Not Just a Fairy Tale

Nutan Raj (Mumbai)

Once upon a time, not so long ago, word spread that an emperor who had made conquests the world over was holding a celebration in his palace tucked away in an obscure village in the east. There was also some talk about everyone at the celebration being given a pot of gold.

People flocked from all corners of the world for this celebration. Some were lured by the gold, and others came just to get a glimpse of this mighty emperor.

We also travelled the breadth of the country to join this celebration. When we entered the palace gates, we realized that the emperor was actually a wizard. He had cast a spell and everything in the palace worked on the power of his magical spell of two words – Namo Narayana. The more often the spell was repeated, the more powerful it became. For ‘Good Morning’, people said ‘Namo Narayana’, for ‘Good Night’ they said ‘Namo Narayana’. When they got something, they said ‘Namo Narayana’, when they gave something they said ‘Namo Narayana’. In fact, the spell through sheer repetition became so powerful that it automated the whole congregation. The thousands of people who had come to the palace to join in the celebrations worked like clockwork, walked in line and sat in compartments. One step out of line and they were Namo Narayaned. One word out of place, and again somebody or the other Namo Narayaned them. But nobody seemed to mind, because the whole place was seeped in the joy and bliss of celebration.

There were feasts and festivities, songs and dances. The emperor himself entertained guests with legends of faraway times and faraway places, and stories of here and now – of gods and kings, of labourers and commoners. He enthralled everybody, and put a smile and a song in their hearts.

Like the rest, we were completely immersed in the festivities when we discovered that our baggage was stolen. We had carried with us huge bags of our wondrous and varied adhis, vyadhis and upadhis, mental diseases, sufferings and limitations, earned over a lifetime. They had suddenly vanished. We were disconcerted. We complained to the emperor, but he shrugged and laughed us away. “Why should I steal your baggage? I have all that I will ever want and enough to give each one of you. I am not interested in your baggage. Haven’t you heard the announcements made every day? Please carry your bags and shoes wherever you go, even to the dining area.”

To ensure that we did not miss our baggage, the emperor gave us little parcels and packets of jnana and we went back to the revelry.

Finally the time came to say goodbye (which by the way was also said as Namo Narayana). We waited for our pot of gold. Instead the wizard gave us a small pouch of seeds. He said, “These are magical seeds. If you prepare the ground right and nurture them well, they will grow into amazing trees with silver branches, golden leaves and fruits of gems. I have given directions for growing them in the pouch.”

We were sceptical but we remembered Jack and the Beanstalk, so we kept the pouch. Now the wizard said, “These magical seeds I give for a price. Whoever wants to keep this pouch will have to give me his/her heart.”

We thought Shylock was bad enough asking for a pound of flesh nearest to the heart, but this one is asking for the heart itself! On the wizard’s assurance that he would return it to us in better condition than it had ever been before, we gave him our hearts.

Now that we are back home, we discover that the directions with the seeds are in simple words, difficult to follow. We hope someday the palace gardener will help us prepare the ground and plant the seed. Meanwhile we plan to go again to the festivities next year to seek the pot of gold. And I pray that this emperor who is a wizard in ensnaring us in his web, never lets us go. Namo Narayana.