The Great Outsourcing Fiasco
Outsourcing is not an entirely modern concept. In the past there were attempts, small-scale though, to apply the strategy of outsourcing at a time when situations demanded really creative solutions. But then they were not always with result. I know at least one such story.
The king was well into the thirteenth year of his marriage and his wife had so far failed to conceive. In fact none of his ninety-nine queens living in the heavily guarded harem could achieve the feat. It was a kind of national crisis. Herbs and massages had no effect. Animal sacrifices and week-long expiatory worships yielded no result. Talisman and spells lost all their power. The loyal males of the kingdom unsuccessfully practised abstinence just to transfer their power to the king. And there prevailed an all-pervading gloom. All the king's men in his internal think-tank were at their wit's end. Not a solution acceptable and in conformity with scriptures could strike them.
Then the prime minister who had the reputation of solving the most ticklish problems of the statecraft was called in. Now he would be applying himself to a household issue of the royal family. Normally it was not his domain of activity for the chamberlain was in charge of this, but then the prime minister should now live up to the confidence reposed on him by no less than the king himself.
'Oh the most virile male of fourteen worlds, there's a solution in sight…' the prime minister pompously declared this addressing the king. It was but natural that the king felt intensely curious. He was like a mongoose in the wilderness in search of something magical.
'Tell me, my able prime minister, what can be done to get a son for this lineage of moon ruling this earth ever since the creation of this universe?' the king exhorted.
'Er…this is rather a difficult solution…has to be done in perfect secrecy. After all the glory of the king is the most celebrated thing on earth,' the prime minister was clearly in quandary as to how to utter the solution in his mind.
So the minister revealed his unusual prescription in the interest of the state: there should be somebody to finish the task of procreation that His Majesty king had started thirteen years ago. The person who would be helping the king selflessly would himself be awarded a death sentence after accomplishment of the job, say in the same courtyard where he would be meeting the queen at night. In a way, his blood will cleanse whatever little perversion that would be permitted in the interest of the state. 'After all he deserved an award…for doing the royal duty of co-habiting the queen, didn't he?' the prime minister had perorated by asking a rhetorical question.
The trusted emissaries of the king went far and wide to search out a young man that would accomplish the royal assignment with finesse. They went to gurukuls and ashrams, the gymnasiums and religious conferences, communes and hamlets and finally brought a young man from a bathing ghat that they considered to possess all the qualities the royal advisors enumerated. He was a tall fellow with broad shoulders, with a head full of luxuriant yet dishevelled hair, with eyes long and limpid, with features sharp and noticeable, with tone that boomed a lilt of rusticity…. He walked with confidence but not haughtily, stood in a posture that demonstrated his happiness in being selected for the mammoth task of saving the kingdom.
The king had only a glance of the young man and not more than that. This drowned him in the pool of envy, but then again he became happy visualizing the misfortune that awaited the able fellow. Rather he felt pity on the youth.
The queen had felt weird feelings as she was being made ready for the night. She had no prior sense of how things were going to shape for her, for she had seen herself all through her thirteen years of lacklustre conjugal life in the role of a queen. But now? What should she do to persuade her demure self for the inevitable exercise of political compulsion?
Then a different feeling came over her. It was one of thrill and creative fulfillment, nay a kind of anticipation for a tryst with new. The man she was going to meet was completely unaware of her strength and weakness. She could present her the way she liked-she could be a demure girl or an experienced female or a woman given to experiment and pleasure. In any case, she would be getting a feedback from somebody new and unbiased-how she looked and how she appealed; how she conducted herself and how she reacted to his stimuli. She was going to start something without the burden of past commitments, past impressions…it would be a new and it would be clean…clean like autumn sky. She would get something unadulterated, unpolluted by the immodesty of royal riches.
But all these would last for a night…and burst like a bubble at the first light of the dawn. She had an involuntary twitch in her body. She was sorry for the youth that would lose everything and she was not sure if he had been made known of this impending catastrophe.
The sun set and the evening wore on. The royal palace was ready to welcome the guest of a night, the saviour of the kingdom. In time the queen went into the room where the youth was staying. And what did she see? A robust human with a pleasant anticipation was standing to welcome a royal person. As she entered the room, he knelt down on the floor with his head bowed and hands spread, as though he was offering himself for hara-kiri, nay he was declaring his loyalty onto death.
Whispers intensified. The measured formality soon gave way to mutual appreciation and then to joyful intimacy. The youth, blissfully unaware of his impending fate at the crack of the dawn, went ahead with all sincerity a royal service demanded. It was a moment of discovery for the queen. She was flabbergasted to find herself so imaginative, so effective that tears rolled down her cheeks. She could not check her emotion. She felt like the poorest of poor on the earth; she had nothing more than tears to offer her paramour of a night.
'Man, won't you take a small suggestion of mine?' she asked the question and her humility made her sound angelic.
'You're the queen and I'm your servant. I don't forget this. You can order me to kill myself before you. Yes, you can order me,' the youth assured.
The queen planted loads of kisses on his head for minutes on end. Her throat had no words but eyes had tears…a lot of tears of happiness. Oh yes, she had reached the decision she badly wanted to make all her life. For the first time in life she felt how a woman should feel. A woman should exert. Aha! A woman should save a soul…she refused to be a reason for destruction.
The day dawned in the kingdom and it was yet another day of impotence.
The queen had left behind her everything--the kingdom and prosperity, the name and authority…and ultimately the frustrations and servitude. Now she was happy to be doing everything that was needed to prolong her happiness.
A. N. Nanda
Labels: short story