Being the second chapter of the Upper Balcony Sessions
Archer walked in as usual, the balcony floor which spoke only in the language of cleanliness now was covered with scraps of paper like a terribly dressed bride.
Archer never used think in imagery such as the above, in his previous employment as an assistant to one Mr. Abbot, a boring company man of yore who was needless to say; very very successful.
There Archer was trained to approach with the directness of an archer, insights of a geographer and with the incisiveness of a diamond cutter from the farther provinces.
“Damn it, I’m doing this again, must stop” Archer muttered to himself.
The muddy puddle that was his mind settled to something like the soothing calm of the lake of reflection.
“In good time you have come, Archer” said the Sultan, still immersed in his paperwork like a….nevermind said Archer’s mind.
The sultan continued, “I am judging the annual poetry contest, and the entries this time have been more than encouraging, like a father who has just seen his firstborn smile, I go to work”
“But Sultan, your kingdom is at stake, your life is endangered, the poor people are restless; surely this not the time to judge the annual poetry contest” Archer pleaded but with a firmness in his tone that reflected his administrative capabilities.
Mr. Abbot would have been proud.
“But Archer, there is always time for poetry” saying so the Sultan started to look for one specific piece that had come in praise of himself and gave it to Archer for reading, but not before one more imagery.
“Read, my friend from the company, for a king and an elephant are alike, only others should speak of their greatness”
“But Jahanpanah, I do not understand, an elephant cannot really speak, even if wished to”
The Sultan’s stare alone was enough to silence poor Archer, he thought of how kind Mr. and Mrs. Abbot were before he read the poem.
“ I see your face in the sun,
For it is you who give us light
In the dark times though
You are the moon
A lion on the throne
An elephant on the battlefield
A crocodile to your enemies
A king among poets you are
A poet amidst kings
May your fame stand like a rock
While all others become dust”
Archer finished, his eyes widened in disbelief, his mind unable to come to terms with the situation.
“Wah! Wah!” said the Sultan, completely lost to the words.
“Surely, you are not going to give this piece the prize, are you Huzoor?” asked the bewildered Archer like a ….oh damn nevermind.
“Yes! This is a fine piece of flower writing, I recognize them at the instant, really your company men must be schooled in art and the aesthetics!” this was the Sultan.
Even before Archer could ask about this whole flower writing, the Sultan had started a recitation of sorts.
“like those soft petals
That adorn the heart
Words that come
Together like a garland
Those that please
The writer and the reader
Like a flower that smiles
With the light of the sun…..”
At this very moment, the assassin who was hiding in the nearby trees; obviously fed up with this recitation by the Sultan made the misstep of shooting an arrow much before his plan.
Obviously, the poisoned arrow, shrieking through the air like the yet to be discovered rocket, missed the Sultan by the breadth of a hair, panting for breath, the Sultan cried for help from below and God from above.
No one came.
It was Archer who took the Sultan to safety and sounded the alarm, the assassin who had managed to perch himself on the trees was later found to be an ex-poet of some repute, poverty had driven him to violence.
Sang the king in a high pitched voice much like a speaker of parliament trying to be heard.
“Why? This thirst for my blood?
Quietly flows the Yamuna
She who quences all our thirst..
“Stop it! Oh King” this was the assassin (whose name has been withheld from history on request)
Archer was beginning to enjoy this final retort by the ex-poet now turned assassin
“Stop it! Oh King
The Yamuna is dark
As much as darkness can be
Made by the filth that fills this city
But not even the Yamuna can match
The darkness of our lives
The emptiness of our stomachs
The hopelessness of our children
Stop it! Oh King
For words may bring you the
Pleasure of flowers
But for us words are just words
Stop it! Oh King
Let not ‘art’ cloud your better judgement
Let not ‘poetry’ be your path to escapism
Let not ‘nature’ distance you from the people
Let not ‘words’ divert you from the message
Stop it! Oh king
Because not every time an arrow will miss”
Everyone in the royal court recognised the brilliance of this extempore performance by the ex-poet turned assassin, naturally no one applauded.
“Wah!Wah!” said Archer’s mind, “finally someone who was worth the prize for poetry.”
The prize for an attempt assassination was of course, public execution.