Editor's Choice
Category: Fiction
Author: Prasanna TG
Season 6

Napoleon Bonaparte stood at the ship’s bow; his tricorne hat pulled low against the salty sea spray. The rolling grey waves of the Mediterranean stretched endlessly before him as the ship cut through the white-capped swells on its journey back to France. Brooding and pensive, Napoleon gazed at the horizon, his mind drifting back to the arid sands of Egypt and the Pyramids rising majestically under the unrelenting sun.
The ambitious military campaign he had led in Egypt was meant to be his crowning achievement, a bold endeavour to expand the French Empire and emulate the conquests of the great Romans. But it had failed, cut short by Admiral Nelson’s resounding victory at Aboukir Bay. He felt isolated and misunderstood, his genius unappreciated by lesser men who could not grasp his grand vision for France’s destiny.
The ship rolled as it crested a giant wave, saltwater spraying over the deck. Nearby crewmen toiled with the rigging. They carried on with their duties, giving Napoleon a wide berth.
A deep rumble of thunder echoed across the darkening sky. Napoleon lifted his eyes to see ominous clouds rapidly approaching, their heavy undersides swirling with menace. The crewmen shouted in alarm as the sea began to churn violently.
“Batten down the hatches!” yelled the first mate. “Secure the cargo; we’re in for a blow!”
As the first fat rain drops pelted the deck, the wind rose to a shrieking gale. A strange, shimmering portal opened, a swirling cerulean vortex pulling the helpless ship towards its mesmerizing depths.
The crew cried out in terror, many dropping to their knees to pray. But Napoleon gazed with wonder into the wormhole’s hypnotic swirl. Here was something beyond rational explanation, a gateway to unknown realms of possibility. Destiny was calling to him, beckoning him into the maw of the cosmic portal.
Without hesitation, Napoleon stretched out his hand toward the shimmering abyss. As the ship was drawn inexorably forward, the vortex enveloped them in a blinding flash. A profound silence engulfed the scene as Napoleon lost consciousness, surrendering himself to the fates.
When Napoleon awoke, he found himself lying in a meadow of lush green grass and brightly coloured wildflowers. Gentle sunshine bathed his face as he sat up in confusion, trying to get his bearings. In the distance, he saw a serene village of thatched roof cottages nestled amongst graceful palms. Strange music with a mesmerizing rhythm floated on the breeze, along with the earthy scent of incense.
Where was he? This was no familiar European landscape he had been deposited in. Rising unsteadily to his feet, Napoleon brushed the grass from his uniform and strode towards the unusual settlement, his boots sinking into the soft loam. As he passed through the village outskirts, he noted with surprise the dark-skinned villagers garbed in vivid silks, so unlike the French peasants he was accustomed to commanding.
At the end of the main thoroughfare sat an old man with a long white beard, his eyes closed in meditation. Napoleon stood imperiously before him and demanded answers in his customary peremptory tone.
“You there, tell me at once where I am and who rules these lands!”
The old man opened his eyes and regarded Napoleon calmly, entirely unruffled by the brusque interruption. To Napoleon’s surprise, he responded in perfect French, if accented.
“I am Sri Ramanuja Siromani, and you are in the village of Kanchipuram in the ancient land of Bharata.”
Napoleon’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “How does a heathen such as yourself speak my language?”
Sri Ramanuja Siromani smiled benignly. “I have learned many tongues in my studies of this world’s peoples. Please, be at peace. Although much time stretches between our lands, we are all connected.”
Intrigued, Napoleon accepted the old man’s invitation to enter his home. He gazed around curiously at the clay tablets etched with ancient scriptures.
Sri Ramanuja Siromani offered fruits and water and bade Napoleon to sit beside him. As they consumed, the old man explained that Napoleon had passed through a mystical wormhole in the fabric of space and time, sending him hundreds of years into the past.
Napoleon listened, captivated but sceptical, as Sri Ramanuja Siromani elaborated on his people’s understanding of the interconnectedness of destiny and the circular nature of time. All events past and future were interlinked, the sage explained, and Napoleon’s presence here was no mere accident.
“But why here? Why now?” Napoleon demanded, struggling to grasp the significance of it all.
The old man smiled sagely. “All in due time, my impatient friend. For now, know that the universe has brought you to this place and point for a purpose. If you open your mind, you may find the answers you seek.”
Over the next few days, Napoleon was drawn into lengthy discussions with the tranquil mystic. At first, he scoffed at Sri Ramanuja Siromani’s talk of destinies and the unseen connections between far-flung times and places. But gradually, he felt his rigid scepticism soften as the sage exposed him to ancient scriptures and shared insightful tales illustrating spiritual truths.
Napoleon leaned forward with great interest when Sri Ramanuja Siromani explained concepts of royalty and leadership from Srimad Mahabharata. The sage translated Duryodhana’s perspective on bestowing kingship to Karna, mentioning that the Shastras have it that three classes of persons can lay claim to royalty – persons of the blood royal, the warrior heroes, and those that lead armies. Napoleon’s eyes lit up with recognition.
“Yes, yes! A true emperor must be a hero and the gallantry of a conqueror!” Napoleon exclaimed. “One cannot rule on lineage alone.”
Sri Ramanuja Siromani nodded approvingly and unrolled some yellowed scrolls covered in ancient Sanskrit verses and illustrations depicting battle formations and weaponry. He explained these were from the Dhanurveda.
As the sage demonstrated the military techniques, Napoleon’s reservations faded further. He felt like a student sitting at the feet of a master tactician from ages past. Eagerly, he practised the formations Sri Ramanuja Siromani demonstrated, their undeniable similarities to his tactics.
When night fell, Napoleon would gaze up at the vast canopy of foreign stars from his sleeping mat, pondering his strange predicament. In the company of this mystical Eastern guide, the foundations of everything he thought he knew were shifting. Was destiny guiding him on some pre-ordained path? And was there perhaps more he could learn from this ancient culture than he ever expected? The firm convictions of his Enlightenment rationality now seemed less unassailable.
Sensing the stirrings of change in his guest, Sri Ramanuja Siromani urged Napoleon to open his heart and share his deepest ambitions and questions. Haltingly at first but with increasing passion, Napoleon spoke of his grand vision to shape Europe’s future and carve his name into the annals of history.
“But how does one know this is their destiny?” Napoleon asked, his brow furrowed with uncertainty.
Sri Ramanuja Siromani placed a hand gently on Napoleon’s shoulder. “A true leader serves his people, guided not by ego but wisdom. Conquest through force of arms alone cannot last. You must temper your strength with humility.”
In the following days, Napoleon roamed the village, interacting with scholars, soldiers, and tradespeople. Gradually, their customs became less foreign, and he began to see them as fellow children of the human family. His respect deepened for the rich philosophies and principles underlying this ancient society.
But too soon, the closing act of his journey approached. Sri Ramanuja Siromani related an ancient prophecy that the fickle Goddess Mahalakshmi would quickly shift the abode of prosperity westward, presaging seismic change. He looked significantly at Napoleon.
“Your destiny is linked to this unfolding future. But beware, for destiny can blind men to reason. Conquer with wisdom and humanity, not only the strength of arms.”
As Napoleon prepared to return through the wormhole, which had reappeared as mysteriously as before, his farewell with the sage was emotional. Each had gained new insight from their unlikely friendship. Finally, Napoleon entered the shimmering portal, returning to his world and time.
When he awoke aboard his ship as though no time had passed, his astonished crew clamoured for an explanation. But Napoleon remained silent, holding his transformed understanding close to his heart.
Returning to France, Napoleon instituted reforms and strategies influenced by his experience in the sage’s village. One night, back in his study surrounded by maps and manuscripts, Bonaparte penned a letter to his beloved Josephine. His quill scribbled furiously, laying out radical proposals for ending the corruption and extremism tearing the nation apart. Only by elevating the ordinary people and showing humility and compassion for all France’s citizens could the dream of the Revolution – Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité – become reality.
Sending the letter express to Paris, he sat back. He knew his ideas would be controversial, even branded dangerous by some. But he must follow this course. Bonaparte would steer her toward glory as only he could, with his unique convergence of Eastern wisdom and Western will.

Share on Socials

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *