The King Maker
The king of Bilaspur spent all his time in nothing but luxuries. As a result, his hair became white while he was middle-aged, his face wrinkled, and his joints weak. These indications of old age made the king very anxious.
He sent for his physician and asked him, “Can you cure me of this old age and restore my youth? I shall reward you to your heart’s content.”
The physician said, “O king! I know the secret of Eternal Youth. In six months, I shall make a new man of you.”
It was announced all over the kingdom that the king was about to retire for six months.
The physician ordered an underground chamber to be built for the king, away from the city. The king entered this chamber which was always kept completely dark. Except for the physician, no one could enter it.
The physician went on administering all sorts of medicines to the king. But their only effect on the king was to make him still older. Soon he developed some illness and died a miserable death. The physician promptly buried him in that chamber so that no one knew of the king’s death.
Then the physician began to search on the highways for a youth who had some resemblance to the dead king. One day he found such a youth.
The physician said to him, “If you obey me and do as I tell you, I can make you king.” The youth agreed.
The physician brought him to the dark chamber and told him all about the king and his death. Then he sent word to the ministers and officials of the court to come and visit the king.
When the ministers and officials came, the physician told them. “The king is still under treatment, though he is now considerably younger than before. You will have to meet him in total darkness. I suggest you go into him individually, announce yourselves by name and position, give him the latest information regarding state affairs and come out.”
By this trick, the youth in the dark chamber came to know the names of his courtiers and the latest news about the state. For six months, these officials kept coming and going. After that, the physician announced that the king’s treatment was complete.
An auspicious day was fixed for the king’s return. The entire population was outside the underground chamber to hail their king on that day.
When the king came out, everyone was thunder-struck at the change in him. But for a slight resemblance, he was altogether a new man.
“Thanks to my treatment, the king shall never become old again. If necessary, I can change his appearance beyond recognition,” said the physician. This was a threat to the young man who was pretending to be the king. The young man alone understood this threat.
The king was taken to court in a grand procession and crowned afresh. The courtiers named him Ajara, one who defeated old age.
Now the wily physician was the most powerful man in the court. His word was law even for the senior ministers. His orders were of the same importance as the king’s orders. The physician began to take advantage of this situation; He dictated to the new king without hesitation on every matter of preference to the state.
The new king tolerated the physician very patiently for a long time. Then he called him alone and said, “Your behaviour is improper. Since you have made me king, your may order is not proper. Since you have made me king, you may order you should not interfere with the ministers and other officials.”
“Ah, power has already gone to your head! When I do not care a fig for you, will I likely care for your ministers and other menials? It is wiser for you not to forget that I have made you what you are!” said the physician in a rage.
The king replied. “You are a wily man. It was foolish of me to have received help from a rogue. But it will be much more foolish to be grateful to you for such help.” So saying, the king took out a dagger and stabbed the wily physician in the heart.
Later, king Ajara ruled the land happily for a long time.
Chandamama August 1955 | T Surya Rao