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Archive for March 31st, 2012

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A merchant who exported exotic flowers to the Far East in the Eighties became very rich but a volcano in one part of the globe suddenly erupted. The ash from a volcano in Iceland ruined the merchant in Aleppo.
Al Ahmedia had three daughters. They were Razia and Nafeeza and Ayesha was the youngest.
Ayesha was also called Beauty.
The two elder sisters were counting on marrying some one who was rich and famous. Of course one thought Sultan of Borneo would be her ideal choice. The other wanted one from Saudi royal family. But their father’s sudden misfortune came in a most inconvenient time.
The world and hopes of Ayesha the youngest didn’t go beyond the four walls of her home. Her father was laid low by his reversal of fortunes and he needed all her attention.
Razia and Nafeeza the elder daughters set the trends in fashion and were the darlings of the society. At home they found Ayesha an easy target. So every day they sniped and made her look silly.
They showed her natural beauty at disadvantage, which was taken up by the press. Luckily Beauty had no time for anything else than keeping a home for her father and her sisters.
She was Beauty in looks and in deeds.
One fine morning word reached Hajji Al Ahmedia that he could get compensation from FEIECF (Far East Importer and Exporter Compensatory Funds) for losses he had incurred. He had to go to Malaysia. Before he left he asked his children what they wanted from Penang. Razia wanted a bird of paradise and Nafeeza, an urang utang. Beauty wanted just a rose. Al Ahmedia took the first plane and reached the office in Penang. He met the right people and they assured they would settle the matter. But the matter dragged on over some lacunae in the law of the land.
After days of fruitless discussion it was clear he was wasting his time. So one day he decided to return home. That evening he set out to his hotel. He took a short cut and lost his way.
While walking through winding pathways hedged by lush greenery of some tropical paradise he was straying farther into a wild part of the town. By night he came in front of a decrepit villa that was evidently the mad folly of rubber and tin baron. It was shuttered for some hundred years.
To his utter amazement as soon as he climbed the steps the villa came to life. The shutters opened by itself. The macaques and marmots that ran through the rotting timbers became men. As the tired merchant reached the top of the steps there were men to receive him.
It was as they had orders from high and they fell to their tasks
Instantly. The servants in their sarongs and with headbands entertained the guest with food and music. Silently they brought salvers of fruits and food steaming hot and they served him on banana leaves. While in the background musicians played musical intstruments to rest the weary soul of the merchant. Al Ahmedia thanked Allah for his beneficence and ate. He slept on a cot carved out of rosewood inlaid with mother of pearl and ivory.
Next morning he woke up and as he climbed down the steps he found his magnificent villa reverting to its former state.
He knew he had slept the night in an enchanted villa.
Thanking the most merciful Allah for preserving him from all danger he walked on. At the gate he saw a perfect rose peeping out from a nearby rosebush. He plucked it. Ah the flower started bleeding. From somewhere he heard a whisper angry and piteous. It soon became a low moan and steadily it grew in volume to become a shriek.
The rose went on dripping blood, human blood.
Suddenly the cry stopped and instead a voice asking,’ For my hospitality is this how you pay back?’
The merchant looked around. There was no one. He was still holding on to the rose and it dripped blood. The voice from nowhere said,’ Why kill me when there were millions of rose bushes nearby?’
The merchant stood up and saw it was indeed so.
The unknown host was right. He furiously wondered in what way he could make amends. But how with a dying rose in his hands? Blood was making a trickle along his hands and along the red dust.
‘If I die the curse will be on you and your descendents.’ The voice went on and the merchant heard footsteps coming closer. The Voice spoke, ’You did evil and you must make amends.’
He asked what he wanted him to do. ‘Your life!’
The merchant hesitated.
He heard the voice ask, ‘Do you have people at home?’
‘I have three daughters at home.’
The Voice asked if any one of them would in his stead come to his rescue. The merchant said perhaps his youngest daughter might take his place.
‘What is her name?’
‘Beauty’
The blood of the merchant went cold to hear to disembodied laughter. It was pure fear that hit him.
‘I am the Beast.’ said the Voice. He added, ‘Go in peace but bring Beauty to me.’
The merchant promised to try. Before he left the Voice said that he would be dying inch by inch and if he delayed beyond two weeks his curse would begin to work. The merchant quaked in his shoes.
Al Ahmedia went home and told his daughters of his fearful encounter with the Beast.
Beauty was willing to save her father and also the Beast. Within ten days the merchant took Beauty to the enchanted villa.
The Voice sounded relieved and permitted him to leave. The merchant was glad to have got out of the villa in one piece.
Beauty remained alone in the hall, and she heard footsteps. She turned and saw a man instead of a beast.
He sighed and said she was deceived to think he was normal like others, ‘I am the Beast’ While Beauty stood speechless he said,’ I am damned unless you can love me on your own free will.’
Beauty could not believe. She somehow felt right at home and in control of the situation. She felt pity and as she came closer.
It was the Beast who was in panic. He said, ‘don’t come near me. I am the Beast.’
She saw his eyes were in pain and in tears she felt as though he were a creature as she.
‘Oh Beast, you are crying.’
‘Shall not a beast cry?’
‘But your tears are like mine.’ She was surprised.
She heard him gasp.
‘Oh, you are in pain!’
The Beast nodded.
She asked him to repeat after her. ‘If I can feel pain I can also feel happiness.’ He did as was told. She said many things that they had in common and he obliged her repeating. In the end she said, ‘I am a woman.’
To this the Beast answered,’ And I am the Beast.’
She went closer to the beast. She felt his broad shoulders and saw that everything which, a man was expected to have was there. ‘You are a paragon of manhood’ she said very much relieved.


The Beast suddenly slouched over his seat and wept. He said, ‘Beauty you don’t understand. I have no heart. I am a beast.’
Beauty said, ‘Beast? I don’t understand what you mean. And I have a heart for the two of us.’
‘How do you know?’
I grew up, Love, among those had no hearts either. They were not called beasts’. She was sure that as far as she could see he was in no way worse than her sisters and other people with whom she had to live.
She drew him to her side and kissed his hand in reverence.
‘What is your name?’
‘The Beast.’
‘No it is not!’ she was emphatic.
He replied’ Sultan Razak al Bashir.’
Something snapped then and there.
Lo the whole enchanted villa became a mansion on stilts. The rot and rack of two hundred years of neglect had been erased. In its place stood a mansion meant to be made a home. Ayesha said,’Razak, you and I are going to live here and give a try to raise our children. In this very spot.’
Razak the Beast had a glint in his eye, ‘You make it sound as though it is possible.’
‘You don’t?’
‘Beauty, you make me also believe it is possible.’
They settled down to make a home straightaway.
benny

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