Early in the
morning, someone was calling sweetly, “Princess, get up please. Princess.”
Kashishwari smiled in her sleep. If she opened her eyes she would find her
maids lined up next to her bed with water, towel, make up tray. Some would
scrub her face, other would comb her hair, or help her dress.
and opened her eyes in smoky lamplight. Alas! There were no fancy bed, no row of
maids or anything. She was lying on a rickety bed under a threadbare quilt. The
mosquito net was dirty, everything in the room spoke of better days. She was
getting on in years. Perhaps one hundred and two. She often got confused. Still
she could remember dimly, she was a king’s daughter, a king’s sister and
another king’s aunt. Then she wondered how could that be. How could she be a
king’s daughter and sister at the same time? And then a king’s aunt? How was
that possible? Then her housemaid explained that they were different kings.
That she was sister of one king, and daughter of another and aunt of a third
again and tried to turn over when she saw someone crawling on the floor. It
wasn’t a little child. It looked like a grown adult. Do adults crawl on the
ground? She had never seen such a thing. She raised her head and called, “Hey,
who are you crawling down there? What are you up to?”
The man looked and
smiled, “It is me, grandma.”
“Me? Who is ‘me’?
everybody around is some kind of a ‘me’. What is your name?”
“Ma’am, my name is
“Are you a thief?
Tell me. What are you looking for? Must be that pair of dragon faced bangles?”
“No grandma, don’t
you remember? Those bangles were sold for your treatment when you had that
episode of high fever?”
“Oh dear! Seems like
you know a lot of details. Ok I admit you are not after the bangles, then what
are you trying to find? My necklace with pea shaped beads?”
“That too was sold
to get your new teeth.”
“Good Lord! You seem
to know everything! If not the bangles, or the necklace, what are you after
“Ma’am, if I tell
you, it will make you sad. I am searching for your room.”
“My room? How can you
look for a room inside a room?”
“Well, is this room
“Of course it is
mine. Whose else?”
“Indeed. Here, I am
turning up the light. Look around and tell me if it is your bedroom?”
“Not my bedroom?
What do you mean? Is it my cowshed?”
“I bow to you
grandma, even half asleep, you have recognized your cowshed.”
“What nonsense! Why
should it be my cowshed?”
“Well, if bedroom
turns into a cowshed, it is a very sad turn of events, indeed!. Here, look up
at the ceiling, you will be able to see some moonlight, even a few stars
through the cracks and gaps in the tin roof.”
around. He was right! “Why should there be tin roof over my bedroom? Are you
playing some pranks?”
“No ma’am, not me.
Someone else is playing a prank with you.”
screamed in terror, “Oh no! What happened to my bedroom? This really seems like
a cowshed. I can even smell the cow dung! Who stole my bedroom?”
“Ma’am, I didn’t do
“Then who did?”
“Who knows, but I
heard a rumor that some king is now going to stay in your house and that is why
they dumped you in this cowshed.”
“King? What king?
And why should that worthless king live in my house? And why should I be here
when I have such a large house? Tell me. Am I dreaming?”
Gadai scratched his
head, “No grandma, you are not dreaming. They really found a king in Chandraghoshpur
and he will arrive soon. That is why this arrangement.”
“A king from
Chandraghoshpur? You stupid! I too belong to the same lineage. My father was a
king, my brother was another, and my nephew was also a king. You think I am
some unimportant person? And what king? I am the sole owner of my house.”
“That is what we all
knew also, but now it seems Bhabesh’s son Rupesh is going to be the king and gets
to sit on the throne.”
“Did you say
Bhabesh’s son? Is he still alive?”
“That’s what we
“But, Bhabesh is
like my grandson. So the king will be my great grandson. Will it look proper if
I stay in a cowshed? Tell me, you stupid oaf, are you behind all this?”
“Never! Grandma! I
am just a petty thief. Nothing more. I saw the lamplight in the cowshed and
dropped in to see what was going on. Then I find you! Daughter of Danesh
Chowhury, sister of Satyesh Chowdhury, aunt of Tejesh Chowdhury and grandma of
“See? What a
humiliation! Me in this cowshed? Is that fair? Doesn’t it damage the king’s
prestige? You tell me. Such a huge house, yard, seven eight large rooms. I
wasn’t going to kick out my great grandson. We both can stay in the house.
Please, why don’t you arrange it for me? In this place I will surely catch
pneumonia and die.”
“How can I do that?
It is not only the king, but also all his ministers and generals, they too need
some place to stay. After all they are king’s men.”
“Really? Sounds like
the happy days are here again! Last I knew the king had no assets to speak of.
Now suddenly all this?”
possible grandma. A molehill can become a mountain too. And that’s when danger
strikes. Well, grandma, it is almost dawn. We can’t manage well in daytime. I
better get going?”
“You are leaving?
Ok. But dear, before you leave, do me a favor. Cover me well with this quilt.
It gets a bit chilly in the early morning.”
Gadai tucked the old
woman with much care and left with a sigh.
In the morning, maid
Manti shook Kashishwari awake, “Grandma, get up. It is late already.”
her eyes, “Say, Manti, Last night I dreamed that a thief was telling me that I
have been moved into a cowshed?”
“It is true indeed.
You are in a cowshed.”
“That is so unfair!
We should call the elders of the village and complain.
“Oh, no, no! Don’t
get into that. The house is full of huge muscular goons. I don’t like their
looks at all. I tried to complain about something minor, and the guys looked at
me in such way I was petrified!”
Bholu had to bathe
early in the morning. Then he was made to wear a clean, new cloth. A shawl and a huge turban were added too.
Fifteen or sixteen giant sized men accompanied him to the palace ruins in the
The ruins had been
cleaned up as much as possible. A clean sheet was spread on the iron throne.
The holy fire was lit in front.
Bholu hadn’t slept
well last night. A man woke him up and talked some nonsense. Rest of the night
Bholu spent thinking about what he said, but couldn’t find any solution.
Now he felt sleepy and was yawning. He was also hungry, but
supposed to be fasting till the coronation.
The man sitting on
his right had huge muscular arms, wide chest and killer looks in his eyes. He
was glancing at Bholu from time to time. The smoke from the holy fire and burnt
ghee was smarting Bholu’s eyes, but it didn’t seem to affect the man. His name
was Jagu. All of a sudden he poked a huge finger in Bholu’s tummy and gnashed
his teeth, “Do you know how much we had to spend for this? Three hundred rupees per kg ghee, honorarium to the priest, and
a piece of dhoti for him too, then the feast—for lunch, pulao and chicken
curry, for dinner, loochis and spicy lamb curry. If we don’t get all this
compensated, your kingship will be history!”
Bholu was stunned.
What expense, why compensation, he could not understand. Who was spending all
this money and why? He didn’t want to be the king. Somehow he smelled danger.
His heart beat a little faster.
At last Abidyathakur
finished his long drawn worship. The holy ash was smeared on Bholu’s forehead.
Then everybody carried him to the throne. Abidyathakur sang some more hymns and
sprinkled holy water on him. Then all the goons half-heartedly cheered, “Long
live the King!”
Bholu didn’t feel
like a king at all. In fact he was deeply worried and a little bit scared too.
He couldn’t figure out the intention of these guys, he did not even know if
they were the good guys or the bad ones.
He had even lost
appetite for the lunch. The pulao and the chicken curry were tasteless on his
tongue. He just ate a little bit and got up.
After the meals,
another bald headed goon came to him with a big smile, “you turned a nice trick
by becoming a king out of nothing. Well, good job. Now start keeping your part
of the bargain. We don’t have much time to sit around. Start from tomorrow.”
Bholu asked in great
surprise, “What work are you referring to? What do you want me to do?”
“What? The real job
is meant for you. Start right away. We are all behind you.”
hurriedly stepped in the middle of the two and said, “Don’t hurry him like
that. Let him settle down a bit. These jobs have to be done in a cool head.
Rushing through may spoil all our plans. Let him rest a day or two and look
around the area.”
Bholu realized these
guys wanted him to do something but he had no idea what it was.
Later that evening
Abidyathakur took him aside and told him the story, which made Bholu’s hairs
stand on end!
Apparently Bholu has to look for some hidden secret treasure.
It seemed only Bholu could do it and nobody else. If he found the treasure, the
goons had promised to quit their criminal activities and get steady jobs in the
palace. After all, the king did need bodyguards and securities. However, if he
failed in his search, the goons would be very unhappy with him.
Poor Bholu started
to tremble. He thought perhaps he had malaria. That night he didn’t eat anything
and went straight to bed.
someone again shook him awake. Bholu saw the same man sitting at the foot of
his bed, “Well how do you like being king so far?”
“It is awful! I’m
supposed to find a hidden treasure, or I will be in deep trouble.”
“So there is some
risk involved. After all that is why they were looking for you all around.”
“But what do I know
of hidden treasures? When I lived here with my dad, it was in a small house,” Bholu
“Yes. I know, near
the pond in Palpara.”
“Right! You seem to
know a lot.” Bholu said, “But I don’t remember ever visiting the palace. How
would I know where to look for this treasure? What a fix!”
“But those guys need
that treasure. They too have to live. There is much competition in crime nowadays.”
“Are they all
“Of course! They all
left just now to loot in Paldighi.”
“Pal dighi…the name
sounds familiar. I’m sure I heard it somewhere.”
“Sure you have
heard. That is where they murdered Bhabesh Chowdhury. Do you know why? Because
he didn’t tell them his son’s name or whereabouts.”
“For me? But why?”
“You must have bad
karma! Your trident birthmark is the problem for both you and your father.”
“What happens if
you are born with a trident birthmark?”
“That is a long
story. Just let me tell you. You are in grave danger, whether you find the
treasure or not.”
“Oh man! I’m shaking
like a leaf.”
“That is natural.
With dangers all around, of course you will be trembling.”
“Then shall I run
away from here?”
“Probably a good
idea, but there are guards all around. Besides Gokul, Nobu, Nitai, there are
also Damodar, Haripada and Brindaban. But you can try.”
“How did you come
in? Are you with them?”
“No brother. I am
too insignificant for them. But I am used to sneaking in and out. Many years of
Bholu just sighed.
The man said, “You
aren’t giving up already, are you?”
“If there is no way
to escape, then …”
“But why do you want
to run from here? Legally, this house belongs to you. Kashishwari has no one
but you. After her death you are the sole owner of this place.”
“My house? How so?”
“It is a bit
complicated, but easy once understood.”
“Kashishwari is the
sister of your great grandfather Satyesh Chowdhuri . So she is your great grand
aunt. She was widowed at an early age. So her father Danesh Chowdhury deeded
the house in her name. So this is your house too. Couple of weeks before they
grabbed you, they picked up Kasishwari in her bed while she was asleep and
dumped her in the cowshed so the whole gang could occupy the house.
Kashishwari is hundred and two years old. She has no other relative. If you go
to the terrace you will see the shed towards west. It is a ramshackle place,
the tin roof leaks in the rain. Poor woman is really suffering in the cold. But
she can’t do anything. Her own great grand nephew has occupied her house.”
“But that is totally
unfair. It’s a shame.”
“You are her only
“Can I go see her?”
“Not openly. That
will be dangerous. But there is a guava tree close to the terrace. Can you
climb a tree?”
“Then go down the
tree, there are many shrubs on the ground, you can easily get cover.”
Getting off from the
third floor with the help of the guava tree was no problem for Bholu. Even
though he was not book smart, climbing trees was one thing he was expert in.
Down on the ground too there was plenty of cover and he had no problem reaching
There was one dim
lamp lit in the shed. Doors and windows were non-existent. It was not at all
safe for an old woman to stay there all by herself.
In the dim light he
felt pity looking at the skeletal thin woman. Bholu too had no living
relatives. If this lady was really related to him, then she was the only one.
Softly and lovingly
Bholu called, “Auntie? Auntie!”
it?”Kashishwari opened her eyes. In spite of her age, traces of her previous
beauty could still be seen in her face.
“I am Bholu,
“Bholu? Who is
“My proper name is
Rupesh Chowdhury, I am Bhabesh Chowdhiry’s son?
Her toothless smile
was the sweetest Bholu had ever seen.
“Oh, my! You are the
good-looking son of Bhabesh, you are the one with that trident birthmark! So,
you’ve come to see this old woman? I am so thrilled! Heard you’ve become the
king now? That’s why they made me move here.”
“No auntie. I didn’t
occupy our house. The ones who did have nothing to do with me. But you don’t
worry auntie. I will take you back to your own house.”
“Will you? Really? I
am really suffering here. It gets so cold in the early mornings. Then stray
dogs and cats come in; all kinds of insects roam around, ants, mosquitoes…”
Bholu could feel an
intense rage growing in him. It was coming out like flames from his ears and
nose. He was so angry that he forgot all about his fear.
Kashishwari’s thin hands in his own and promised, “You watch me auntie. I am
going to do something about this!”
“Say, you are really
Bhabesh’s son? You are not playing tricks on me, are you?”
“No, auntie. Because
of my birthmark, my dad was forced to leave the village, to save me. I was
saved but dad died in the hands of those bandits.”
“Then come and sit
by me for awhile. I want to tell you something, in private.”
“What is it auntie?”
“Come closer. Around
here even the air has ears.”
Bholu bent over her.
Kashishwari whispered in his ear, “The trident is on the spire of the temple of
Shiva and the key is in the bottom of the pond. Understood?”
“No, auntie. I don’t
“But I don’t know
any more than this either. This is all I’ve been told by my grandparents. You
seem honest. So I am just passing it along. Perhaps you will be able to find
“OK auntie. I’ll remember
them. You rest now. Whether I find the treasure or not, I have found you. My
“Bless you my son,
what you said made my heart fill with peace and joy. Long live.”
good-bye to Kashishwari, Bholu didn’t return to his room. He kept walking
straight and reached the fountain in the garden. He decided to sit there and do
some thinking. He was not scared anymore. In stead he could feel the heat of
He was so deep in
thinking that he didn’t realize when the darkness had receded and the pale
light of dawn appeared.
Suddenly he heard,
“Seems like a new face here!”
Bholu saw a middle
aged man brushing his teeth with a twig.
Bholu sighed, “I guess
you may call me that.”
“So, why here?
Looking for buried treasure?”
Bholu smiled, “You
can say that too.”
The man sat and
chewed his brush, “So many people come here searching for treasure.”
Bholu said, “Yes, I
know. Do you live around here?”
generations of my folks have been living in Chandraghoshpur.”
“Great! Then you
must know about the trident on the temple? How come it’s missing?”
his twig brush, “There was a trident alright, haven’t seen it lately. Perhaps
someone stole it.”
“Stealing from that
high? That too a rusted iron thing? Who would do that?”
“That I can’t tell.
Nowadays thieves have no sense whatsoever. Only the other day someone stole my
“Why are you interested in that trident?”
“Why? I am not
“You don’t look like
an outsider? Where are you coming from?”
Bholu looked at the
man, “My name is Rupesh Chowdhury. I am the son of Bhabesh Chowdhury. I had
some relationship with this palace.”
startled, “What are you saying? You are Rupesh? The one with the trident mark?”
dropped his brush. He picked it up and stared at Bholu for a long time, “Your
clothes are shabby but otherwise you do look like a royal person. You do
resemble your dad. But your dad…”
“He is not anymore.
I heard he died about six years ago, in the hands of
robbers while trying to save me.”
“That’s what we
heard too my son. So, have you decided to come back here now?”
Bholu shook his
head, “I am not sure. I only know that I have some job to do here.”
“What job my son?”
“Search for some
hidden treasure” Bholu smiled.
his brush more, “If there is a treasure, they say, you are the legal owner of
it. You do know that, don’t you?”
“Yes, but that is
the reason my father was killed, and perhaps I will have to die too.”
“Don’t say that, my
son. But if you are looking for the trident, I can tell you, it is with me.”
“With you?” Bholu
“Yes, my son. If you
want I can get it for you.”
“Let it be, for now.
I don’t know what I am supposed to do with it.”
“Perhaps you won’t believe it, but I heard a divine order to remove the trident.
I don’t know its purpose either. There is one more item in my possession, I
don’t know if I should tell you about it.”
Bholu stared ahead
for a long while, then said, “I’ve heard of a key in the middle of the pond.”
stunned for a while, “Whatever doubt I had about you is now totally gone. Yes,
you are the man. That key too is with me. I received another message to bring
it out of the pond.”
Bholu smiled again,
“Don’t know the use of the key either. For now, you hang on to that one also.”
“Bhabesh was like my
younger brother. So you are like my own child. If you need any help, please
call me. Our relationship with the Chowdhurys goes back many years. That is why
I like to come here. You know, even though in ruins, this old palace still
seems alive to me.”
Bholu sat in
up, “My name is Brahmagopal. Call me if you need me. My house is right in front
of Pathakpara. Everyone knows.”
left, Bholu too rose slowly and walked into the courtroom. Half of the ceiling
was gone. The rest was hanging dangerously. Bholu stared at it for some time.
Even though in ruins, he was developing a sort of attraction towards the place.
After all, it belonged to his forefathers.
He sat on the throne
for a long time with his eyes shut. Auntie had told him about the trident and
the key. But didn’t say what to do with them. He was aware of serious danger
but didn’t feel particularly worried or afraid.
After sitting for a long
time, he got up and walked around the room. He noticed the round disc stuck on
the back of the throne.
Suddenly there was a
roar nearby, ”Here you are, my lord. Are you planning to escape? Or do you want
to keep the treasure all to yourself?
Two bandits were
standing near the door.
Bholu was not
startled, nor afraid. He looked in their eyes and asked, “Why? Am I your
They did not expect
this reply from timid, soft Bholu. Both the goons gaped at him in surprise.
One of them told the
other, “Oh my! He has changed his attitude! Hey, just because you are a king,
do you think you can lord it over us? Come along with us right now. Or we will
have to tie you up and drag you.”
Immediately both of
them grabbed Bholu on both sides.
Bholu shook off
both, “Follow me quietly, two steps behind. If you touch me again, I will break
The goons were
surprised. One of them was almost going to take up on Bholu but changed his
mind and walked on behind him.
Coming home Bholu
saw the other robbers standing around looking worried. Raghu came forward. “Where
were you? Who gave you permission to go outside?”
thought these guys were giant sized. Today he realized they were not all that large
or scary. They looked just like ordinary folks one saw all around. Actually
yesterday he was scared, and saw them through his fear. Today the fear was gone
and suddenly the goons became half the size.
Bholu stared at
Raghu and said in an icy voice, “ Listen closely, I don’t follow anybody’s order.
You are uncouth, without manners. Next time I’ll have to teach you some
Raghu was so stunned
that no word came out of his mouth. Abidyathakur came forward, Raghu said, “Did
you hear him? The boy has a death wish.”
“Why are you people yelling at him? He just went to the palace to look around.
Just let him. How will he find the loot otherwise?”
“What if he finds it
and runs? No way. One of us will always follow him, wherever he goes.”
Bholu also showed
his temper, “Nobody is going to follow me. I will go wherever I want, whenever
Raghu was going to
reply something in kind, but looking at Bholu’s eyes, he changed his mind. He
told Abidyathakur, “Have you seen his eyes? They are on fire. Looks like a
different person altogether.”
“Well, he is a king,
after all. Has to have some temper. You can’t order him around.”
Suddenly Bholu said,
“Mr. Thakur, I have a question.”
“What is it?”
“There is an old
lady in the cowshed. I hear she is the original owner of this house. Your folks
have forced her out. I wish you bring her back to her own room.”
and his disciples objected, “How can you do that? We don’t have enough place for
ourselves, we are all crowded…”
Bholu shook his
head, “I don’t care. But this is my final word. You bring her back or forget
about hidden treasure. I’m not going to search for anything.”
One bald headed guy
came towards Bholu, ready to punch him, “Do you think it’s your father’s
property? You think you can get away with whatever you demand? Who do you think
Bholu too was not to
be pushed around. He looked at the man with fire in his eyes, “I am the king,
and yes, this property does belong to my father. You will have to do whatever I
order you to.”
The guy threateningly
stepped closer, “Say one more word and I will personally change the geography
of your face!”
pulled him back, “Whom are you threatening? Threats are of no use here. Can’t
you see he is not at all afraid of you? Now go and vacate the south facing
room. Then go pick up that crone, along with her bed and dump her there. Go!”
The man was still
not pacified, “Oh yea? Just like that? Where are we going to stay?”
Bholu said calmly,
“Why? In the cowshed, of course.”
The man was now trembling
in rage, “Me in a cowshed? You dare speak like that to me. Come, let’s settle
this right now…”
Bholu had never
engaged in any type of fight in his whole life. He always stayed away from any
kind of altercation. But seeing Kashishwari’s sad state last night, something
happened inside. When he saw the goon coming towards him like a mad elephant,
he raised his right hand and landed a heavy slap on his face.
Bholu never knew
that slaps could sound so loud, like a thunderclap. When the guy fell on the
ground with that one slap, Bholu himself was utterly shocked.
It seemed not only
Bholu, all the other goons too were stunned. No one rushed at Bholu, nobody
even objected. The guy on the ground also didn’t try to get up.
Abidyathakur said, “When would you guys get some sense in your heads? Now go,
get that old hag back home.”
Three or four goons
immediately said, “Yes sir” and ran out.
minutes, Kashishwari was reinstated in the best room in the house. Nobody
raised any more objections.
Bholu slowly climbed
the stairs to the attic on the terrace. He clearly sensed that he wasn’t the
old self anymore. It was as if something was boiling inside him. He felt the
heat of it all over his body. He wondered if he could live peacefully with this
new hotheaded Bholu.
Perhaps you’ve heard about ‘magic ears’? It
was something like that. Sitting in the attic, Bholu could clearly hear Raghu
speaking to Abidyathakur in the ground floor, “What is wrong with the kid? Has
he gone mad? The kid we picked up was so quiet and simple. Never said a word in
rage. And now look at him. Did you see his eyes? Red like fire. Absolutely no
trace of fear. Such people are difficult to control.”
“Didn’t I tell you? He has the royal blood in his veins. Right after coronation
rites it has started to act up. Don’t provoke him anymore. Just agree to
whatever he says. Let him first find the treasure. Then you can do whatever you
want with him.”
“But, till then we
have to take his insults? Nobody yet has dared to speak to me like that. And
this puny boy…”
“Do you understand
diplomacy? If you did, you wouldn’t need me to give you advice. What if you
hurt him bad or kill him in your fight for revenge, then how will we ever find
the treasure? There is plenty of time later for revenge. If you mess him up
now, we will never see our loot.”
Suddenly the magic
ear shut off. Bholu couldn’t hear anymore. Just as well, if it were on all the
time he would have gone crazy listening to everyone’s yackety yacks. He heard
exactly what he needed to hear. He realized that the danger was still around.
But still he did not feel any fear. Somehow he felt as if he was not alone
anymore. He could also feel physically stronger. So far his brain had been somewhat
dull, but now he could feel much smarter and full of ideas. Yesterday the fear
had taken away his appetite. Today he suddenly felt very hungry.