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Thursday, February 13, 2014

The peacock which was red... A tenali rama story

I do not know whether it is the same even  in places which are administered by elected representatives, but in kingdoms which were ruled by persons who were in control for no democratic reasons, the rulers were interested more in showing off what riches and artifacts they possessed, rather than sparing some time thinking of  the welfare of the subjects.. Even the best of the monarchs were never free from such tendencies..

And Krishnadevaraya was no exception.. He was always on the lookout for finding new exhibits for his musueums, zoos and nurseries.

When the king is obsessed with diversion of resources, the ministers and the courtiers would join him heartily.. And of course would derive lots of benefits out of such funny exercises.. That happened here also..

The chief courtier, Appalachari was past-master in feeling the pulse of the king… He would never let go any opportunity to prey upon the misplaced magnanimity of the king..

So, one afternoon, when the Royal court was in full session, Appalacharya made a ceremonial entry to the court with a huge bird-cage in tow.. Inside the cage rested, a peacock.. A really strange peacock.. A peacock completely red in hue.. Its feathers red, wings red, plumes red.. wholly a riot of red… as if a particular species of the birds have converted en masse to Marxism..

“My Lord and Master, this is my price catch of a lifetime.. As is well known to the exalted Royal mind, my patriotic feelings and my loyalty made me wander length and breadth of the middle-forests of India, braving all vicissitudes and costing me a fortune.. I did it in the company my two dedicated servants.. Finally we could capture this exotic bird in all its red splendor, and we did not spare any time in presenting it to the Royal Court for being inducted into the great aviary..”

The Monarch was immensely happy..

 “ We are pleased with your loyalty.. As the expedition would have cost the minister a fortune, we hereby order that a purse of one thousand gold coins be presented to Appalacharya before the bird joins the muster-rolls of the Royal Aviary”

The purse was about to exchange hands, but Tenali Rama Intervened.. “ My Royal Master, no doubt the Chief Minister has done great service to the kingdom.. However, as it is well known, the birds of such rare species would not survive solitary life in an aviary if they do not have company of the same species.. Therefore, it would be rather cruel to have a single bird like this.. The Minister may be asked to bring in a few more birds like that so that the royal aviary will be adorned with a happy and sastified family of red peacocks"

Appalachari was irritated.. He knew that he had to labour a lot even to have one red peacock.. In fact, an ordinary peacock was captured and a deft painter had given it a red-coat with his expert  strokes of painting brush.. A repetition of such work of art would take a lot of time.. 
Tenali Rama had already seen through this deceitful act since he had come by a piece of feather fallen from the red peacock, and when he washed it, it has retained its natural colour..

While Appalachari was fidgeting, Tenali Rama came with a proposal..” Our Prime Minister is very busy. It is not right to permit him to waste his valuable time chasing red peacocks in the middle forest.. Now I am on a vacation.. I shall undertake a jourey to the hatching area of such beautiful birds and bring back a dozen of them within a fortnight. The Royal Presentation may take place at that time".. 
 Appalachari wanted to say something, but the Royal mind was set. The errand was entrusted to Rama.

Rama did not go to the forest.. He just rounded up all the painters around and by constant enquiries, bribes and threats,  could locate the fellow who had done the consummate painting job to Appalachari's bird..
 “ Do not get panicky,” Rama told him. 
 “ I am going to use your talent for a better service to the kingdom. I shall protect you from any consequences that may arise out of your actions..” 
 After assuring the painter with safety and protection, Rama asked him to paint a dozen peacocks red in the same way Appalachari askded him to do..

When the group a full dozen  of red peacocks were ready for exhibition-and fifteen days had passed by this time- Rama entered the Royal Court with a dozen read peacocks happily perched in a big cage, with the painter in tandem, and gustily announced the arrival of the family to keep company to the original lone bird..

The King’s happiness knew no bounds.. He announced without hesitation that Rama was entitled now for twelve thousand gold coins.. to be awarded in a befitting ceremony, along with the thousand for Appalachari..

Rama folded his hands in salutation before the monrch and said, 
“ My lord and Master, I cannot persuade myself to be so avaricious.. All that cost me to  present these twelve peacocks was to catch a dozen  ordinary ones from the local gardens, and commission a painter to colour their plumage red with a drum of ochre dye, a bucket of water and a few painting brushes.. The cost of the birds, the paint, brushes and the wages of the painter all put together would not exceed a couple of gold coins.. I would be ungrateful if I receive more that that for this present..”

The bluff of appalachari was revealed.. He had to hang his head in shame.

Meanwhile, the clouds rolled up in the sky and it rained. The red colour adorning all the thirteen birds, ( one brought by appalachari and twelve produced by Tenali Rama) were all washed away and the peacocks danced in their natural regality.

Tenali Rama finally made a representations before the great Raya..
 “ My Lord and Master, the first responsibility of the ruler is to keep the subjects happy and peaceful.. I was watching that the poor people on the street were struggling for food and shelter. But the Royal treasury is being squandered and even being plundered for wasteful and fanciful expenditure.. The Prime Minister’s action actually gave me an opportunity to expose the senseless happenings in the court.. Had I told this without any proof, I would have been punished for spreading scandals.. May only prayer is that His Majesty make strive more for the benefit of the subjects, instead of listening to flattery and being subjected to their machinations..

Rama’s words really carried a lot of weight that day..

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