Friday, January 11, 2008

"The Happy Man's Shirt"

Many a times I find it placating to myself to re-iterate unto me one of the short yet profound tales I had read in one of my text books back in middle school. I was probably too young or not matured enough to interpret its beauty; but today, as I stand, striving hard to lead a life in this unpredictable world, recalling the tale often lends me peace, hope and joy.

Here goes the tale. I have written it in my own manner and a little bit maneuvered; because it was a poem and I don't remember it word to word- all I know its the plot and the moral of the story.

It was one victory after another; the kingdom was spreading its boundaries by leaps and bounds. The people who dwelt in that kingdom were reaching the peak of prosperity. There was a celebration at every nook and corner, in the wet air. But there was a King who was not happy.

Adorned in clothing of silken threads, rows of pearl beads around the neck, a beautiful queen, a host of servants pulling the string of the fan, the silver glassware overflowing with wine and champagne: nothing seemed enough to him. Artists, musicians, thinkers and men and women with multi-faceted bliss of talent and grandeur adorned his court: none-the-less, for the King, no one could satiate his desire to fill his own glass of happiness upto the brim.

Till one day, when the sun was overhead with its bright yellow beams penetrating the ground glorifying every sand into a marvellous golden hue, the birds chirping and the swan singing a melody, a smart man arrived at his court. The King who was as morose as he could ever be, could not be more eager to talk to him to ward his sickness of unhappiness off forever: a secret key which could unlock unto him the door of ultimate mirth, happiness and joy.

"My Majesty, I have a medicine for you which can make you happy forever! It is the secret key you have been looking for," said the man. The King was stirred to astonishment amidst his ecstasy so much so that he was ready to hunt down the man's medicine for happiness with as much as it could take. "I am glad there are smart men in my kingdom like you. I will reward you with a hundred horses, thousand shillings of gold and silver and a palace in my courtyard. But the medcine you suggested ought to make me happy forever," the King replied. The smart man bowed and accepted the King's words with utmost submission, faith and a smile.

The hunt for the medicine of happiness started from the next dawn itself. Courtmen, soldiers one and all engaged into the job assigned by their King, who was eagerly awaiting the miraculous medicine. The medicine was: search for the person who replies he or she is happy when asked; and get the King his or her shirt to wear for a day. The King would be happy from the next sunrise onwards, for ever and ever.

The King's men went door to door seeking that one "happy" person. They met an old woman who said, "I lost my son in war two years ago; I am not happy." Then there was a farmer sitting by a lush green paddy field who said, "They took my land, they took my toil." Another little boy crying by his courtyard mummed, "The other kid broke my toy!" When they met a beautiful young lady sitting in trance by the sea-shore, she uttered, "I am waiting with my woes for my husband to return who went sailing down this sea in hunt of treasure beyond seven oceans and thirteen lands."

The soldiers got tired seeking for the right person. Tired and pensive, sitting under a shady tree, a soothing wind was swaying them, caressing lightly their gloomy faces; when suddenly they heard a very sweet melody. Looking around, they saw a beggar sitting by the roadside. He was extremely lean and thin, almost the same width from the front as he was sideways. He seemed to be hungry for days together. His eyes had mellowed down into caves of darkness and the edges of his pants were torn with several threads coming out with holes in them as if it was an activity of notorious rats. He was sitting on a piece of newspaper which had turned pale yellow and was looking more like a parchment paper than anything else.

The soldiers were in no more enthusiasm to ask this beggar if he is happy. After all, they had met so many rich people and everyone replied in negative. Then how can this beggar who doesn't even have proper clothes, house or food be happy? Nevertheless, they had the fear of losing their jobs, should they be not able to get the King his much coveted medicine of happiness!

So they walked up to the beggar with the least interest, half asleep with exertion and depressed with the outcome of their medicine hunt. One of them asked, "Hello man, our King wants to know if you are happy." The beggar was singing anyway, but their question made him start laughing terribly. "Yes, Sir! I am very happy!" he said.

This reply dumbfounded the soldiers: despite his attire, they could see a bright hope behind those dark crevices in his eyes, a big grin stretching his dwindled cheeks and a slender body which though beaten bad by the cold, but not enough to beat the mirth emanating from his body language. They were in loss of words when they re-iterated the question, "Do you understand young man, what we are asking? If you lie, then the King won't spare your life." "Yes I do, Sir. I am telling you, I am very happy. I don't have complains against anything. Please go and tell the King if this reply can be of any service to him in anything," said the beggar.

"OK, if you are sure about your answer, the King wants to have your shirt. He will also reward you in emeralds, rubies and gold should you give him your shirt. A smart man says this shirt can make him happy forever," asserted the soldiers. The beggar's intensity of laughter knew no bounds. Trembling with a small sleek body, his white jaws were pushing out with the huge grin. The soldiers got angry and said, "Don't you see what were are asking for? Give us your shirt. Where is it?" The beggar calmed down, and to everyone's astonishment replied, "Sir, don't you see I don't have a shirt?"

The King woke up the next morning and learnt what the real medicine for happiness was.


Aparna Kar said...

Heard it or read a long time ago. Thanks for retelling it :) You did beautifully

sodamncool said...

Dukhi Raja ki kahani..4th std :))
brought back memories :) ...

Munmun said...

@ Aparna
Thanks for liking it :)

Munmun said...

@ sodamncool
Yeah, pretty old memories! But sometimes they are like the old wine in your bar ;)

sodamncool said...

Thats true mm..however sometimes recollecting those memories is pretty painful too..for me tho so many times cos it always reminds me how old I've become...

Partha Pratim sanyal said...

Goood-ol-story! Liked re-living it!

But found an information anachronistic - the beggar sitting on the "newspaper". Mind you no newspaper in those days I guess!!

Munmun said...

@ PP
Hehehe! very good point :D :D
see, this is what happens to a very very amateurish writer!!