Warning: Long entry. Proceed at risk.
Once upon a time, there lived a King in a faraway kingdom. He was a fighter, this king. Everything in his life, he fought and won them. He waged battles to increase his land and his coffers until his kingdom was the biggest and the richest among all others.
The King was so much a fighter that he could never be still. When he wasn’t trying to expand his lands, he went on quests to search for all the oldest and beautiful artifacts to add to his mounting collection of war trophies. At the same time, his people loved and respected him for the fairness he dealt in all things and for his strength and thus they made good the land that he won for them.
And then there was thus more money crinkling in the coffers and more treasures, gems and diamonds in the castle keep. He had the rarest old silks by the bale which ancient production techniques were long lost. He owned the largest ruby in the world, taken from the eye of the Snake God in its temple filled with, till now, manic followers. He slept on pillows filled with the feathers of phoenixes died and reborn.
The king, it was touted, was the owner of all the treasures in the world.
But the King was not happy (of cos, I think you figured). He always felt he needed and wanted more. In the middle of acquiring country A, he was planning a hostile take-over in country B. He went out of his way to acquire all the treasures in the World, but he’d only feel that minute of intense joy when the last enemy threw down his weapon or when he held an exquisite work of art.
One minute, and the fleeting excitement will leave him hungry for another conquest.
When the King finally conquered the last state in the whole world and made it his, he left his men happy and contented that their final ordeal is behind them and went alone to rocky cliffs. On the needle shores of his newest conquest, he fell to his knees and wept in deep sorrow.
Startled he wiped his eyes quickly and looked around.
He was sure it was the wind echoing his name.
Why do you weep so, whispered the Wind.
The king felt small in the presence of the wind, which can be as gentle as a breeze or as terrible as a hurricane. He felt compelled to answer the omnipotent entity.
‘I am not content. I have everything I could possibly desire but I desire none.’ The King confessed in a low voice.
You seek but you see nothing, said the Wind. You fought your wars without Just cause. Did you think that this world was made for you to possess?
‘It must be so because I have united all lands under me, I possess all there is!’ The King was angry. He felt he had not been taken seriously.
‘The world is mine. Everything you see, it is mine. All the treasures in the world, Mine!’
Do you now, laughed the wind. And suddenly a large gale whipped and crashed the waves against the cliff where the king stood. The King swung his sword this way and that, but of cos, it did not work.
How about, challenged the wind, the treasure of the World?
I bet you don’t have that, laughed the wind again, causing small pebbles to blow into the king’s face.
‘What is this treasure of the World? I have never heard of it.’
You’ll not know it till you find it, your Highness. And once you find it, you’ll be happy.
Hope tinged the King words. ‘You have a cure for my sorrow?’
Never will you want nor desire more, it will complete you.
Thus said, the wind stopped blowing and the sea grew dead calm. It was gone as quietly as it came.
And the king, full of hope that he can be happy, went back and tidied up his states. Once he had appointed all his ministers and assigned all his duties and kissed all his wives, he disappeared to set off on a journey for this mysterious treasure of the World.
It was to be the beginning of a decade search.
The king back-tracked and retraced his steps. Traveling alone, he journeyed to all those lands he had fought and won. Everywhere he went, he found new things to see, smell, hear, touch and taste. Once he saw these conquests as, well, conquests, but gradually he begins to discover that the world was so much more than something to be gained, won, and then tamed.
Some places (like X, Y and Z) were so foreign that it did not care about who was governing them, much less notice a change occurring in the monarchy. There were some places where the news took years to reach and the people who lived there thought nothing of politics and war. In one, only the four seasons and the endless fields of vineyards and small red or white grapes kept the peoples’ interest. In another, only the monsoons and the endless fields of saplings in knee-deep mud and the pureness of husked rice occupied their attention. In yet another, only the half-year of sunshine and the endless cold icebergs and the trawl of silver-scaled fishes filled up their lives.
He was tolerated as a ‘nice young man’ in these parts, although it was generally agreed laughingly that he was a complete dullard on everything.
He had asked them about the Treasure of the World (with a capital T? You sure?), but seriously, and they told him so, if there is such a treasure call that, they’d have changed its name immediately. But while they could offer no help as to the real honest-to-goodness so called Treasure of the World (and here, they’ll roll their eyes), they did, however, offered their opinion what they thought is The treasure and welcome the strange man with the funny accent to it.
‘Have a drink?’ asked the X-ians.
‘Have a bowl?’ asked the Y-ians.
‘Have a bite?’ asked the Z-ians.
And while the King would always say, ‘I need to get going; I need to find my treasure.’ Nevertheless, he would always stay for a little while longer just because.
Many a time does a recurrent thought intrudes on the King: that there were so many different beings in the whole world, and they all behaved and thought differently. yet they bleed like him, fall sick like him and given the choice, walked on 2 legs and sleep lying down. A mirror of himself multiplied a gazillion-fold and with each copy occurs within itself an mismatch, a change, a difference. The King was astounded and learnt new things everyday, the type of grapes grown, the name of different grains, the difference between 2 identical fishes. But most of all, he learned to appreciate. And relax.
So the quest became longer and longer. The Treasure of the World seemed less of an enticement with each year. Like an excuse, he used it to open up their hearts to him (after rolling their eyes at the name). It was the same every time, he’d ask them and they tell him it’s a terrible name (terrible terrible!), before proceeding to announce what they think it should be and introduce it gladly.
And so in a blink of an eyelid, 10 years had gone by. The King had since traveled to all his kingdoms but realized he had barely scratched the surface. During then, there were several manhunts to look for him, but the drawings of him, oh how he guffawed! All wore a crown and a set of chainmail. It is as if the royal painter, who had known every single curve and precious stones on his circlet of gold and velvet and had recognized every dip and dent of the steel chink of his chain, had had a sudden attack of amnesia trying to recall the king’s face. It is as if the essence of himself had been built under his crown and armour and that once they were exchanged for peasant clothes, he had morphed into somebody else, the kingliness in him that everyone recognised had been borne off by his appearance.
One day, the king once again found himself at the edge of a cliff over a rollicking sea, admiring the horizon of sunrise. Sometime during the recent months, he’d heard that the kingdom had finally declared him dead and stopped all searches. His eldest son would be taking over the running of the land and under the well-meaning hands of his ministers, would be groomed as the next king.
Which is all very well, thought the ex-King, but suffered a twinge of homesickness at that thought.
Hence he faced the sea, knowing this is where the wind was most easily spotted.
Cupping his hands, he hollered, ‘I have been to the 4 corners of the world and back but I have not found this Treasure of the World you have spoken of. No one knows what it is and everyone thinks it’s something else.’
‘My desire to possess it drove me, but although I still do not possess it, I now desire it not.’
The wind did not comment but the ex-King felt the breeze picked up.
‘You have said that having it would complete me. But I now feel complete without it.’
A hollowness in his ears greeted him, but the wind remained silent.
‘You said it would cure my sorrow, but now I have no sorrow for it to take away.’
The waves begin to climb higher as the wind grew stronger and whipped around him. The King tried again.
‘I have not found it but I am happy. I am content!’
And a huge wave from the suddenly turbulent sea reared its head and crashed a foot from where the ex-king stood.
‘But I need to know! I need to know what this treasure is!’
Then jump! He heard the Wind spoke. The wave rose under the draw of the Wind and froze itself like a tendril of finger, beckoning the king.
The giant sized finger waved at him and the King, for all his heroics, felt at once terrified by the strength of the wind and by its erratic temper.
He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and leaped. The finger wrapped itself around him and melded back into the sea. Again the sea immediately calmed and the wind continued on its way, laughing silently.
A burst of cold salty wetness hit the king’s body like the shock of a cough sweet he once took from a medicinal villager.
Once again, the wind had left him with cryptic words. That thought persisted until he realized that while he had been busily trekking the lands and mountains, he had not searched the seas.
Perhaps the Wind had decided to let go of subtlety and hustled him into the cold wet blue instead.
He floated and drifted through the currents and asked the schools of fish the same question. But of course the fish had no concept of treasure, being that gold and silver did not fill their tummy. Although they did direct him often to the many shipwrecks drifting through eternity with their skeleton crew.
The king despaired. He really wanted to go back onto the land, but when the anatomical water enclosed him, he had grown gills and breathed water. When he tried to climb ashore, he started gasping and his lungs started burning. His face turned as blue as the ocean when he finally gave up and accepted that he had, if temporarily, become a fish with 2 legs.
He regretted his curiosity. The Wind was right. It knew that the king wasn’t truly as content as he felt. If he was, he wouldn’t have asked to know the answer to what he had been searching for. The horrible thing is, is that he felt that he was on the verge of discovering it just when he was summoning the wind but had taken the easy way out by asking.
‘I’m in this way over my head.’ Said he and chuckled at his lame joke.
Just then, an octopus as big as the king lumbered up and settled beside him on the deepsea coral. For once, someone had approached the king instead of the other way round.
‘Yes?’ said the king.
‘I have a problem…mmmMmmm.’
‘I have been searching for something for quite a long while…Mmmmm…could you help me?’
‘Please don’t tell me you started out being human.’ The King’s heart grew cold.
‘Oh no no, been a squid all my life….’
He relaxed. ‘Ok, what?’
‘Mmmmm….I have been looking for something called water. Do you know what it is? Water? Only that no one here seems to know.’
‘Why!’ the king swept his hands around. ‘All this is water!’
‘What, the corals?’
‘No! You can’t see it because you’re in it!’
Suddenly, the ex-king's head snapped up and his brow cleared. Like a hurtling train, his past experience for his whole life rushed by, like a series of snapshots.
His mum, his dad, his first horse. His men, his wife, his kids. His mornings, his noons, his nights. His love, his laughter, his anger. The sunrise, the sunsets, the stars, the moon. The horizon, the breeze, the rain.
The wine, the rice, the fish.
He started laughing and ignored the octopus (which was ignoring him also, so happy it was whirling like a UFO), great big gulps of laughter that peeled his insides. At once, the water that had magically not affected him began to make him uncomfortable. His gills abruptly disappeared. Half gasping and bubbling with joy, he stroked with strong arms till his head popped out the water and he could breathe again.
'I have it! I have it!' He shouted it to the bright blue sky while bobbing in the waves. And did the ex-King laughed and whooped in laughter at his own stupidity and cried tears of joy that he was given the opportunity to possess such a great gift.
And the wind, invisible but always there, looked on as the ex-King swarm back to shore and returned to his beloved kingdom. It watched as he officially retired and handed his elder son his crown (whom he buried in the garden) in a big grand ceremony. It watched when the king sent men to upgrade the villagers of X, Y and Z, who while happy that somebody had come to fix their dripping roof, was nevertheless unsure who exactly, is the king now?
(Oh aye? Oh, him. He was a nice man, but a complete dullard. We 'ad to teach him everything. Looking for Fool’s gold, we told 'im. He must have discovered finally that our wine/ rice/fish is indeed the Treasure and have rewarded us for our wisdom. Thank you, my man. Incidentally, there’s a patch over there you’ve missed. Yup, over there. You're welcome. Want to try a little of our Treasure?)
And the wind would watch as the old king stand on the cliffs to watch the horizon and the sunrises and the sunsets and hollered its name, thanking it for wisdom everyday. Sometimes he would bring his wives and sometimes the new king. And while the wind never answered anymore, it would breezes to swept the old king in acknowledgement.
And Wind agreed that while the old king was a complete dullard, he was nevertheless finally, a happy one.
AKK (alive and happy)