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Days later, when Pari returned to the river with an escort, lush green creepers of jasmine had claimed the royal cart. He took this as a sign from the gods of the forests and decided not to retrieve the carriage. His soldiers, impressed with Pari’s generosity, spread the news and it reached my ears.

In the Rajya Sabha, the royal court, with the Council of Rulers, poets and priests, and poor and rich in attendance, I praised my friend and king.

‘To a frail jasmine vine gave his chariot, Pari.’

He did not relish my tribute and declared it a blatant blemish of the truth. But the prime minister counselled otherwise. A great clamour went up from the rabble who crowded every foot of space in the auditorium. Shouts filled the air and reverberated in the chamber.

‘Pari, Pari.’ Cried the voices. ‘The king who gave his silver chariot to a vine.’

Street criers carried the proclamation to the busy markets and guilds, to the temples and manufactories, and to the full rivers and flourishing fields. When court ended and as I set off from the palace in my palanquin, crowds lined the streets and sang my praises. People threw colourful petals in the air and sprinkled me with fragrant water for having sung Pari’s great deed.

Even Prince Warmilan, Pari’s paternal uncle, the former regent of Parambu Nadu and current critique of the king, rose and said,

‘Parambu faces grave dangers, and the people wrecked with anxiety, my king.’ The prince, his hair and beard as white as the Himalayan snow and his face creased by age, was a showman, better suited for stage drama. And he viewed the king’s court as his stage. His audience: the sixteen chieftains of the Council of Rulers who represented the three hundred villages of Parambu Nadu. Warmilan spoke in a resounding voice.

‘We well know that Pari the private citizen embraces humility, and he wishes to disavow these embellishments, which they are not, but Pari our king, must concede to the people’s need for heroes. We need uplifting stories to strengthen our resolve to face the challenges that corner and crowd us.’

Shrewd man, that Warmilan. His actions had triggered the trouble facing Parambu Nadu, and he was eager to win back the Council’s grace.

When the former king, Warmilan’s older brother passed away, the boy Pari was not ready to rule. The Council of Rulers elected Warmilan as regent. When Pari attained maturity, the courtiers, who had grown weary of Warmilan’s autocracy, urged the rightful king to ascend the throne.

Matters having grown bellicose as many in the Council of Rulers, dissatisfied with Warmilan, were on the verge of revolt, Pari accepted the kingship and invited his uncle to serve the nation as Special Advisor, second only to the prime minister. Warmilan declined, pleading instead to retire to Vadanadu, his principality, and focus on the well-being of his community. His unhappiness at having lost the regency was boundless, and he became gritting sand in the new king’s sandals.

At council gatherings, Warmilan proved himself critical of Pari and took every opportunity to undermine the royal administration. He also resorted to proxies.

Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2019

Continued Friday 30 August 2019