Once upon a time, there was a wizened old king by the name of Sultan. In his younger days, he was once the most eligible bachelor/playboy there ever was in the flagrant town of Malabar. He’d reached power through a series of devious plots, and then had been King for the longest, got all the best action there was, and by the time he’d figured out the importance of true love, he’d turned into a lying scum bag, obsessed with corrupting the land with his greedy heart. Not really the ideal bachelor type. Still, like all kings, he desired a Prince to take over his kingdom, and and since he was too old to be hitching himself up with a fair Nawabi princess, he fashioned for himself a wooden figure of a boy with the fair impish glance, and prayed desperately and fervently, forgetting all his previous secularist sins, until the figure turned, quite expectantly into a human living child, to warm the old man’s heart in his final days, and take his place as the King.
News that the king now had a son, travelled far and wide, and may dignitaries arrived to lay their eyes on the mighty prince of Malabar. Since the boy was now 5 years old, and additionally of immaculate origin, there was much mumbling and grumbling in the kingdom, especially from sections of the society that had claims to the throne, and had been safe in the knowledge of the king’s licentious behaviour. The practices of dark arts were a common occurence in the kingdom at that time, and the not-so-well meaning relatives of the old king summoned up, by means of chicken blood and goat hair, a strange creature, a magical one, and duly issued him an invitation to the royal Naming ceremony.
Of what form or nature this magical creature was, perhaps even the royal relatives did not know: just that they followed some grandmother’s recipe of summoning a Djinn. What they did know was that Djinns preferred looming in the murky shadows, travelling through the darkness of the night, and could sometimes be used to scare the living shit of a man who took the wife-beating a tad too far. But most importantly, Djinn morals were questionable. And this for the relatives, was reason enough.
At the naming ceremony, the Djinn appeared after his travels, taking the form of a disco light with eyes, high up in the auditorium of the summer palace of the King, where all the dignitaries had convened. The DJ took this as the cue to start the music, and began the drum beat of some new Sufi hip hop, when the Djinn raised his magical hand, a symbol to stop. “I am here to grant a wish to the boy,” said the Djinn in the loud booming voice of a base speaker.
There was a hush of incredulous silence, as is customary when a Djinn of this stature and size appears with no magic lamp in toe. Where had the Djinn come from? What did it want? These were the hushed whispers that seeped through the crowds like mystic snakes. “I give this boy, the Truth. A boon or a curse, only time can tell. But he shall speak the truth and nothing but the truth, and may the dark lord be my witness. Prince Pinnochio, he shall be, and he shall be the truest king of the land. ”
There was cheer in the land. The political commentators that doubled as drunkards by the night, rejoiced. At last, a good dose of honesty. The people deserved the truth, didn’t they! And Pinnochio, was the truest of them all. When the princess of Travancore were sent to him as play dates, he called them fat and overdressed and impolite, with mouths that smelled of town gutters. This was quite true, agreed the commentators over a hearty drink, the town gutter did smell that bad, but truth or not, it also meant the end of a political alliance (and perhaps dalliance) over an issue as slight as stench.
Later, when Pinnochio touched the throbbing teens with his eyes on many a fair maiden, Gengis Khan, an old friend of Pinnochios’ father decided to come down. But Pinnochio, unable to control his truthful tongue, declared that Genghis Uncle, with his affinity for virgins, needed to stay out of the territory as a means of population control.
After that, it was a truth spree. Pinnochio began with the lesser royals working his way to the top notches, outing the strange habits in the most of his flagrant speeches, Duke Hussain loves little boys a bit too much, shouted Pinnochio after a royal visit, King/Uncle Phiroze liked dressing up in the queen’s clothes, King Shoaib wanted to be tied down naked in his dungeon. King Fazil loved hiding while guests used the royal restrooms. Every perversion was out in the open for the world to hear and enjoy.
King Sultan was now desperate. Malabar had become the loneliest of all kingdoms. And the only reason they were not being attacked was the embarrassement of heads-of-states, unable to lift their shamed heads enough to rile up the masses into a frenzy that was needed for war. Everyone knew of Pinnochio’s curse. Every royal in the vicintiy was terrified of Pinnochio. And it was soon decided. War may not be possible. But a plot could be hatched to get Pinnochio killed at the earliest.
Sometimes, plots of the kind have a strange tendency to redemption, and to put it succinctly, instead of killing Pinnochio with a bottle of poisoned wine, his lying father succumbed instead to the oldest trick in the book, and Pinnochio is crowned king of Malabar, much to the chagrin of the royals.
His ascent as king was followed by a series of sanctions, from Rajput to Travancore, from the Arabs in the east, to the whites everywhere else. Nobody would trade with Pinnochio’s malabar, until he ended his truthful blaze.
Now Malabar was a land of laziness, and when the noose of trade sanctiones tightened, Famine hit the realm harder than war. Riots ravaged the kingdom, Pinochio was to blame, the rioters screamed. Enough with truthfulness. Bring back the lies. Bring back corruption. Bring back peace.
King Pinnochio informed his own people, that instead of blaming the king, it was about time they got off their asses and worked for a living. He washed down the streets with the barrels of wine that the land was addicted to. And since he liked the sound of it, he introduced a few GetOfUrAss schemes, that gave people money for labor.
This was met with a lot of resistance. To work for a living? It was unheard off. The people of Malabar did not work as a practice. It was their cultural right. A heritage, sort of. And Pinnochio was robbing them of even that.
Desperate, Pinnochio called upon his old friend, the Djinn, who had now acquired a nice studio apartment inside a magic lamp. The Djinn was smoking up, a nice pot of Ganja, since wine was not much in supply. “Ah” said the Djinn, letting out a few smoke rings over Pinnochio’s face, “So long since I had a royal visit.”
Pinnochio nodded curtly, and told off his problem. He begged the Djinn to help him, to absolve him of his curse, his boon. The Djinn shook his head, launched his guttural laugh, and told Pinnochio that a boon given at birth can never be revoked or reversed: truly it was not in his power. Dejected, Pinochchio wept at the fate of his land, wishing that he was dead instead of living like this as a useless king. It was a few hours of tear-jerking and bawling later, that the Djinn, tired of the sound, took pity on Pinnochio and whispered into his ears, if not a solution, perhaps a workaround.
The next day, Pinnochio took the pulpit, amid the rioting masses, and declared in somber tones of a soothe-sayer, a fore-teller, a prophet even, that Malabar was going to be the richest land in the world. There was much hush and awe-struckness in the crowd at this declaration. But that isn’t the only part, says Pinocchio. Any land, east or west, that refuses to trade with mighty Malabar will seep into poverty worse than any ever, famines and floods shall ravage these lands, and only death shall thrive in them.
The declaration has an immediate effect. The lands are terrified that the words of truth sayer Pinnochio might take effect. Immediately, all trade is resumed, and the town of Malabar prospers again.
Years later, when Pinnochio himself is old and wizened, with a boy of his own, flesh-made than wood, he tells the boy of the whisper of the wily Djinn. The trick that saved them all. That even though Pinnochio could not never lie about the present or the past, the future is and would always be his veritable play ground.