A long time ago, there was an Arabian caliph by the name of Haroon Rashid. Rashid had a brother, Bahlol, who lived on alms.

One day, Bahlol went to a king’s palace to get some food. Looking at the shabbily dressed Bahlol, the king asked his guards to chase him away. Unceremoniously thrown out of the palace, Bahlol went to a nearby forest. Hunger and thirst drove him to seek shelter under a tree. There, he collected some sticks and placed them in a pattern on the ground.

The royal chariot carrying the queen happened to pass by. The queen climbed down from the chariot and asked Bahlol what he was up to. He replied that he was building paradise. Amused at his answer, she asked him if he would sell the paradise to her. Bahlol replied in the affirmative.

When the queen inquired about the price of the paradise, Bahlol replied that it cost a loaf of bread. The queen understood the poor man wanted something to eat, so she handed him a loaf of bread. After making short work of the bread, Bahlol made a bundle of wooden sticks and gave it to the kind queen. Happy that she could feed a hungry man, the queen bid adieu to Bahlol.

The queen reached the palace and narrated the events of the day to the king. The king looked at the bundle and laughed at her. The queen took the bundle of sticks and kept it on the shelf in her room. That night, the king had a dream. He was standing in front of a stone wall with a huge gate. The guards refused to let him in. The king peeped through the gate’s opening and saw a big garden with all kinds of flowering plants and fruit trees. He could see a stream of clear water. Birds of all hues rested on those trees, chirping incessantly. It was a heavenly sight.

The king also spotted a lady dressed in royal clothes and diamonds. She was sitting gracefully on a golden throne. Beautiful maids were serving her. The king moved closer to the gate to see the lady’s face. To his utter surprise, it was his queen! When he checked with the guards, they replied that the lady had purchased paradise.

The king wanted to jump for joy and tell the guards that the lady was none other than his queen. He woke up as soon as he opened his mouth to speak. He could see the queen in deep sleep, with a smile on her face.

The next day, the king went into the woods and met Bahlol, who was busy with the wooden sticks. When the king asked what Bahlol was up to, the latter replied that he was building paradise. The king asked him if he would sell the paradise to him and what it would cost. Bahlol replied that it cost seven treasures of seven kings. Shocked at this reply, the king reminded Bahlol that he had sold it for a loaf of bread the other day. Bahlol explained that he had done so because the queen wanted to feed a hungry person. However, in his pursuit of paradise, the king had already glimpsed what it looked like, and so the price was bound to be high. The king could say nothing more.

…now that you’re here

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Kalai Selvi, Folk Tale writer at Ameya

Kalai is passionate about reading and reinterpreting folk tales from all over the country. Write to her at kalai.muse@gmail.com to know more about her.

Folk tale adopted and abridged from Folk Tales of Kashmir by M.K. Raina.