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Salik and Kamala

Once upon a time there was a young man called Salik who lived in a town ruled by a strict king, whose laws were so draconian and exacting that people accepted them without thinking, as if they were natural laws. The king had a daughter, called Kamala. Kamala means perfection and she was perfect indeed: she was beautiful, intelligent and wise. It was forbidden to see her, to talk to her and even to think too much of her. But, of course, some people did see her at times, and others, as they were her servants, sometimes had to talk to her. Generally however, people thought very little about her, and very much about the dangers of stopping to think about her. Many people got to the point of being afraid even to hear her name. One day, Salik was walking along the seashore when he saw the princess getting out of water after her morning swim, and he fell in love with her, or at least he believed so, as he felt a strange mix of attraction, fear and curiosity. Salik told his parents, who were very frightened and advised him to forget all about it. Here we can live a fairly satisfactory life, provided we obey the kings orders and serve him faithfully, said his father, who was an educated and respected man. But the desire to see the princess again grew ever-stronger inside him, and every day he would go down to the seashore and wander through the woods outside the town, hoping to run into her. Now the princess had also noticed Salik and fallen in love with him. She had poured her heart out to an old travelling saleswoman, who had come to the palace to sell her wares, and who promised she would look for Salik. And so, one day, having knocked on many doors, the old woman finally found him. My son, she said, The princess loves you. Now its up to you to do something about it. Forget the royal decrees! You have to do everything you can to meet the young girl. Isnt she as beautiful as the moon? Naturally, Salik was amazed and delighted. How could such an insignificant young man have his love requited by the princess? He vowed to the old lady that he would find a way to meet up with her, he would prove the depth of his feelings by setting out in search of the princess with no regard for danger. Salik, his soul aflame with the messengers words, felt his fear of the kings anger subside. He left his house and began wandering around the town, making a thousand and one plans of how he could meet his beloved. He hadnt long been walking when he saw a crowd gathered around a man who was to be punished by flagellation. What did he do? asked Salik People answered: He spoke admiringly of the princess. Of course the king sentenced him to this punishment. At the sight of the man's whelts, Salik felt horrified. He wrung his heart, afraid of facing the same destiny if he persisted in nursing his secret desires. Nevertheless he walked on, his heart once again full of admiration and his mind more firmly set than ever. He started to dream up more plans of how to meet the young girl. On the corner of a street he saw a crowd whistling to a salesman as he was thrown out of his shop. People threw mud at him, and when the kings soldiers threw his goods out onto the street, people seized it immediately. Salik asked what was happening and they answered him: So that anyone who takes a fancy to the daughter of our wise and powerful king will be covered with shame! This man wrote an ode to the princess. Seeing the punishment that could become his lot, Saliks heart froze. But he quickly regained his initial resolution and continued on his way. After a short while he met a man who was walking with his eyes toward the sky. Suddenly two royal guards sprang up, they grabbed him brutishly and dragged him away. Salik asked some passers-by what crime the man had committed.

To look up is a crime, they answered. Anyone who looks up could someday find themselves looking at the window of the tower where the princess lives. And so it must not be allowed. After this, Salik, to avoid such a fate, began staring at the ground as he walked. He had been walking head-down for some while when he came upon the old travelling saleswoman. Young man, she said, you are doing nothing for the princess. If you love her as she loves you, you must do something to avoid letting her down. I think you'll find I've already started, answered Salik. And what have you done? First of all I haven't spoken to anybody about her, except for my parents. And what's more, I haven't written any poetry for her. So then, asked the old woman, why are you staring at the ground like that? I was about to tell you, answered Salik, I'm avoiding looking up to her windows in order to save my life. Stupid lad, exclaimed the woman, and didn't you know that theres a custom in this kingdom that no-one should stare at the ground, in case they are accused of looking for the princesss footsteps? and she went away.

As he passed by a house, still thinking of the princess, he heard crying and groaning.
He was so obsessed by the young girl, that he rushed i nto the house shouting: Is she dead? Is she dead? Let me see her for the last time! The dead mans family looked him over, thinking he was mad. Young man, they said, we are mourning the death of a beloved family member. You are a stranger. You have no right to come running into our house behaving in such a manner. And anyway, the deceased is a man, not a woman. Then Salik continued on his way. Soon he arrived at a crossroads where a venerable sage, with his eyes half-closed was sitting. In actual fact the sage was a SUFI master, and he said to him: Salik, my friend, there's not much time left to find the princess. You have looked up and down, you have followed your natural instincts and lost your head over a dead man. Now its time for you to find out whether you are really looking for the princess or whether you are just trying to avoid making a bad impression on the townspeople. But what can I do? exclaimed Salik. What you can do, said the SUFI, is head straight for your objective. But because of what other people do, and because you act just like them, you are unable to make a decision. Come with me. He took him by the arm, and they set out toward the kings palace. Are you afraid of dying? asked the old man. Are you afraid of losing all you own and being scorned? he persisted. Are you afraid of being guided and helped? I only do what others do, and I avoid doing what others avoid doing, answered Salik. Only what some people do and what some people dont do. And you think that everyone else does the same. They entered the palace; the SUFI master led Salik to the throne room. The king was there, surrounded by the court. Your majesty, said the wise man, this is the young Salik, who was gripped by fear and by his own imagination, and who has come to you today to ask for your daughters hand: He would like to marry Princess Kamala. The king said: I reign over this land where danger is everywhere, where everybody has to die, and where people are constantly reproached. Those who fear danger for no reason, those who fear death, and those who cant bear to be reprimanded will always be slaves. Are they perhaps worthy of a kings daughter? If your Majestys laws require that I shouold die instantly, then kill me! said Salik. If you disapprove of my ambition, cover me with shame! All I know is that I want to marry the princess. And so Salik married Kamala, and in due course he became king.

Salik means searcher, and Kamala means perfection. He reached her only after he had freed himself of everything that came between the two of them.