(From :'THE MAHARAJA’S WHITE ELEPHANT’ )
Chapter 2 – Bombay Boy
Bombay. It was the city of everybody’s dreams!
As the prince stepped out of his royal carriage, a newspaper vendor cried out,
“Bombay, the city of dreams!
Where everything is not as it seems!”
Its bright city lights dazzle the sea.
Its dusty red buses are always busy.
Its racing bikes and fancy long cars
Often carry many a film star.
People march like ants on the busy city streets
As they head to work, thinking on their feet.
Bombay, the city of dreams!
Where everything is not as it seems!
Trains are crowded, apartments small
You could make pots of money or none at all
Eat street food like vada pav and chai
Beneath buildings so tall, they enter the sky!
Fisherwomen, pickpockets, rich women, poor men
Are all part of this wonderful mayhem.
Bombay, the city of dreams!
Where everything is not as it seems!
As a little boy, the prince had often visited this enormous city with his grandparents. He was fascinated by the city lights, its movie theatres and restaurants, its tall buildings by the sea, its buzz and excitement. And now, more than ever, he wished to live like a pukka Bombay boy.
The prince was excited at the thought of living on his own. He didn’t wish to live at their plush royal bungalow by the sea. Instead, he preferred to live in a small rented apartment in a large building, like a common man. It wasn’t difficult for him to get a good job, as he was intelligent and well educated. Soon, the prince was living the Bombay life that he had always dreamed of.
There were no servants waiting on him or subjects falling at his feet. No ruby rings and sapphire studded shoes for him, oh no! There was no rose water on his eyelids when he awoke in the morning. Instead, he would wake up to the sound of clanging utensils in the neighbour’s kitchen and to the rustle of the newspaper sliding beneath the door.
He soon made friends with the neighbours, the Aroras, a friendly family that usually sent him his morning cup of tea.
Dr. Arora was a man so jolly
He had a heart as large as his belly.
He dropped the prince to work on the way
As he drove to his clinic, everyday.
Mrs. Arora, a schoolteacher, made sure
That the prince’s maid did her chores.
She invited him over for Sunday meals
Where the prince ate a good deal.
Rinky, their daughter, and Dinky their son
Thought their new neighbour was a lot of fun.
The prince didn’t tell them that he was royalty.
To the Aroras, he was just an ordinary boy in the city.
At work too, the prince quickly made new and exciting friends.
There was the office prankster, Crazy Lal
Who played pranks on one and all.
The wrestler amongst them was Thunder Singh
Nobody dared disagree with him!
The genius at work was ‘Sunder the Wonder’
Whose brain equalled the brawn of Thunder.
The prince’s boss was Super Simone
An intelligent woman who was fooled by none.
But the prince’s favourite was Racer Ray
Who rode his racer bike to work everyday.
It was Racer Ray who convinced the prince to buy a motorcycle with his first salary.
“Imagine yourself zooming to work on a bike!
I tell you, it’s something that you will like!
Imagine the wind against your face
As you vroom and zoom at a motorbike race,”
He tempted the prince.
No sooner did the prince have his paycheck in hand than he rushed to the nearest motorbike showroom. There were all kinds of bikes – big, small, high, low, red, blue, silver, black! It was a difficult choice and the prince was confused.
Finally, he bought a shining red bike with a silver handle and big, yellow lights. He named it Buddy.
Chapter 3 – New Buddies
The prince was soon zooming to work on his roaring new bike. Dr. Arora missed the prince’s company on his way to work every morning while Mrs. Arora asked him to ride carefully and to always wear a helmet. Dinky and Rinky begged him to take them on a ride and he promised them he would.
The prince was happy with life. He wrote a long letter to his parents about his life in the city, his kind neighbours and friends at work. He sent them photographs of everyone, of his apartment and his new bike. Behind the photograph of Buddy, he penned the song that he usually sang while riding,
‘Ode to Buddy’
Oh beautiful bike so shiny and sturdy!
Member of my family, best friend and buddy!
Riding horses and elephants is so fuddy-duddy!
Oh to ride in the rain and get muddy!
On this bike, my good Buddy!
However, when his parents received the letter and photographs, they were horrified. A prince who rode to work on a common bike! It would shame the family! It was bad enough that he had a job in the city, but to travel by bike was just out of the question.
So one day when the prince returned home from work humming his song, he was surprised to find a crowd gathered in the building compound.
“What big ears it has!”
“And look at the eyes!”
“What a strange tail!”
“Look at the colour!”
“I thought these creatures existed only in myths and legends!”
When the prince pushed his way past the crowd to catch a glimpse of the object of attention, he found himself face-to-face with something familiar. It was a great big white elephant!
The prince recognized it as Ivory, their most beautiful and best palace elephant. White elephants are a sign of good luck and royalty, and his father had brought it all the way from Thailand many years ago. It was as white as its name suggested and its tusks were encrusted with tiny diamonds and rubies. Its tail had fine, blonde hair and its toenails were a soft pink in colour.
“This could only belong to a prince!” said one of the elders in a hushed voice.
“Where did it come from? To whom does it belong?” asked another resident.
The prince was dismayed. He was afraid that his carefully guarded secret would be out. He tried to push his way out of the crowd before Ivory recognized him but it was too late.
“Here’s a note that says ‘To His Royal Highness, Flat number 8, Diamond Apartments,’” read Dr. Arora who had joined the crowd and the commotion.
It suddenly dawned upon him. “Why, why…” he spluttered. “I’m in Flat number 9! So it must be my neighbour…the boy!” he could barely complete his sentence or contain his excitement.
The crowd spotted the prince at the same time as the elephant did.
“Here he is! A real life prince within our midst!
You had us all fooled, Your Highness!”
The crowd cheered and bowed before the prince.
“A V.I.P. in our humble building! And royalty no less!”
Meanwhile, Ivory (who was feeling rather lost)
Raised his fair tail and pooped in joy.
His happiness knew no bounds
When he recognized his master’s boy.
Text by Janhavi Acharekar, Copyright Crossover Media