My name is Stuti and I am here to tell you the  true Cinderella story. Trust me, I know because I was there in the middle of it all when it happened. Dont pay any attention to the myths and fairy tales as they are all untrue.

The name Cinderella itself is a myth. In reality I have a sister called Snighda Lal and the name is quite a tongue twister for westerners, who changed it to Cinderella. I have another younger sister called Shruti and, collectively, we were called the Ess Sisters or, sometimes, the Stuti Sisters. Somehow, this got corrupted into step sisters. We are real sisters and we are very nice people.

Our mother is called Meenu, and, somehow this got corrupted into “mean”. It’s totally untrue, she is a very kind and loving mother to all her three children. It’s true that some are from a previous marriage but she is very kind to all of them.

Also, there is no Prince Charming. My brother-in-law-law, my ji ja ji, is named Pravesh Chawla, and somehow, this got corrupted into Prince Charming. He lives in a very spacious bungalow in Lucknow that is his ancestral property. Some might say it’s a castle but really, there is not much resemblance.

The story of the lost slipper is true but it has been greatly distorted. In reality. my ji ja ji came to his wedding venue in a barat and the stolen pair of slippers was part of the joota chipai ritual, an essential part of the wedding ceremony. It was indeed a golden pair of slippers, or, rather, Lucknow style jootis  with heavy gold embroidery. He did come to the wedding on a horse, so that part of the story is correct. It wasn’t a silver charger, though, just a plain old mare on its last legs, good only for ceremonial occasions like weddings.

Yes, there was a dance and it ended at midnight. There is always dancing at Indian weddings and nowadays, both the bride and bridegroom take part. For the dance, Pravesh took of his slippers because it is very hard to dance effectively in Lucknow style jootis. I was quick to steal the slippers within minutes but I made a mistake: I stole both the slippers making them a complete set, worth stealing again. I asked Shruti to take them away and hide them immediately. She found an empty cupboard near the kitchen and put them inside. She was a little dumb, she should have put a lock on it.

Later, my sister and I negotiated with my jijaji on the fee for returning the slippers. After about an hour of bargaining, we settled for a price of Rs.10,000 – much more than the slippers were worth. It was all part of the fun and games of an Indian wedding.

I took the money and looked for slippers but they were no longer inside the cupboard. Somebody had stolen them, again. This caused a big hue and cry in a house already packed with commotion, but the slippers were nowhere to be found. Finally, I offered my Rs10,000 as reward money but there no takers.

In desperation, we called the police and a pot bellied sub-inspector, or daroga, showed up. He assessed the situation and concluded that some kitchen worker had stolen the slippers. He called all the kitchen staff and threatened them in all kinds of ways. Finally, he gave the staff thirty minutes to return the slippers and walked out of the room. The threats worked; by some mysterious process, the slippers re-appeared in the cupboard. The daroga took the ten thousand rupees as his share, walked away, and, no doubt, lived happily ever after, collecting more bribes.

Just by chance, there was a journalist at the wedding. Maybe he was from the groom’s side of the family, we never really found out. However he was intrigued by the story of the slippers having been stolen twice; he wrote it up and it got published in the Delhi edition of a leading newspaper. It caused quite a sensation, because it was a very funny incident. A visiting film producer from the US happened to read the newspaper article and found it intriguing. He called his film director in the US, told him the story on the phone and asked him to get a film script ready. The script writers heard the story on the phone, and got the names mixed up.

The Daroga became the godmother, Snighda Lal became Cinderella, while Stuti sisters became step sisters. However, the biggest mistake was that Meenu became mean and we ended up with a mean stepmother. The story became garbled in transportation from one culture to another, the writers never understood the joota churai ritual, or the nuances of the jeeja sali relationship.

However, they did the best they could and produced the Cinderella movie as a fairy tale for children. It became a huge success and spawned many imitations. There are dozens of different versions of the Cinderella story but please don’t believe any of them, they are just fairy tales. This is the only true Cinderella story.

All the others are just products of the imagination, unlike this one.