Princes and Peasants

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Princes and Peasants

After Badrudin and Mr. Warnakulasuriya had left Mr. Warnakulasuriya’s tailor shop on Rawalpindi Road, to go to the Colonial Club to meet with Mr. Chatterjee about building a school in the Khyber, the Chaiwalla and the Chaiwalla’s ten-year old son, who served as an apprentice in Mr. Warnakulasuriya’s tailor shop, made their way to the train station.

As they walked to the station the Chaiwalla spoke with a deep sense of reverence to his son:

“Today,” began the Chaiwalla, “Is a very auspicious day. Today, dear son, is the beginning of many signs and wonders, of the mysteries of the Universe unraveling and revealing joyous revelation.”

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When they arrived at the train station, the Chaiwalla began to stack his mud cups upon a wooden crate, and stoke the burning coals under his hot teakettles, which were steaming with fresh chai. While his ten-year old son assisted his father, he could see that the Chaiwalla’s eyes seemed trancelike and glazed with a sense of overwhelming awe.

The Chaiwalla explained to his beloved son, that on his way to meet his son at Mr. Warnakulasuriya’s tailor shop on Rawalpindi Road, the Chaiwalla had walked on the Grand Trunk Road and seen a scene that filled him with awe and reverence. The Chaiwalla had seen Lakaji the Elder Elephant and the young man Raj, who was from Nawanagar, walking along the Grand Trunk Road. The Chaiwalla had bought a beautiful marigold garland and strewn it ceremoniously upon the trunk of Lakaji the Elder Elephant, and then hugged the trunk of Lakaji the Elder Elephant and kissed his trunk with tears streaming through the Chaiwalla’s eyes. It was then, in that very moment of being so close to Lakaji the Elder Elephant’s trunk and ear, that Lakaji the Elder Elephant whispered to the Chaiwalla:

“Fear not friend,” smiled Lakaji the Elder Elephant, “For today is an auspicious day filled with signs and wonders. For, from this day, dear friend, everything thing shall overturn and overturn, and princes will become peasants, and peasants will become princes.”

As he stacked the rows of mud cups with his ten-year old son, the Chaiwalla continued to consider those mystical words of Lakaji the Elder Elephant:

Princes will become peasants, peasants will become princes.

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The Chaiwalla’s son exclaimed excitedly that he saw an old man waiting at the train platform, that looked just like the man in portraits he had seen when the Chaiwalla and his family had traveled Nawanagar some years ago, to stay with relatives there. On this family trip, they had visited several homes of relatives, each of which proudly displayed a portrait of the ‘People’s Prince’, the ‘Renaissance Ranjit’. The portraits of their beloved Maharaja Ranjit the Elder, was invariably strews with flowers and bathed in the aroma of sandalwood incense as a sign of respect. As the Chaiwalla looked on in the direction to which his son pointed, he saw that it was indeed the Maharaja Ranjit the Elder, dressed in peasant clothes, and conversing with another man, also dressed in peasant clothes.

“Call those two gentlemen over here, son!” exclaimed the joyous Chaiwalla. “Tell them that I would like to offer them a fresh cup of chai before their train arrives, with my compliments. No charge.”

The Chaiwalla’s son scampered over to Maharaja Ranjit the Elder and his servant Govinder, and beckoned them to come over to visit his father and receive a refreshing cup of chai before their train arrived for their journey.” Govinder excitedly and proudly pointed out the mud cups of the Chaiwalla, which were stacked neatly in rows and rows.

The Chaiwalla graciously poured four fresh cups of tea: one for Maharaja Ranjit the Elder, one for his servant Govinder, one for himself and one for his son. As the Maharaja Ranjit the Elder drank his first ever cup of tea in a chaiwalla’s mud cup, his servant Govinder looked on with awe and wonder.

“You have returned home now to Mother India maharaja sahib,” said the smiling Govinder proudly.

Maharaja Ranjit the Elder smiled back and his eyes twinkled mischievously.

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A young man approached the Chaiwalla, holding out some money and requesting a cup of chai. The Chaiwalla lightly and laughingly brushed away the held out hand of the young man, as he poured him some chai, saying to him:

“I cannot accept your money today, young man, for today is an auspicious day, full of signs and wonders. A day when princes will become peasants, and peasants will become princes. Are you a prince or a peasant, young man?”

“I am merely a peasant, Chaiwalla,” said the young man, said the Chaiwalla, and then, turning to Maharaja Ranjit the Elder the Chaiwalla asked:

“Maharaja sahib, what advice do you have for this young man, if he becomes a prince one day?”

Answered the Maharaja Ranjit the Elder mischievously:

“Never drink chai out of a bone china cup. Always drink the chai out of the Chaiwalla’s mud cup.”

The Chaiwalla and his son laughed and they all laughed. Then the Chaiwalla asked the young man:

“Where are you coming from, young man, and where are you journeying to?”

The young man replied: “I am fleeing my village in Nawanager, because there is a drought there and people will be starving to death soon, and the evil Prince Prakash has left us with no options and we are helpless and destitute. And so I have taken my savings and I am going to take a train to Bombay and the take a steam ship to Africa and make a new life there.”

When Maharaja Ranjit the Elder heard this from the young man, his heart became heavy once more and a desperate despair clouded his countenance. The kind Chaiwalla, when observing the encroaching sadness upon the dignified face of the noble and gracious maharaja, said with a generous heart:

“Be of good cheer, sir! Come, let us all sit down and say a prayer for the good people of Nawanagar, for today is an auspicious day and I have already seen the signs and wonders of good things to come.”

Click here for Chapter Twelve, Day Three of the Great Trek

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