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The Rajah who suffered for his Generosity

2006-07-14 00:13

  Once there lived in India a Rajah who was known far and wide for his generosity. It was said of him that he never refused anyone whatever favour he asked of him.

  One day there came to his court a Sadhu who said that he had a request to make. The Rajah spoke to him kindly and said, “Ask whatsoever you wish, and I will surely give it to you.”

  “No,” replied the Sadhu, “I shall be refused!”

  “I swear I will give you what you desire!” said the Rajah again.

  “Well, will you give me your kingdom, and let me be Rajah in your place?”

  “Wait one moment,” said the Rajah much surprised. “I will give you your reply presently.”

  Saying this, he went to his wife and told her what had happened and asked her if he should keep his oath. The Rani replied that he must keep his word, and that he must hand over the kingdom to the Sadhu.

  So, returning to the court, the Rajah told the Sadhu that his request was granted, and that he would forthwith be installed as Rajah.

  All the nobles of the court were called together, and the Sadhu was duly installed as Rajah in their presence. Then the old Rajah (whose name was Dhir) took his wife, Amba, and his two sons, Surya and Vikram, and left his home and kingdom.

  After traveling for many days on foot, they came to an inn kept by a very cross old woman. The Rajah begged her to let them pass the night there, and she agreed.

  In the morning the old woman came and demanded money for their night's lodging.

  “Alas!” said the Rajah, “I have no money with me but if you will give me some work to do for you, I will pay you that way.”

  The old woman was angry at first, but when she saw it was true that they had no money, she had to agree. She sent the Rajah into the jungle to gather sticks for her. In this way the Rajah not only paid for their lodging, but also bought some cheap food for his family.

  One day, when the Rajah was away looking for firewood, a very rich merchant came to the inn. He had a great ship moored near by, and had come into the town to do business. When Amba saw him coming, she quickly drew down her veil. But the merchant had seen her, and he at once fell deeply in love with her for her great beauty.

  The merchant went to the old woman and said that he would pay her handsomely if she helped him to carry off the beautiful woman. She agreed, and between them they made a plot. The old woman said to Amba, “I will give you a rupee if you will help me to carry food to the merchant on board his ship.” Amba agreed willingly enough, for they were so poor.

  As soon as they got to the side of the ship, the old woman pretended to be afraid.

  “I have never been in a ship in my life!” she cried. “Please go yourself and serve the meal, and I will pay you double.”

  So Amba went on board with the baskets of food, and no sooner was she safely on, than the merchant gave orders for the ship to sail.

  Imagine poor Amba's grief when she discovered the trick that had been played on her! The merchant tried to console her, telling her that if she married him, she would have everything she desired, but Amba would have none of him. She wanted to be with her husband and children, and would not listen to the merchant at all. From that day she stayed in the cabin that had been prepared for her, and would not come out.

  And poor Dhir! When he got back from the jungle he found his beloved Amba gone. He didn't know what to do. The wicked old woman would not give him the least help. Poor Dhir's heart was almost broken with grief.

  At last he decided to leave the inn with his two children and travel about in search of his dear wife.

  After traveling for many days, they came to a very wide river. Unable to take both the children across at once, he took one over and left him, and came back for the second. But, alas, in the middle of the river, he lost his footing and was swept away by the swift current! And so the two poor little boys were left fatherless and motherless, and a river between them.

  Little wonder that the two children soon began to cry. Now an old dhobi and his wife lived near the river. The cries of the weeping children soon attracted the attention of the old woman.

  “Husband,” she said, “please go and see why those children are crying.”

  So the dhobi, who was a kind old man, took his boat and rowed up the river. There he soon found the two boys one on each bank, and brought them back to his wife. She comforted them and asked them where their parents were. The elder boy, Surya, was able to explain that their mother had disappeared, and their father had been drowned while crossing the river.

  The dhobi and his wife patted and comforted the poor children till they forgot their troubles. And as they had no children of their own, they adopted them and brought them up, and for many years they lived with them very happily.

  Rajah Dhir was not really drowned; he was swept along by the current. But he managed to grasp a floating branch which enabled him to keep his head above water. At last he was able to reach the bank. Utterly exhausted he lay there for some time, and then seeing a funeral procession coming towards him, he rose to get out of its way.

  But imagine his astonishment when he found himself seized, and taken before a Vizier who asked him who he was. When he had finished relating his story, the Vizier came forward, and kneeling before him, offered him homage! “Sire”, said the Vizier, “you are our Rajah now, since it was the custom of our country to make king the first man who met the funeral of the old Rajah by accident.”

  So Dhir was duly installed as king, but he took no interest in his new kingdom, and left the government of it to his Viziers. For years this went on.

  Meanwhile the two boys grew up into fine manly youths. One day they said to the dhobi's wife:

  “Mother, we have lived on you long enough; it is time we went out and earned our own living.”

  The old woman did not like to part from them, but at last they persuaded her to let them do as they desired. With her savings she bought them a horse each, and sent them away with her blessing.

  The boys rode on, and chance brought them to the kingdom where their father was now Rajah. As soon as the Rajah saw them, his heart leaped up with joy for he thought, “Just such fine youths would my boys have been, if they had lived!”

  At this thought he became sadder than ever, but he gave orders that the two youths were to be provided with all comforts, and that no work was to be taken from them. After this the two youths began to live at court like princes. This made other people at court feel jealous of them, for they had to work hard for their living.

  One day the same ship with the same merchant, who had carried off the Rani Amba years before, came to the harbour. Amba was still or board, but she kept to her cabin and behaved like an invalid. The merchant had given up all hope winning her love, but he still loved her. So she was provided with every comfort that money could buy.

  When the ship was safely anchored the merchant went straight to the Rajah to ask for a guard to be put on his ship at night, as he had many valuables on board.

  The Rajah granted his request, but as usual left it to his Chief Daroga to carry out. Now the Chief Daroga had been pining for a chance to make Surya and Vikram do something unpleasant. So he seized the opportunity, and went to the youths and said:

  “It is the Rajah's order that you both go on board the merchant's ship, and keep guard all night. Beware you do not fall asleep, for if anything is stolen you will be responsible!”

  So the two youths went on board and prepared to keep guard.

  “Now,” said Surya, “we must do something to keep ourselves awake. So let's keep talking, for then we shall not get so sleepy.”

  Vikram agreed that this was a wise plan, and so they began the conversation:

  “What do you think is the most remarkable thing you have ever heard of, Vikram?” asked Surya.

  Well, I think the way our Rajah got his kingdom is most remarkable,“ answered Vikram. ”Imagine being washed up from a river to find yourself to made a King! What do you think, Surya?

  “Yes,” replied his brother, “that certainly is extraordinary. He was lucky not to have been drowned, as our poor father was.”

  “Tell me about it again, Surya,” pleaded Vikram. “I was so small then that I do not remember anything.”

  So Surya began to tell his brother the old tale of how their father who had been a Rajah had given his kingdom to a Sadhu, how their mother had disappeared, and how their father had been drowned in the river.

  Now Rani Amba had been disturbed in her sleep by their voices and she was just going to tell them to be quiet when her ears caught the names “Surya” and “Vikram.”

  “The names of my babies!” she thought. Then she came close to the curtain and listened. Her joy knew no bounds, for she had really found her sons. But what about her husband? Could he be the Rajah who was washed up out of the river? Although the boys had not said so, she felt sure that the Rajah of that country was her own husband.

  She decided to go ahead very carefully, for she knew that if the merchant came to know anything about it, he would just sail away with her and she never be able to meet her husband and her two sons again. So she made a very conning plan. She said nothing to the two boys, but let them go away in the morning.

  Shortly after they had felt, she told the merchant that the two guards who had been on the ship at night had stolen some of her jewellery. “You must go at once to the Rajah and ask for justice,” she said.

  So the rich merchant went to the Rajah, and told him what Amba had said, and asked for justice. The Rajah asked the Chief Daroga to produce the guards. Then Amba was brought in to make her charge. One look at the Rajah was enough-she knew him at once for Dhir, her husband.

  Throwing back her veil, she stood before him. Dhir started up and gazed and gazed, then he leapt down from his throne and took her in his arms.

  “Amba!”

  “Dhir!”

  The courtiers stood looking on in wonder. Then Amba turned and embraced her two sons. How happy they all were at this family reunion!

  The merchant, as soon as he understood the situation, quietly slunk away, and hurrying to his ship, he set sail and was never seen near that port again.

  The old dhobi and his wife were generously rewarded for their kindness to the two boys. But the old woman who kept the inn was punished for her wickedness, by being thrown in prison where she died soon after.

  The Rajah, his wife and their two sons lived happily for many, many years, and quite forgot their past troubles and sufferings.

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