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March 27, 2009 Posted by Tahir in Books

The King, the Dog, and the Golden Bowl I

Here is one of my favourite stories… I’m giving it here because I have just been to see the carpenter, Mr. Reda, who built the library for me at Dar Khalifa.  I was reminded of the king’s fate in the story, because Mr. Reda  was sitting in his workshop, alone. He said there was no work, and he had let all his carpenters go… but instead of being sad he had resigned himself to fate.


Once upon a time there lived a merchant, called Hassan,  who was wealthy and generous, happy and fortunate.
But one day, disaster stared him in the face. His ships, bearing great loads of treasure from afar, were captured by pirates and his warehouse — containing many valuables — was burned down. Unable to face his friends, he sold his house and his remaining belongings, and set off in search of his fortune.
But good luck deserted Hassan. A thief stole his remaining money while he was asleep in a caravanerai, and this time he found himself without a single coin to his name, in a strange and foreign land.
He went to the mosque and asked if he could stay the night, and was very ashamed at having to ask the charity. How was he ever going to hold up his head again, he wondered? He asked the mosque-keeper what he should do. “My brother,” said the old man, “go three days march from here, and you will arrive at such and such a place. The king there is generous and kind, and you may be able to put your case before him. He would be sure to give you more charity but I can give, because we are so poor.”
  Before leaving the mosque, Hassan gave his last few coins to the imam, and wished him a long and prosperous life.
Hassan set off on a rough road and was soon thirsty and tired, wondering whether the journey was a good idea at all.
  After three days he arrived almost starving at a walled city. The shopkeepers there were richly dressed in contented. Hassan walked wearily towards the palace, where the old mosque-keeper had told him the generous king helped thousands of people each night. But when he finally got there he was so ashamed of his rags, and so fearful of presenting himself in such a state before the king, that he hid behind a pillar, from which vantage point he could look upon the scene of the royal court….


TS

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