King’s Mystery Disease

Translated by Esha Data from Sukumar Roy’s Rajar Ashukh (Bengali Children story)

Once there was a king who had a serious illness. Many doctors came every day to try and figure out what was wrong with the king. However, none of the doctors could tell what the illness was; they could not treat the illness either.

How could they?  The illness was not actually real. The king kept saying, “I am sooooooo ill,” but no one could ever tell what the illness was. The king tried so many remedies, medicines, and treatments, but they yielded no results. He put ice on his head, he put hot water on his stomach, but none could heal the mystery illness.

Then, the poor king went crazy. He cried, “Get rid of these idiot doctors! Then take all their tools and set them on fire!”

That was how all the doctors were gotten rid of. From fear, no one went even close to the king’s castle. Then, everyone thought, ‘Hey, will our king die because his illness is not being treated?’

Suddenly, from who knows where, a hermit appeared and said, “I know the way to cure the king’s disease, but it is very very very difficult! Will you all be up to it?”

The ministers, governors, generals, and courtiers all exclaimed, “Why wouldn’t we be able to help? We will be very helpful. If we have to give up ours lives then most assuredly we shall!”

The hermit replied, “First of all, find a man, whose mind is void of unhappiness, upon whose face is pasted a smile, whom in all circumstances is happy.”

Everyone asked, “Then what?”

The hermit smiled and uttered, “Then, if the king wears that man’s clothes for an entire day and sleeps on that man’s bed for an entire night, then the king’s illness will be gone!”

Everyone exclaimed, “Oh, that is great news!”

With great celerity, the news of the cure was sent to the king. The king heard this and said, “Hey, if this simple cure was here all along, what were all those doctors doing all day? Daydreaming? NO one thought of this? Go now, and find that ever-smiling man, and bring his clothes and bed to me!”

Everyone scurried to and fro, yelling, “Search! Search! Search for the ever-smiling man! Quickly! Faster! Immediately!”

But no one could find any man who fit the hermit’s description (or perhaps, prescription’).

Whoever set out to search always came back saying, “The man who has no sad thoughts, who is always smiling, who is always happy; there is no sign of such a man.” All of the searching parties spoke the same words.

The minister got angry and said, “Can’t these idiots do anything right? These nincompoops can’t even search correctly!” Saying this, the minister himself jumped up to join the search of this unknown man.

Near the market, in front of a big brick house, there was a big crowd and an old, smiling businessman was donating to these people food, clothes, and toys.

The minister thought, ‘Ah! This man seems very happy. I can also see he has much money. I mean, if one has a lot of money, what does one need to worry about? I’ll go ask him for his clothes and bed.’

Right as the minister thought this, a beggar took some donations, but went away without thanking the businessman. The businessman became horribly angry. He ran to the beggar, hit him, took his donations, and chased him away! Seeing this, the minister shook his head and went away.

Later on, beside the river, the minister saw a man. The man was dancing along and singing happy songs; hearing this, many people crowded around him and roared with laughter. That a man alone could cause such laughter and merriment was something new to the minister. Seeing the man dance and listening to his songs, the minister doubled over in laughter, and thought, ‘Even with such an amusing man right here, all of my searching parties men said there was no such man!’ The minister leaned towards the man next to him and asked, “Who is that amusing man?”

The response came; “He’s just a drunkard. Right now you can see how jocular he is, but in the afternoon he becomes cross and a delinquent. No one in the neighborhood can stand him then.”

Hearing this, the minister became solemn and continued his search of the forever-happy man. All day the minister searched and searched, but as the time came for him to return home, he still hadn’t found the happy man.

Like this, the minister’s days passed; he’d search all day but return home empty handed and disappointed.

His excitement was almost all gone, but suddenly, one day, under a tree, he saw a crazy-looking old man. He had long, tangled white hair and a bearded face, and his skin seemed to have shrunk upon his bones like a raisin.

The minister asked him, “Why are you smiling so much?”

The man replied, “Shouldn’t I smile? The world is spinnin’ and the leaves are rustlin’. I always take a bath , watch people come, go, and talk, and then come back to this tree! Then, whatever days I get food, I eat, and whatever days I don’ get food I don’ eat. When I wanna walk around I walk around, and when I’m sleepy I sleep. There’s no thinkin’ needed, no confusion or messin’ up. It’s a great life!”

After a little head scratching on the minister’s side, he said, “On the days you don’t get food, what d’you do?”

The man said, “Those days are even easier! I finish my ‘people watchin’ and just lay around. I mean the days I have food are more troublesome! Get your spoon, raise it to your mouth, put it in your mouth, chew it, swallow it, and then drink water, brush your teeth, and wash your face and hands!”

The minister thought, ‘ After all these days, I’ve found my man!’ He said, “Can you give me one of your shirts and a pair of your pants? No matter what price you want for them, we’re willing to pay.”

The man began to laugh. He said, “My clothes! A few days ago a guy gave me a shawl, but I gave it to some beggar! The clothes on me are the only clothes I have.”

The minister said, “That’s a big problem! Even if I found the guy, he doesn’t have any clothes for me! Okay then, can you give me your bed and mattress? How much do you want to charge for them? We’ll shower you in money!”

The man laughed until he was rolling around. He couldn’t stop! After a lot of laughter, he managed to say, “I haven’ seen a bed in forty years, and you want a mattress and bed? HA HA HA HA! HO HO HO! HEE HEE HEE!

The minister’s eyes were wide. He cried, “You have no extra clothes and you don’t have a bed. Let me guess, you don’t ever get sick either?”

The guy said, “I mean, what is sickness? I don’ even believe in sickness! Whoever keeps thinkin’ ‘I’m sick, I’m sick,’ is the one who’s gonna be sick!”

The man leaned back on his tree’s trunk and laughed quietly.

The minister returned home disappointed. News was sent to the king. When the minister arrived to the king’s castle, the king listened to what the minister had to say, and told the minister to go home.

Everyone began to think, ‘Now what can we do? The only chance we had is now lost!’

Everyone stared at everyone else, heaved sighs, and said, “Nope, I can’t see any way for the king to live…”

On the other side of the palace, the king thought, ‘I live in a palace, eat gourmet foods, I have no need for anything, and some vagabond who has no clothes, bed or food, who lives under some tree is saying that he doesn’t even believe in illness? That beggar can just throw away all illnesses and say they don’t exist, but I, THE KING, cannot?”

The next morning, after awakening, he called everyone to his room and said, “You idiots can all just go away! You guys couldn’t cure my illness but I myself could! We’re all gonna go sit down and whoever says a word about illness will have his head chopped off!”

Esha Datta is 12 years old, 7th Grade student in Bowditch Middle School, Foster City, California, USA


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