The Boulder and the Mango Tree

The Boulder

Here is an excerpt from a short story (4,500 words) I’ve added the my shorts section.

If you’d like to read further, the full version can be found here.

Please enjoy!

 

“The Maharaja Basata dā Pāṇī,” commences the partridge (nobody remarks that another oration is being over-spoken), “was a juicewala by trade and a storywala by practice.”

(The boulder exhales a sigh of resignation and settles in for the tale.)

By way of this dis-lucrative combination,” continues the partridge, “he was a penniless man, a trait which was all the more aggravated by the irony of his title. To be sure, nobody knew why his mātā bestowed upon him the given name of His Excellency, the Maharaja, complete with punctuation. Perhaps she hoped this appellation would lead him like a divining rod to the well of affluence. Or, perhaps she simply lacked temperance in regards to which herbs she burned in her censer. Either way, His Excellency’s peers found the designation exhausting as much as incongruous, and an inevitable truncation began. The grandiose bits were the first to be discarded, leaving him with only his surname, Basata dā Pāṇī. Even this, though, caught like a wrench in the gears of the rapid-fire linguistic eccentricity of his lightning-tonged community. In general, Pāṇī was a stigmatized expression, well positioned to draw resentfulness from the barren wells within the parched townsfolk. Through attrition, then, he became simply, Basata, or, in the exceptional event of intimacy, Basataji.

It was Basataji, before the time of shelved fruit, who occupied this regal throne, whom we know as Sighāsaṇa. (Surprised to be acknowledged, the boulder betrays a hint of lithic smugness.) Each day, Basataji came here and made himself a perch underneath our colleague, Rāja Nū. (Is there a prideful rustling of wilted boughs?) Along with himself, Basataji never failed to bring his accouterments of beverage alchemy, as well as a good book with which to pass the slower hours. Now, the juices, teas, lassis, draughts, aperitifs and libations of Basata were held among the world’s most refreshing, invigorating, luxurious, intoxicating and all-around delicious; that is, if one was to take Basata’s word for fact. The truth was, however, that nobody was in a position to affirm or contest this claim, because no one had sampled a Basata concoction within living memory. You see, Basata, who brought along a good book just in case there were no customers to serve, was always too much engrossed in his stories to set the book down and prepare a drink for somebody. That the stories which he read were among the world’s most refreshing, invigorating, luxurious, intoxicating and all-around delicious, on the other hand, was indeed an assertion which could be readily tested. For, as Basata sat atop his boulder under his mango tree, he read each story aloud. Many were the passersby who came for lassi, but stayed (unserved and parched) for an epic or saga. His were the outlandish flavor of stories, full of absurd notions such as insightful stones, and sparrows who converse amongst each other. In other words, stories which only the foolish waste their time on. Nonetheless, the fools came, drawn in by the allure of heavily sagging mango branches, and sat for a while to be have their thirst quenched, instead, by an adventurous discourse. Why though, you may ask, was Rāja Nū at this time the bearer of such sweet and prolific bounty? Believe whatever you will, for I am merely a humble partridge and I will not attempt to persuade or dissuade on esoteric matters, but it was said that the health of the mango tree was encouraged by the passionate orations of Basataji. Indeed, the market patrons of this waterless valley held that Rāja Nū was nourished by the magical tales and the elegant cadence with which they were delivered. Therefore, many among Basataji’s contemporaries considered him to be the possessor of a green tongue; but I cannot personally verify any discoloration within the orator’s maw. For my part, I will admit that when one laid eyes upon the plump and juicy mangos of Rāja Nū, especially against the backdrop of sand, dust and bones, the mystical explanation was not difficult to credit.”

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