Once upon a time …
I got down from my horse near a central సత్రం. I looked around and decided that most people were itinerant merchants, from distant shores. The village must have had good crops, I thought.
I came from the capital DharaNikoeTa itself. It was a few years after the second pulakEsi. Our king, being a pragmatic person, allied himself with the victors and consequently our kingdom flourished.
By profession, I am a బుర్ర కథ writer. I have been doing pretty well, having a hit బుర్ర కథ, on the _viSaala veedhi_. But, it is easy to rest on past laurels. I noticed that my audience is in the mood for _burra katha_ verite. Consequently, I am on the lookout for new real life stories.
Luckily, I had a tip from a guard in the palace. He informed me that there was a scandal in the house of kings several years back. Apparently, the half brother of the king, who should have gotten the throne is still alive!! He is living in a small village called sowpAdu near gunTa ooru.
I sensed a best play here. I could win that coveted _kaanchana taaLa patra_ [palm d’or] award. Imagine the intrigue, the suspense, the nobility, the treachery!! What else could the audience ask for!!
Now that I am here, in this remote village, I started on my task. The name of the person I was looking for is venkayya. An unfitting name for a king, I thought. I must change it to a more suitable one, say _prataapa simha_.
A street urchin showed me to a small house next to a pond. There was a large back yard full of big trees. I noticed the sweet fragrance of flowers while going into the garden. Underneath the guava tree, a middle aged man was sitting there.
I thought that I hit a jackpot. This man looked almost like the king. A strong family resemblance, I thought. I didn’t know how to broach the topic. I didn’t know if he knew that he was a possible contender for the throne.
I introduced myself. He was attentive, without being eager. Finally I asked him if he ever met the king. His eyes lit up mischievously.
“Ah, so you heard the story!”, he said. “I thought that by now everybody forgot it!”.
I said, “I am sure that not many have heard of it. I want to listen to your side of the story. The current king is known to be greedy. If he cheated you out of your kingdom, the audience has the right to know about it.”
He laughed riotously. “That is not what happened at all. May be you should hear all the story.”
He continued– “It is true that in my infancy I was left to dying in the forest by the brother of younger queen. Somehow I was rescued by the cowherd living in this village. Until I was twenty eight, I had no idea of my real parents. Anyway, the king discovered the treachery and had the whole land searched.
“When he came here and asked me to come to the capital with him, I must tell you I was tempted. I don’t know what I would have done. Fortunately, I had a sensible head on my shoulders, thanks to Malli, who eventually became my wife.
“I was happy person. My father [the cowherd] worked all his life building this house. I worked for it too, this whole garden is completely my idea. I could show you around later.”
“I was used to living here. All my friends were here. I had memories of each summer scorching this earth, and each rain drenching this earth. All the seasons of my life I spent here in this garden. From my childhood, I decided that I love to grow things. I knew that I was no good with all the administrative decisions.”
“Besides, I was devoted to Malli. She is an angel, as beautiful and hard working as ever. She is such a delight to be with. And, if I were to become a king, I am sure I could not have spent as much time with her. Also, she never would have liked to become the queen.”
“I had no choice but to refuse the king, my father. He was sad, but perhaps, understood me. He wasn’t about to refuse his son the happiness he cherished so much.”
I was at a loss for words. This man rejected a kingdom, just so that he could sit underneath this tree with his wife? I eventually managed to ask him if he ever regretted his decision.
“No, I never did. Well, a couple of times, I thought if I could find a way to reduce the taxes on the village, everybody would be happier. But, it doesn’t matter. I am not sure I could have done what I wanted if I became the king. My concerns would have been entirely different.
In the evenings, while the clouds and the birds fly together, when the gentle breeze ruffles the leaves of my garden, I find utmost happiness. When my Malli, sitting beside me, making a garland with these flowers and singing in a soft, low voice, I feel that I got the good end of the bargain.”
There was no more questions from me. He sent me off with a handful of fresh fruits despite my protests.
Obviously my trip has been a waste. I can not make this into a burra katha, why it wouldn’t play in parvateepuram either!! Imagine, an ordinary man spurning away a kingdom, all for some simple pleasures!!
May be my trip wasn’t a waste. I have been to _nandana vanam_ and back. Walking back to the satram, I bit into the guava. It tasted sweet.
Sep 21, 94