Lali, but he would not agree.
Then they came upon the blue mauve flowers of the Kachnar tree. The rain came down a little harder now, for the black cloud was a little annoyed that his plan had not worked. “Beautiful Kachnar,” the three pleaded,” give us shelter until the rain has passed…”
“I can protect Neeli in my blue flowers,” said the tree, “but I cannot take in the other two.”
“Then I too will not take shelter here,” cried Neeli. The rain drenched them as the cloud grew furious. “I will never desert my brothers.”
The same thing happened when they came to the Amaltas tree, which dripped with a thousand yellow flowers. “If you will not help my brothers,” said Peeli, “I too will do without your help.”
And they flew away together. The cloud turned white with shame when he realized the love and loyalty the brothers shared.
Soon the Sun was shining through and Neeli, Peeli and Lali flew on happily, exploring the wide world once more.
First published in N.B.T.’s Bulletin, Dec 97