Archive for October 14th, 2018

In the great city of Isfahan lived Ahmed the cobbler, an honest fellow whose sole wish was to to pass through life quietly; and he might have done so but for his wife who hated to accept the lowliness of his profession. Noor was her name. She was ever forming foolish schemes of riches and grandeur to which her husband would indulgently smile and change her subject.
It happened one evening she came home all in a fluster and she told her husband meeting the wife of the chief astrologer to the king. “What a magnificent dress! And jewellery, oh my eyes were dazzled!” Ahmad smiled and let it pass. Oh no for the next three days and nights she dinned into his head that he was no good. “If you care for me, you will stop this nonsense!” “What nonsense dear?’ “This cobbling! It is so humiliating, O husband of mine.” “But it feeds us and keeps a roof over our heads. It is my livelihood.” Ahmad could not believe his ears.
He hoped she would change the subject. Oh no! She was in no mood to give it as a hopeless case.
She wanted him to take up astrology. “But I am old and too set in my ways to learn a new trade. Astrology will be the death of me!” At the end of a month he almost plucked his beard out in frustration. “The moment he saw the moon he put an ice pack on his head and said, “My head is spinning! The moon phase has entered into the House of Saturn!” He pretended to talk gibberish but she thought he was an astrologer speaking such words as any astrologer would be proud of. “You see, how simple it is? You are an astrologer Only you never realized.” He groaned inwards and beat his head against the wall in frustration. He felt sick. For a week he stayed in bed afraid to look up. The most dreadful event of the day was when his wife having served tea in bed, would point to some charts horoscopes drawn or an almanac almost crumbling which she had collected from the neighbourhood. Whenever she came he would say, “Go away, signs are bad. Inauspicious to say the least.”
At the end of the week a group of his friends descended on him. They had heard what his wife was telling to all and sundry in the neighbourhood. They said, “Your wife is right! Give over cobbling; it is a vile, low trade, and never yields more than ten or twelve dinars a day. You are born astrologer!”
“No I am not!” said Ahmad with his last ounce of energy.
The Imam who was rather fond of him said, “Ahmad you are too modest”. The baker who allowed him credit was sure he should give up tools of his trade. “Never sell your talents short, Ahmad. An Astrologer counts gold every night.” His wife would snort and say, “Tell him, by the Word of the Merciful Prophet, he had done enough counting blisters on his fingers to last a life time.”
Poor Ahmad! No one would believe him. Next day he rose up early and went out. Having sold his little stock, bought an astrolabe, an astronomical almanac, and a table of the twelve signs of the zodiac. Furnished with these he went to the marketplace, crying, “I am an astrologer! I know the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the twelve signs of the zodiac; I can calculate nativities; I can foretell everything that is to happen!”
It so happened that the king’s jeweller was passing by. He was in great distress, having lost the richest ruby belonging to the crown. Every search had been made to recover this inestimable jewel, but to no purpose; and the date of delivering the ruby in its new setting was almost due. He had no way of talking his way out without the ruby. In this hopeless state, while wandering about the town, he reached the crowd around Ahmed and asked what was the matter. “Don’t you know Ahmed the cobbler?” said one of the bystanders, laughing; “he has been inspired, and is become an astrologer.”
Somewhat buoyed up at the news he went directly to Ahmad. The cobbler astrologer was almost trying to make himself scarce but the King’s jeweller held out a purse of 100 pieces of gold in advance and promised the other hundred on delivery of the lost ruby. “But if you do not succeed within six hours, I will use all my influence at court to have you put to death as an impostor.” Without a word he walked off.
Poor Ahmed just quaked. But he could not retreat; nor had he the least idea where to begin. He opened the almanac and blindly thrust his finger on a sheet. He looked where it had pointed. “Home.” He burst out laughing like a mad man. Home was where all his misery began and he inwardly cursed his wife for putting his neck into gallows. He saw a woman in veil running as though avoiding a thunderbolt. He said, “It is a sign. I have a clue to begin with.” He hurried his steps after her. Most was amazement to see her going into the Jewellers’ house.
She was indeed the slave to the wife of the Jeweller’s wife. Breathless with fear she cried, “You are discovered, my dear mistress, you are found out by a vile astrologer. Before six hours are past the whole story will be known, and you will be branded as a thief.”
The jeweller’s wife, hastily throwing on her veil, went in search of the dreaded astrologer. In fact he was heading towards her. On seeing she threw herself at his feet, crying, “Spare my honour and my life, and I will confess everything!” “What can you have to confess to me?” exclaimed Ahmed in amazement.
“Oh, nothing! nothing that you are not already aware of!” She cried and said, “You know too well by your art hat I stole the ruby from the king’s crown. I did so to punish my husband, who uses me most cruelly; But you, the astrologer from whom nothing is hidden. I beg only for mercy, and will return the ruby. From inside her street clothes she handed the ruby and said, “Here take it.”
Later at night at home ,-two hundred pieces of gold pieces made Noor very happy. Instantly she arranged to list all the shakers and movers of the city whose fortunes could be made by consulting a chart prepared by Her Astrologer husband. She was sure to insist that he charged a piece of gold towards the trouble he had to read the horoscope. “ One piece of gold?” Ahmad was stunned. “A family of two can live with ease one whole year. Let us not ask for the moon, of moon of my dreams.” He said. She laughed him to scorn, “It is nothing compared to what you shall demand for satisfaction. Ten percent of the sum involved I shall consider worthwhile.” Ahmad simply sighed. She was becoming impossible.
Next day ten attendants from the palace arrived. Bowing they said the Sultan wanted to consult him straightaway. Sweating and fearing for his neck he accompanied them. The sultan went straight to the point, “Here are two horoscopes. One is mine and the other is that of the king of Samarkhand. Compare the two and tell me the truth. Future of Persia depends entirely on you. You are, as reported to me, the most inspired astrologer. I shall not forget you if you should give me satisfaction.”
Ahmad thought his whole world would come crashing on him if he made a single error. He took the horoscopes of both kings and wanted a quiet hour to study them. Immediately he was guided to a saloon on the palace grounds. Dismissing all he threw himself on the divan and he collapsed. He saw a dream. It was terrible. In his mind’s eye he thought he was kneeling with his head on the chopping block. And horrible, oh horrible the sultan’s executioner was sharpening his axe.
Poor Ahmad. He got up and began walking in circles.
Suddenly he found a way out. He walked back to the palace and sought audience with his royal master. He said after bowing deeply that he was ready with his results. The sultan called him privately to another room and asked what was his opinion. He said, “If I tell the truth my royal master will die of black-death; That certainly would bring the King of Samarkhand to the gates of the city. If I tell a lie, the King of Samarkhand shall certainly die and also your son who is even standing next in line.
The sultan digested this piece of news and asked, “Is there a way to prevent any of these from happening, Most Illustrious Astrologer?” Ahmad watched from corner of his eye and saw the Sultan had accepted his decision as predestined from the Lord of three worlds. “No master”
“So be it” said the sultan. “Is there any favour you wish me to do in return?” He bowed and said, “Please issue a royal decree so I need never practice astrology.”
The sultan was somewhat taken aback but he accepted his decision. He duly presented him with a Deed of Exemption. Since then he never glanced at a horoscope let alone draw one. For once his wife Noor had not a word to say for or against it.
(Selected from the Wow-Wow Tales by Q-BITZ)

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