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Prince Amar and the Ghost of India
Prince Amar was a kind man and he shared his wealth with the poor for there was so much of it that he couldn’t think of anything else to do with it. Beggars showed up at palace’s doorstep and left as rich as any noble. He gave the homeless homes and he gave the unemployed jobs. He made sure that orphans were taken care of by loving nannies and sheltered animals that were injured until they found the strength to run off into the wild where they belong.
But if there was something to be noticed about the prince, it was his bravery. He knew only courage, honor and loyalty. He would rather die than betray one of his own.
The Prince had attended one celebration after another. The festivals never seemed to cease. He was changing out of the finest clothes in the world, made of Indian silk, only to don another flashy robe and slip into narrow shoes.
But he did not complain. He greeted his guests with the most charming of smiles and made sure they were comfortable before seeing to his own needs. The crowds were always buzzing about the amazing generosity of the young prince. They always fought amongst themselves to catch his eye. They knew that if someone was special to the prince, they needn’t lift a finger ever again. All their needs would be seen to and all their wishes fulfilled.
The prince was wise and knew of this battle that constantly raged within the little kingdoms and villages. He pretended to turn a blind eye to it, chuckling to himself all the while as wealthy businessmen tried to coax him into a close bond of “friendship”.
Even the Brits seemed to enjoy his company. Many men and women came from England just to meet his acquaintance and they never went home displeased if they ever went home at all. He indulged in their squeals of delight when he laid out before them the most beautiful Saris in the country. He smirked silently when he unveiled his pet tiger, trying to calm them when it growled. He nodded his gratitude when they stroked his elephant’s rough hide, adorning it with gold and feeding it bananas and sugarcane.
The prince enjoyed all this. But he was growing tired. He needed to take a break from the hustle and bustle of being a revered symbol of his nation. So, when the evening was cool and the smell of rain was in the air, he took off into the jungle.
A skilled hunter, Prince Amar crafted his own weaponry. He patted his pocket which contained a sharp dagger. His quiver of arrows bounced on his back and he held his bow at his side. The people always warned him not to go out into the jungle alone. It was especially dangerous in the evening. But he did not heed their warnings. They were a superstitious bunch and he didn’t mind the tigers.
Halfway through his journey deep into the heart of the jungle, he heard a noise. He whirled around, his arrow cocked in the string of his bow. He aimed it at a bush behind him, guessing that something hiding in it had made the sound.
His muscles were tense and his stance was just right for pouncing or leaping away if need be. His eyes were locked onto his target and his aim didn’t waver. He breathed deeply, calming his racing mind and slowing his heart’s beat to a strong and steady thud that echoed in his ears. His grip was tight on his bow and he stood absolutely still. He focused on his senses.
He felt the gentle wind try to nudge him over. He felt the Earth beneath his feet and its moist smell wafted up to his nose along with several other fragrances. He smelled flowers, tree bark, and the spices on his own breath.
The bush rustled again. He jumped slightly, his pulse quickening again. A voice came from behind him.
“Hello, my prince,”
Prince Amar kept his arrow cocked and turned slowly away from the bush to face a little boy. Amar would have lowered his bow by then but something about the child made his breathing become fast and shallow.
He could see right through the boy who was floating an inch above the ground.
“Who are you?” Amar asked. “What do you want?”
The ghostly child smiled. “My name is Babar. I want to play with you.”
The prince nodded. He had heard tales of spirits roaming the jungle. People had often told him that it was best to comply with their wishes no matter how ridiculous.
He lowered his bow but kept the arrow cocked in its string.
“Alright,” he said. “What do you want to play?”
Babar drifted closer to Amar. The prince felt a chill in the air, unusual in the humidity of the jungle.
Babar spoke quietly, “I want to tell you some riddles. You must try and guess the answers.”
Amar put his arrow back in his quiver and rested his bow against a nearby tree.
“Okay, go ahead.”
The spirit shook his head. “In order to play, you must know the rules.”
Amar folded his arms against his chest. “Tell me the rules, then.”
Babar pointed a ghostly finger at the sun which was setting slowly. “You have until the sun sets to answer my three riddles. If darkness falls before you have solved them, I will haunt you for the rest of your life. I will bring misfortune to you and to others around you. I will drive you to insanity for that is what is most fun for me. Your kingdom will fall.”
The prince nodded, frowning. Babar continued, “If you solve the riddles before the sun sets, I will never pester you again and I shall leave this jungle forever. You shall be blessed with good fortune and will live a long and prosperous life.”
“I agree to these rules,” Amar said. “Tell me your first riddle.”
Babar cleared his throat and clasped his hands behind his transparent back.
“This thing belongs to you but you hardly ever use it. Your friends use it and your family uses it. Even your enemy uses it more than you do. But it is undoubtedly yours. Some may share this thing with you depending on how common it is.”
Amar thought for only a second. His face lit up as he solved the riddle.
Babar frowned. “Correct.”
The ghost asked the prince two more riddles, both of which he solved with ease. Babar felt cheated.
“Oh, great prince,” he said, sighing. “Who am I to question you? You have solved my every riddle without a second thought. Is it because you are so wise and I am not? Would you really ask me to leave? This is my only home.”
Amar shook his head. “You must play by your own rules. You promised that if I won, you would leave. I will not ask for the good fortune and prosperity for I already have those things.”
A sly smile tugged at the ghost’s lips. “Did I promise, your highness?”
“You did promise. Do not lie to me.”
“Ah, but your memory is bad. I made no such promises.”
“My memory is as sound as an elephant’s. You swore to me that you would leave.”
Back and forth, the two argued. Babar tried every trick up his sleeve to make the prince doubt himself. Amar stood firm and was growing impatient.
“Leave before I make you leave by force.”
“How are you going to do that? I am but a lonely ghost, a lost spirit. There is no way you can force me out of this jungle. Even if you could, I would come back.”
At that moment, a tiger pounced from a nearby tree and landed between the ghost and the prince. It growled at Babar, its tail swishing.
Babar smirked. “Is this your pet tiger, my prince? What harm can he cause me?”
The tiger roared, the sound echoing through the jungle. Amar smiled when he noticed the ghostly form trembling.
“You have heard of the mystic powers of the tiger?” the prince asked Babar. “He can ward away spirits with a flick of his paw.”
“Impossible,” Babar rasped. “He is but a cat. He cannot ward me away.”
The tiger roared again and as he did, Babar vanished into thin air. The prince crouched down beside it and stroked it.
“I was waiting for you,” he said. “Come, let us go home.”