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Chapter3

The Acharya was dozing on a bench in the shade of the jamun tree in the park. The two soldiers shook him awake in a rude manner. The Acharya opened his eyes to see the soldiers.

They shouted at him. “come on, move. The sultan wants you at the court office, just now”

The boy was watching them from a distance. The Acharya looked at him. The boy gave him a thumbs up sign. Acharya acknowledged and walked behind the soldiers. The boy kept his distance behind them. He had kept up his promise.

The court house had an imposing entrance gate. The soldiers pushed their way in. Acharya hesitated for a moment. Suddenly he remembered what happened to his friend Kooran when he walked into a similar court house in tanjavoor.

He shook his head and walked in and soon he was standing in front of the sultan. Sultan looked at the old man for long time. He realised this was not an ordinary man. There was no hint of fear in him. A supreme calm prevailed on the aged face. Sultan decided to be courteous.

“Who are you and what are you doing in Delhi?”

“I am a sanyasi. I try to help people. I also look after an ancient temple. Some time back your soldiers had removed an idol from that temple. It is important for us. I have come to take it back with me”

“How do you know that your idol is here?”

People have seen your princess playing with it in the parks.

“There are so many idols. They all look alike to me. How can you say the idol kept by the princess is from your temple."

"This idol is unique. Its colour and grain type are unique. I will recognise it anywhere." His tone shook a little. He was not very good at lying.

“Have you seen it before?”

The Acharya did not want to add to the set of lies. He kept quiet.

The sultan said with a finality, “if you are referring to the idol kept by the princess, then I can not return it to you. She is already upset with you. So I suggest you please go away."

"I cannot leave without the idol. I have to take my idol back."

“By hook or crook?”

"I did not say that. I am hoping you will give it back to me."

“why should I do that?”

“Because it does not belong to you and is of no use to you. Presently your princess is playing with it. Soon she will grow up and take interest in new things that young ladies take fancy to. This Idol will very soon be discarded by her. Today‘s play thing loses value with time as you grow. But for us, it is a very valuable entity. We worship it.”

"if you say it is of so much value to you, how is it that you cannot protect it. See how easily we have snatched it out of your hands?”

The Acharya was silent.

“weak people should not aspire for big things. You get what you want only if you have power to grab it. You are powerless.”

The Acharya remained calm in spite of the flush of anger that rose in his throat.

Sultan was laughing. ”old man, you have come too far away from your home. There is nobody to protect you here. I can lift a finger and have you put to death.”

“I am sure you can do that. I also know that you will not do it.”

"why should I not do it? what stops me?”

“You will not kill me because it is no fun killing an old man. Further, you are a sensible man because you believe you can talk me out of my idea of taking the idol. Thirdly, you know I am not so helpless as it appears.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know I am a great magician. I can immobilise you this very moment.”

The sultan laughed.

“Do not take me lightly. Look into my eyes.”

It was an order.

Sultan could not help looking into those calm eyes.

"I see nothing."

"Look sharp."

Two cobras swam into his vision with full hood and split tongue snapping at him. He distinctly heard the hiss of two angry cobras. A mild shudder went down the sultan’s spine.

“You saw something that scared you alright. I have kept them inside me all along. If you harm me, they will be out in a moment and you will be finished in no time. I am not saying this to scare you. There is no need for me to scare you. You know what you saw inside me. Such animals live inside all men. We have learned to keep them under control. You like to flaunt it. That is the only difference between me and you.”

Sultan heard all this.

“I see no relation between what I saw and what you want.”

“You said, I should have power to get what I want. I have shown the power. Depending on place, time and context any power can be overwhelmed. One power overwhelmed cannot reduce the value of what we want. I want that idol returned to me. I have better use for that idol than anything you have.. That idol will lift the morale of my people. I want it in my hands now, please. Today, only your daughter is deriving pleasure from our idol. She will soon discover more things that will give her lot more pleasure. Then she will have no use for this idol. But if she gives it back to us, the blessings of scores of people will keep her for ever happy.”

“I do not know. You will have to talk to her.”

“I will be happy to talk to her. Please call her.”

The sultan sent a messenger to call the princess over.

தொடரும்...

Chapter 2









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