One day as he stood before the mirror, the Raja of Rangapuram was dismayed to find hair on his head thinning rather rapidly. At this pace he would go completely bald in a matter of a few months. Would his subjects then look at his stately presence with the same awe? This was serious.
He immediately called the Royal Vaidhya (the medicine man) for consultation. The Vaidya ingenuously advised the Raja there was no real cure for recovering the lost ground. The Raja would not take no for an answer. He instructed the Vaidhya to assemble all the medicine men of standing in the kingdom and find a solution. Else the Vaidhya would spend time with them in jail.
So very discreetly the message went out to all parts of Rangapuram calling seasoned medicine men to report at the Vaidhya’s house.
And when they did assemble, the Vaidhya explained the predicament.
Within minutes they all agreed with the Vaidhya’s assessment. But the mulish Raja would not be convinced. The threat of being jailed preyed on their mind. They even took breaks to see if any fresh ideas emerged on possible line of treatment.
Now their main worry was how to escape incarceration much less find a cure the Raja’s ‘affliction’. They scratched their heads to no avail.
At this time, a young man stood up. Who let him in? He seemed too raw to be amidst them. And not just that – he even claimed quite preposterously he had a solution.
He drew a round derisive laughter and a cynical ‘Is that so?’
Not ready to be put down, he continued: ’I’m quite serious. I can bail us all out of trouble.’
A resigned voice perfunctorily inquired: ’Mind telling us how?’
‘I’m sorry it can’t be any other way. I can share my cure only with the Raja himself in person.’
Not even a ripple. Despair induced weariness all around.
‘Believe me, it’ll work. Take me to the Raja and see for yourself. You’ll thank me for it.’
Finally the Vaidhya spoke: ‘I say, let’s do like he says. What have got to lose? It can’t get any worse.’
‘Oh, it can. When the Raja figures out we got a rookie to treat him, there’ll be heads to pay.’
The medicine men did not warm up the Vaidhya’s suggestion.
Finally it was decided the Vaidhya would by himself take the young man to the Raja on the following day and others would stay back at the Vaidhya’s house and await their fate that presently appeared far from sanguine.
The Vaidhya sought and obtained a private audience with the Raja and introduced the young man with whatever little enthusiasm he could muster.
One look at the young man and the Raja was not pleased. Only the Vaidhya’s fervent plea for his continued indulgence saved the young man from being thrown out right away.
The cold reception did nothing to disconcert the young man.
On cue he spoke up: ‘My Lord, I’m certain I’ve a solution to your agony.’
It elicited a low-key disinterested grunt. A bee buzzing a rose in the garden hogged the Raja’s attention.
‘Sir, I’ve this potion made of rare herbs’ extracts. This must be applied every morning on the head an hour before bath. This imposition, agreeably inconvenient, would not be for more than four weeks. For some even ten days were good enough. Why, my own grandfather would vouch for it if he was here. He used it on his mirror-shine dome for only two weeks and…’
‘And what…’ the Raja leaned forward, mildly piqued. The bee was out of sight.
‘Sir, unfortunately, he died fracturing his skull…he tripped on the lush locks of hair that cascaded down from his crown like Ganges from Lord Shiva’s’.
The young man then turned to the Vaidhya: ‘Sir, you may want to recall the royal barber and ask him to be ready with his blades and scissors.’
His bravado finally found its mark.
What was he prattling? It was all unbelievable, almost like magic, the Raja thought. And he also claimed there was even someone to vouch for all of it, never mind the beneficiary wasn’t presently available…Well, the young man looked innocent and so incapable of lying. There must be something in it…The boy dare not pull a scam on the Raja for he would certainly know what the consequences would be, if he did…No harm in giving it a try.
The Raja not entirely without apprehension took the proffered potion, issued a stern warning against charlatanry and dismissed the audience of two with an agenda to review the situation after two weeks.
As he was being shown out, the young man turned to the Raja: ‘I’m sorry I missed telling you this, Sir. A condition for the potion to be effective. Trivial, so trivial I find it embarrassing to even mention it. But I must. You would find the results gratifying only if you do not do not think of a monkey when applying it on your head. Really, a cinch for you, Sir. Calls for far less effort than shooing away a fly that dares to sit on the royal nose.’
Somber mood prevailing, his flippancy was roundly ignored.
Next morning, the Raja took out the potion like some jewel from a secret cache. As he began applying on his head, he remembered the young man’s injunction. And with it a monkey entered his mind. This wasn’t going to work, he was warned. He decided to break off distracting himself for a while with the affairs of his kingdom. When he returned after an hour to his potion, the monkey too returned. He didn’t know if it was the same one, they’ll looked so much alike.
Try as he might, the monkey was equally stubborn. And when it did go away for a moment, its place was taken by one of its brethren.
What was to be a child’s play now turned into a monkey sport, certainly not the entertaining kind.
So much so it was threatening to become an obsession with the Raja even at other times, adversely and often hilariously affecting his public and personal image and life, the monkey becoming the sole tenant of his mind. Within a few days, the officials at the royal court were quite worried the Raja may soon become unhinged. Should they call in exorcists? The risk was word may get around.
The Royal Vaidhya was one who could think through clearly yet. He summoned the young man and angrily asked him if he had cast a spell on their Raja. If the monkey was not taken out at the earliest, he would personally arrange for the young man to be hanged in public, nay, in private.
‘And leave the monkey with the Raja forever? Don’t be foolish. Take me to the Raja,’ the young man wasn’t perturbed. His demeanor hinted the proceedings were not entirely unexpected.
He saw the Raja, a barely recognizable shadow of his old stately self, desperately in need of help.
‘Dear Sir, there’s nothing wrong with you at all, I assure you. I’ll get you all right in a moment. All you’ve to do is to throw away the potion and say, standing in front of the mirror, ‘I don’t need you at all now or ever. I’m good and happy as is.’ ‘
So the monkey was drawn out finally and laid to rest.
Everyone in the know sighed in relief the medicine men included.
The Vaidhya arranged a job for the young man in the palace just in case…
Source: Adapted from tamil-kutti-kathaikal.blogspot.in, thanks to N Udayakumar.
PS: Some new words are thrown in for children’s vocabulary enrichment.