All praises to our mighty and wise King! His Majesty, our King, our Messiah, is going to decide whether the mango tree beneath the mountain belongs to the Farmer or to the Jeweller. The old dispute is finally going to be settled by our benevolent King in most fairness and with utmost grace.’ Thus squalled the deaf Herald, flanked by two strong and tall Knights who wore black helmets and black cloak, their faces covered in such raven black cloth you could only see their eyes. They looked like hawks waiting to pounce on a prey.
‘Our King,’ the herald announced louder, ‘who protected us from the invisible enemy from the West; stopped the famines even before they came; bare-handed fought with the fire spitting Dragon; married seventeen princesses – He is settling the ‘Mango Tree’ dispute tomorrow, once and for all.’
The herald had been in the King’s service for more than a decade, handpicked by the King himself, for the fact that he was deaf.
The story of the Mango Tree began two years ago, when a farmer who lived in a lone house beneath the mountain with his wife and two children, came to the court of the King –the King with a huge moustache and huge belly, before whom the farmer looked as if he had not eaten for days. With hands folded and back bent, the farmer pleaded, ‘Please save my children my Lord! I am a poor man. I will starve, my family will starve.’
‘Why, poor man, why do you cry?’ asked the King, twirling his moustache.
‘Your Majesty! I am a poor famer who owns a little piece of land far from the town – beneath a mountain. There I have a small hut and a big mango tree. The only income I have is that from the tree. I sell half of its mangoes and the other half we keep for food.’
‘So? What do you want us to do? Give you a reward?’ said one of the king’s two chief advisors, the woman with the crooked mouth, who was known far and wide for her cunningness. Like her tangled hair, her evil plots were wickedly twisted. The other advisor was a brute with a bald head – he was short, round, and hardly spoke. His huge black eyes, though, reflected the reckless power he held. He was known to kill anyone who stood against him. After thinking really hard for a moment, the King turned to his woman advisor and asked ‘Do you remember the name of my 12th wife? I need to give her a gift but I can’t recall her name!’
‘But, my Lord, that evil thing ran away with your Barber,’ replied the advisor.
‘Why did she do that?’ the King asked in disbelief.
‘She must have realized she wasn’t worth you, my King.’
‘My Lord! Please help,’ cried the poor farmer.
‘Oh yes! You were saying something about your bananas. Continue with your plea,’ said the King, picking a grape from a plate.
‘My King, there is a Jeweller who claims my tree to be his. I do not know his name but people say he is the richest man in the town.’
‘I thought I was the richest,’ the king whispered to the crooked woman.
‘Yes, you are, my King, but secretly,’ she assured.
The King ordered his bald advisor to send a few troops to accompany the Farmer and take the tree into the state’s custody, until His Majesty decided the rightful owner.
Later in the evening, the King was playing rummy. With a glass of wine in his hand, the King asked his advisors if they had summoned the Jeweller the Farmer had complained about.
‘But Sir, He is a close aide to the Kingdom. We know that the Farmer isn’t lying but we can’t offend the man who sent us this expensive wine just a few hours ago? Can we?’
‘Of course not,’ declared the King. ‘The Jeweller is a rich and a kind man. Why would he want that tree anyway?’
‘Because, my Lord,’ said the woman, ‘the mangoes of that tree are rare and the Jeweller wants to impress one of his mistresses by gifting her that tree.’
‘A gift is a sign of nobility. The Jeweller must have the Tree,’ the King said, sipping his wine.
‘But, my Lord if we favour the Jeweller, the common folk might get angry and protest,’ advised the woman.
‘Cant we just hang a few of them, then? The rest would obey,’ said the bald man in his deep voice, cleaning his sword.
‘The last King tried that. People revolted and burnt him alive while he was trying to hide in the bathroom,’ the woman said, staring at her colleague.
‘Do I pay you fools to count my problems or to counter them?’ the King scolded and threw away his glass. ‘None of you shall sleep until we have a solution to this dispute. I am going to sleep and wake me only when you have the solution.’
A few hours later the bald man came to the King’s room.
‘My King, Wake up! We have the answer!’
‘The one about the Chicken and the Egg?’ the King asked.
‘No, Sir. The one about the Farmer, the Jeweller, and the Tree.’
‘Ah! The Banana tree.’
‘The Mango tree, Sir.’
‘What difference does it make?’
The King ordered everyone in the town to gather in the morning. The news about the Farmer and the Jeweller had spread all around. People were anticipating that the gathering had something to do with the judgment on this very case.
However, early in the morning, the King’s recurring problem of ‘loose motion’ came back to haunt him. It was decided that the crooked woman will make the announcement in the King’s absence.
‘Good Morning, people!’ she proclaimed at the gathering. ‘Our King could not grace us with his presence here today, for he is dealing with a very sensitive issue of ‘internal security’: the matter is very fragile, fluid and urgent in nature. So, I, on his highness’s behalf and as one of his Chief Advisors announce that our Government has formed a new institution that would decide on the conflicts of the common masses: like the one involving the Farmer and the Jeweller. The institution shall be called Ludiciary; I beg your pardon, Judiciary. The Judge who would decide the fates of the people after a proper and a fair trial would be appointed by your King from among You – the Common Folk. Have a nice day!’
The crooked woman was escorted back to the palace amid a huge cheer from the public. Everyone was jubilant in the crowd. ‘This is unprecedented,’ said the Carpenter to his brother and wife. ‘Until now the King decided everything, now we can decide for ourselves.’
Next week, a judge was chosen for the town, from among the people as promised. The only problem was that this person was an insomniac, was in his nineties, was half blind, and completely deaf.
After the end of each hearing, the Judge kept repeating the same thing: ‘My wife died last year! Does anyone know where she has kept my glasses and sleeping pills?’
The King ordered that until the Judge came out with a verdict, the mango tree and its mangoes shall belong to the state. The guards would bring the fruits to the palace, from where they would be very discreetly sent to the Jeweller as ‘gifts’.
A couple of years passed. The people slowly began to understand the scam. They were getting restless and a little angry. The risk of a revolt was looking imminent. The King was aware of this, so he summoned his advisors again.
‘What do you two think we should do now?’ asked the King.
‘A war!’ shouted the bald brute.
‘A war with our own subjects? Are you out of your bald mind?’ said the crooked woman.
‘The people think that the right thing to do is to give the farmer his tree back, while as our closest and richest allies suggest otherwise,’ the woman said to the King.
‘It doesn’t matter. I must do THE RIGHT THING,’ the King said loudly and emphatically.
‘All praises to our mighty and wise King,’ squalled the deaf Town-Herald the next day. Your most gracious King – the bravest and wisest of them all —has decided that the Mango tree has always belonged to the poor Farmer and shall always belong to him only.’
People jumped with joy. Some hugged each other while some danced. People who didn’t even know the farmer were celebrating his victory. They said that this was a triumph of the weak over the powerful; that the truth had won over falsehood.
After a few days the poor Farmer came to the King’s court.
‘My Lord! I am in misery even after your judgment. Your Minister wouldn’t let me have the mangoes of my own tree,’ he said, pointing toward the bald brute.
‘That’s because I have told him to. You haven’t paid our share yet,’ the King replied.
‘I do not understand, my King.’
‘You should have read the whole judgment – the paper that my Knights gave you.’
‘I am sorry, my King, but I can’t read.’
‘It is alright. I am your King and I shall read it out for you. The judgment says that the tree shall always belong to you but you shall pay 1/3rd of your mangoes to the Kingdom and 1/3rd you shall pay to the Jeweller. Everything else belongs to you,’ the King said.
‘Ah, this is what you meant when you said, ‘I will do the right thing’,’ the woman whispered to the King.
The King smiled and said, ‘I meant, Right thing by the Kingdom.’