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It was dark in the dense electoral jungle. King Manmohan Vikram Singh stood amidst the ominous trees, bathed in a sliver of moonlight leaking through tangled branches. Journalist owls hooted all around him. Reporter bats screeched by overhead. Opposition hyenas tittered, circling the King menacingly.
Undaunted, King Manmohan Vikram Singh strode towards the banyan tree where the ghost Betal 2014 hung upside down on a branch. He lifted the ghost off the branch, hoisted him on his powerful shoulders and began the walk towards the Italian tantrika. The smirking Betal told the king that he would narrate a story to pass the time, on the condition that the king does not speak. Should the King open his mouth, Betal will fly back to his resting place on the banyan tree.
“Staying mum? Ha! That’s child’s play for me,” thought Singh. And so Betal began his story.
“Once there was a powerful empire, ruled by a great king. The King was loved by one and all, for he was fair and sensitive to the needs of the poor. He was harsh with criminals and he was just in dealing with disputes. He even brought computers into the empire from distant lands. His subjects were happy.”
“The King’s consort was a commoner from a distant exotic empire, who bore him a handsome prince. The prince was the apple of the King’s eye and his wide-eyed innocence brought unbridled joy to his subjects. Everything was well in the kingdom.”
“Until one day, when disaster struck. On a trip to the Southern province, the King was attacked and killed by tigers. The shattered Queen, despite her grief, put the needs of her subjects first, and began to plan the succession. She realized that she would not be accepted as the ruler on account of her identify. The prince, while acceptable, was too young to rule the kingdom. So, she appointed her loyal Minister as the King.”
“The plan worked. To the subjects, the Minister was the King, but the Queen wielded the real power, and choreographed the Minister-turned-King’s every move from behind the curtains. The courtiers realized that they must win the loyalty of the Queen in order to rise in influence. Soon the courtiers began to ignore the Minister-turned-King, and fell over themselves trying to please the Queen and her son.”
“The kingdom suffered. Crime increased. Corruption gripped the kingdom. Sycophancy was as its peak. The royal treasury began to empty. Prices of important commodities increased manifold. Neighbouring empires threatened to annex the empire.”
“Discontent set in among the subjects. On the very computers the original King brought from distant lands, the subjects expressed and spread their views against the empire. Instead of helping the subjects, the courtiers and ministers instead dealt with them in a high handed manner. The disgruntled subjects turned to their Minister-turned-King for answers.”
The Betal turned to King Manmohan Vikram Singh. “Hey Rajan, now tell me. In this utterly chaotic situation, what was the reply of the Minister-turned-King?”
Utterly engrossed in the story, King Manmohan completely forgot his vow of silence, and said, “The Minister-turned-King would have said, “Hazaron jawabo se achchi hai Khamoshi meri, Na jaane kitne sawalo ki aabru rakhe.”*
The Betal laughed manically. “O King, you are wise. That’s exactly what he said! But you broke your promise! You spoke!”
Saying thus, Betal 2014 slipped out of the King’s grasp and flew back to the Banyan Tree, with King Manmohan running after him in vain.
Will King Manmohan Vikram Singh get hold of Betal 2014? Or will Betal give him the slip yet again, with another story?
[*Literal translation: My silence is better than a thousand replies, as they conceal the honour of so many questions]