The Masquerader

The Masquerader

Tenalirama was an eyesore for the Rajguru because Tenalirama used to make him eat the humble pie on one pretext or the other. It was because of Tenalirama’s wit that almost everyday Rajguru had to become the laughing stock of the entire court.

Rajguru really wanted to do away with Tenalirama. He plotted many vile schemes but Tenalirama couldn’t be trapped in that. Twice the Rajguru made the king order execution of Tenalirama not only emerged victorious but earned an award also in the process. Now the Rajguru was convinced that only his physically killing Tenali could make him take the sigh of relief. So he thought of a novel conspiracy.

On the pretext of his journey to the sacred place, Rajguru left the capital for some time and reached near a well-known and famous impostor who was adept in teaching people how to masquerade. There he stayed for two months and learnt all the tricks of the trade. And one day, disguising him in a different form, he returned to the capital and reached the court.

Then he told the king that he could achieve many impossible feats. The king inquired: “Who can you masquerade best?”

“A lion” said the impostor (Rajguru) and added: “But that is a very dangerous act. Someone can injure or even killed. So, if you want me to enact this role you’d have to pardon me if a murder is committed in the process.” The king grew that much curious that he accepted the condition. Then the impostor said: “Maharaj! There is one more condition. I want your famous courtier Tenali to be present when I give my show. I have heard a lot about his sharp wit and intelligence and that is why I want him to be present there!”

The king accepted this condition also and ordered Tenalirama to be present. When Tenali heard this condition, he grew apprehensive. Although he couldn’t recognize him yet he was sure that this person was his some hidden enemy. Hence on the day of the show Tenali came to the court wearing sturdy armour underneath his clothes.

The impostor began his show. Some of the feats achieved by him were really astounding. While all the courtiers were praising the impostor, he suddenly reached near Tenali during the course of his show and leapt at him. But Tenali was already prepared. He attacked the impostor with his hidden brass knuckles, causing him to groan in pain. Although the impostor tried to hit Tenali yet his hidden armour came for his rescue.

When that impostor had leapt on Tenali, the king grew nervous. Now he realised the secret behind the condition put forth by the impostor. He immediately summoned Tenali and asked: “Are you all right Tenali? No injury?”

Then Tenali showed his hidden armour to the king and said: “I was prepared for the on slaught!” “Did you suspect his intensions, Tenali,” said the king.

“I did Your Majesty! Had his intentions being noble he would not have asked you to pardon one accidental murder and also would not have put forth the condition of my presence during the show. I immediately realised that he intended some foul play,” explained Tenalirama.

The king then said, “Tenali! Since he attacked you I wish to punish him by death. But I want you to settle your score on your own.”

“That I will” said Tenali and added: “You would see how subtly I’d settle my score!”

Then Tenalirama accosted the impostor: “The king is mightily impressed by your performance. He now wants you to enact the role of a sati (A woman burning herself on the pyre of her husband) he wants you to do so tomorrow. If you do it well, the king promises to award you five thousand gold coins.”

The Rajguru disguising as an impostor thought he was trapped but he had to go as it was the king’s order.

The next day Tenalirama had a huge pit dug out and filled it with the dried wood. In case something untoward might happen, the Vaidya was also asked to be ready and present there.

Soon the impostor reached there disguising himself as a sati. He had done up the make up and wore the dress so well that no one could have thought him to be an impostor. He looked like a woman from every angle.

At last he had to sit on the burning pyre. But in no time the burning fire singed his entire body. Now Tenali could not tolerate the impostor’s agony and quickly helped him come out of the pit. By that time the Rajguru’s real form could not be hidden. Tenali recognised him and asked the Vaidyas to treat him well. The Rajguru now felt grateful to Tenali who saved his life or else the fire would have consumed the royal priest. When he recovered, he went to Tenali and apologized for his misbehaviour. Tenali also extended his hand for friendship and then after. The two ever remained friendly.

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