Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I marveled to the limits of marveling

I don't know why I like this story so much:

The emperor said: "O Amar! You speak verily, and your words are to our liking! The gates of the city are two farsangs from here. Both of you take an arrow and remove yourself thither. Whoever shall return first after handing his arrow to the guard on gate, shall win precedence over the other!"

The two acquiesced, and at the emperor's orders they were each given an arrow. Both arrayed themselves and set off like lightning, running shoulder to shoulder, flying like sparks, like arrows shot from a well-strung bow. They had gone some distance from the royal procession when Amar purposely lagged behind, and Aatish managed to put half-a-league's distance between them.

Those who witnessed this said, "To no purpose Amar lost all his prestige and distinction by making such a perilous wager with Aatish, who finally outpaced Amar!" Aatish was about to reach the gates of the city and show the soles of his feet to Amar, when Amar leapt into the air realizing that people would be throwing ridicule at him. The Father of Racers and Tumblers of the World turned a somersault alongside Aatish, delivered him a kick in flight, and bit him hard and so strangled his neck that Aatish fell flat on his back, all his speed and quickness having fled him; the taste of agony alone remained in his mouth. As a stone struck Aatish's head during his fall, it splintered his skull, and he lay all bathed in a rivulet of blood. Thus shocked and confounded he fell unconscious.

Amar then took Aatish's headdress of an ayyar and, handing his arrow to the guard, said to him, "Mark me well! I am Amar Ayyar! The renown of my ayyari has reached the lands and kingdoms of far and near! In me the deceiver finds no refuge for his device, and I give the liar the lie! Beware, lest you be prevailed upon through bribery to bear false witness and state that it was Aatish who first handed you the shaft, and that Amar arrived and delivered his later! Woe betide you, O lad, should you lie! Beware and be warned, and let not greed be your undoing! Speak verily before the emperor, and do not dissemble or speak false!"

The guard was much bewildered at these words, and marveled to the limits of marveling at their import and at the calamity that had thus visited him uninvited. Amar retraced his steps, and took himself to the emperor's presence. After kissing his stirrup, Amar produced Aatish's headdress to him, at which the emperor broke out laughing at Amar's roguery. Then all the flash and flourish of Aatish became things of the past, and he was so embarrassed that he never again showed his face in the court.


— From The Adventures of Amir Hamza: Lord of the Auspicious Planetary Conjunction, by Ghalive Lahnavi and Abdullah Bilgrami.
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