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The King's Elephant

The stables opened early morning in the King’s palace. The animal keepers brought out the King’s prized possessions for their morning walk and exercise. One among them was an eye-catcher. She moved among the trees in a manner fitting her royal owner. Her grayish black hide shone like polished slate. Her large ears flipped forward and back like the leaves of the crown palm. Like the movements of a graceful dancer her trunk swished and curled. Most of all, her eyes glowed with a rare look of calm. Little children who looked so tiny and vulnerable approached her with no fear. She was Sumukhi, the gentle elephant, and a favorite of the King. Indeed even her old and feeble keeper stretched his frail body, when he led the young elephant outdoors.

The King realized the importance of taking care of those who served him well. One day he called the old elephant keeper to his guest room. He treated him to all honours and gifts and arranged for his comfortable retirement. In his place a young man was hired to take care of Sumukhi. The king knew very little about his private life.

Every night when the palace lights were turned off and all went to sleep, the keeper would open the stable door and let in a bunch of his boisterous friends. Out from the bundles of hay he would then drag the gaming board and bottles of liquor. All night this rowdy gang drank and gambled. They argued loudly, fought and cursed each other. Early morning before the royal family woke up, the keeper would clean the stable leaving no trace of the mess that he and his friends had made.

One fine morning when Sumukhi was led to her exercises she broke loose with frenzy. Dashing to the lotus pond she splashed around in the water and tore up the beautiful water plants. The keeper had to drag her back to the stables. The next day the King went on his routine visit to the countryside riding on her. The village folk as usual rushed out of their huts in large numbers. They loved to greet their beloved King and admire his beautiful animal. That day as she approached the country inn she broke into a fast pace. She knocked the furniture around and began drinking the liquor stored in large vats. The embarrassed king was helped on to a horse to continue his visit. Enraged by her behaviour the king ordered the mahout to return Sumukhi to the palace immediately. On her way back Sumukhi slapped many a villager with her trunk. It was a tiring day for the king.

The next day the King called a meeting of his ministers to discuss the plight of his favourite animal. To his dismay he listened to more horror stories from his men. There was only one option left. The animal had to be disposed off for she had become dangerous. One wise minister talked the king into allowing a week before the animal would be put to death. For seven days in a row he hid and watched all that took place in the stable. He was shocked to see what went on, all night there. On the eighth day he informed the king as to all that he had witnessed. He further suggested that the young keeper be sent away. In his place a few ministers would take turns to care for Sumukhi. The plan was executed accordingly. The ministers took good care of Sumukhi. At night before going to bed they shared stories about kindness, justice, honesty and respect.

Sumukhi soon returned to her normal and gentle behaviour. Once again as she came out for her morning exercise, little children ran to greet her with palm fronds and fruits. The king was happy to have his favourite elephant back to being her beautiful self.

Om Muni Muni MAHAmuniye Svaha