Raziya’s delivery was due two days from the day but Salma said it was as if the baby was in a hurry to conquer the world. It was a painful process and Raziya collapsed completely by the end of it. Devoid of all energy, she lay lifeless on the floor where she delivered her son. Irshaad brought the newborn and entered the room where his wife lay. Raziya was flanked by Irshaad and Salma and surrounded by the conversation of whom he resembled and how healthy he seemed. Salma reiterated her earlier claim, “He looks like a king. He will rule over the entire world.” Irshaad tried to remain modest and turned towards Raziya as he said, “I dont know. What do you feel Begum?” Raziya glanced upwards and declared, “He will rule our land of Mazeristan but alas, I wont be alive to see it. May Allah’s will be done.” she breathed silently as she passed away.
Turning a blind eye
Irshaad would have been a doting father but he didn’t think he could take care of a child alone. Atleast that is what his parents kept telling him. He married a girl ten years younger than him. Even for their weak financial conditions, Irshaad’s good looks and noble nature had always been the talk of the town. Some days before the marriage the two families got together for an intense discussion. What had been the object of affection for both families had suddenly become a fulcrum on which the scales of the marriage stood. Hassan was discovered to be blind. The soon to be wedded girl’s family did not want Hassan’s cursed spirit to be anywhere around their daughter. The decision was tough to take but it was not unpredictable either. A father could not have made emotional ties with a son he had known only for two weeks. Atleast that is what Irshaad’s family told him. Hassan was left wrapped up in his mother’s clothes in the backyard of a mosque. The little boy was rather quiet and just twisted and turned in his mother’s dress without making any noise. It was only when he grew hungry after half a day that he started crying and was discovered by a street performer who adopted him and raised him like his son.
Hassan got his father’s good looks and mother’s talent. Even though he was blind and could not learn any formal dance style he had inherited a sense of rhythm from his mother and his movements had a poise and style that only a few dancers of Mazeristan could match. His adoptive father was a street performer and performed acrobatics to music and got Hassan to dance alongside as a sidekick but he knew it was Hassan’s charm that was fetching all the money and he was grateful for that. He put all possible efforts to hone his talent by asking his dancer friends to help teach Hassan. He also had a vision for Hassan. He felt that with the right kind of patronage he could get his talent to be showcased at the right venue and rake in big sums for the same. He made a conscious decision to perform at all places where a big personality was going to be present.
The Ugly Queen
Hassan found an admirer in the Queen of Mazeristan – Queen Sabrina. She saw Hassan dance at a royal function hosted by her court on the occasion of their army’s successfull occupation of another neighbouring country. Mazeristan was on its way to become one of the largest territory in the Middle East. The royals took extreme pride in showcasing their artists to fellow kings and queens. They made all attempts to reward and encourage exceptional artists so they could take pride in their ownership of such rare talent. Sabrina fell for Hassan’s charm. Sabrina had a huge ugly birth mark that ran across her face. She was heralded cruelly as the Ugliest queen that the world had ever had. She never knew a man who liked her. She tried to fill that void in her life by doing extremely good in her work of being the ruler of an aggressively expanding state. Hassan was unlike any man she had met before. Not only did she feel attracted towards him, she didnt feel any change in Hassan’s behaviour when he talked to her. He treated her in the same loving way that he treated every person he talked to. But that was not enough for the queen.
The Giant Room
The Queen paid Hassan’s father a hefty sum and kept Hassan in a giant room in the palace. Though some called it being kept captive, she preferred the term artist in residence. Hassan was kept in isolation from the outside world and was given lessons in dance by the best dancers hired by the Queen. Hassan made huge progress as a dancer and Sabrina would host occasional parties to showcase his talent to the world. The reason for keeping Hassan captive was not solely to hone his talent. Sabrina had been consulting her doctor regarding Hassan’s vision and The doctor felt that he could cure him. Sabrina was scared of losing Hassan once he gained his sight and saw her ugly face. The idea was to keep him isolated from the rest of the world so that he never sees any other girl except Sabrina. The Doctor worked his magic on Hassan and gave him the gift of vision.
Outside the room
Hassan could see the world now but his world was confined to the spaces of the room that was alloted to him to live in and perform. The Queen ordered all girls to paint their faces black before they entered the room. It was her attempt to make sure that Hassan never sees any girl more beautiful than her. Sabrina could never get Hassan to be any more romantic towards her than he was to other girls. Months passed by with Hassan in the room and nothing transpired between the two of them. Hassan wanted to explore the world outside his room. He stole one of the maid servant’s clothes and hid his face with one end of his cloth and fled the palace dressed as a maid.
As he walked through the city he was amazed to see everything that came his way. He discovered that the world was much more beautiful than the mental images that he had conjured up in the dreams he had when he was blind. He heard music playing in the vicinity and couldn’t stop his feet from making their way towards it. What he saw was a huge gathering of rich men surrounding some women who were dancing. A lady walked upto Hassan and pulled him saying, “What are you doing standing in the crowd. Come and Do your work. Dance!” The lady probably mistook him for someone else because Hassan was wearing a girl’s clothing which seemed to bear an uncanny resembalance to the other dancer’s attire. However, he did not mind performing with the girls. It was his first public performance since he had got sight and he wanted to know for himself how the audience reacted to him. The more he danced the more the audience let out heavy sighs in admiration. The rich Sheikhs had never seen such elegance in a man’s motion and they all started making bids to purchase Hassan. Hence Hassan was sold to King Suhail for a sum of 2000 gold coins.
Sheikh took Hassan to his country and groomed him to acquaint him with royal behaviour. Hassan the seductress would sit in the bed while four men accompanied Suhail showering rose petals on him as he made his entry to Hussain’s room. Suhail embraced Hassan and they discovered love that neither of them knew existed. While this ritual continued for several months, one day Hassan refused to give in. He sat upset in one corner of the room refusing to talk to Suhail. Suhail pleaded forgiveness for anything that he might have done inadverntly to hurt Hassan. He kept asking him what he could do to ameliorate the situation. Giving in to Suhail’s requests, Hassan asked him to invade Mazeristan if he wanted to continue with their love ritual any more.
The Queen’s Oracle
Sabrina didnt know where Hassan had vanished. All her efforts to find him had gone in vain. She was a heart broken women destroyed in love with little interest in war. Meanwhile, Sabrina came to know of King Suhail’s advancement towards her territory. She would have never been afraid of any war as such but her spies told her that Suhail was fighting more ferociously than ever and seemed destined to win. Sabrina asked her Oracle for advice and the Oracle said, “Don’t worry. Mazeristan is destined to be ruled by a Queen.”
Suhail’s army defeated Sabrina’s and conquered Mazeristan. Suhail, oblivious to their past, asked Hassan what he wanted to do with Sabrina. Hassan said, “Dont kill her like you kill your enemies. Just make her blind.” And it was done. Hot rods of iron were used to take her vision. She kept screaming all the while, “Mazeristan is destined to be ruled by a Queen! Mazeristan is destined to be ruled by a Queen!”
In a rather peculiar ceremony, Suhail made his love for Hassan public by marrying him and gifting him Mazeristan. King Suhail and his Queen Hassan lived happily ever after.
The purists among you might argue that this is not pulp fiction and honestly, I would not know how to retaliate. My understanding of the genre is very little. Mostly acquired through a few short stories.