Once upon a time, there was a king called Namdar. He had only son named Gulsambar, the heir-apparent of the throne. The young prince had repugnance for marriage—a bone of contention between father and son.
Eager to arrange his son’s marriage, the king one day advised him: ‘son! You are the hope of the royal lineage and turning around the kingdom’s destiny would be unimaginable without your marriage’.
Thanking his father rather courteously, the prince upheld: ‘all what you say, sweet father, sit well with me except the proposal of marriage that I simply can’t deliver…’
‘A week-long notice I leave you with to consider the matter, to knock you into senses and divert you towards reality; apparently for your own good,’ the king admonished. Shockingly, the week ended but the prince remained as obstinate as ever.
Greatly enraged, the king ordered his son’s indefinite detention in a derelict ghost-infested hut in a desert away from human settlement, obviously to pressurize him into acquiescence. ‘Keep the prince under close watch and make sure he remains secure,’ dictated the king in a resonant royal-like voice, ‘but leave him alone until his will power gives in’, he added.
The hut was abode of fairy Rajoli who frequented it in night time. That evening the fairy found the presence of a handsome prince. Awe-struck, she addressed her fellow fairies: ‘mind you I have never seen as handsome a human being as this one in my entire life’. Promptly negating the notion, Qashqash, a strong slave giant, said: ‘There is one—princess Surraya—the daughter of Sanjan king. She could easily surpass this one in beauty and manners’.
The fairy, in effect, was besotted with prince Gulsambar whilst Qashqash liked princess Surraya. A heated debate ensued before it was agreed to produce the princess to settle the matter once and for all. Qashqash did the job instantaneously. After matching, the beauty and manners of the princess was established far superior. In the meantime, both stole appreciative glimpses of each other; exchanged rings, lockets and images whatsoever.
Surraya was ferried back to her home country leaving Gulsambar greatly distressed and confused about the graceful creature. He could not help short of inquiring: ‘who was the figure visiting the hut in the pitch of dark? Shrugging off the query, the guards said: ‘well, we didn’t see anybody like what you conjure up’. The prince then produced the image, ring and the locket in testimony.
Ironically he took it for a conspiracy from his father and assumed the lady was sent in as a test case. Whatever was the case; the prince could hardly restrain his emotion and grew impassionate day by day to have a glimpse of her once again until the desire drove him almost crazy and affected his health.
Peace of mind eluded princess Surraya, on the other hand. Something continued smoldering from her inside since she had met him that night in a dream-like condition. She fell ill; her health constantly declined symbolizing ‘frailty is thy name woman’. Curing her sickness posed a challenge for doctors in the Sanjan kingdom. As a last resort, the king declared: ‘whoever will cure my beloved daughter, will have half share in my kingdom and wealth’. This attracted more expert doctors and therapists, none succeeding in the mission.
Lastly, Sher Khan, one of Surraya’s cousins, who was quite close to her, investigated: ‘please do tell me the truth; I might succeed in finding out solution to your trouble’. She brought forth the image of prince Gulsambar, his ring and locket and exclaimed: ‘My ailment is not a subject of ordinary doctors and therapists. The betterment of my health is inextricably attached with the Sinbad prince.’
Sher Khan departed on a long travel over difficult terrain, hottest deserts, dense forests; thirsty and hungry before he managed to reach the Sinbad kingdom, where he impersonated himself as a doctor with a claim to cure the ailing prince’. His interaction was granted on medical ground, when Gulsambar confided: ‘none can diagnose my health problem except God for my sufferings are deep-down and perhaps beyond human knowledge; I have a dream-like fantasy, the translation of which seems quite hard’.
Easily linking the clues, Sher Khan produced the image of Surraya; the ring and locket she had given him. The prince was miraculously recovered. There was celebration and festivities in the kingdom as the news spread. The king thanked the doctor and opened his treasure trove for him.
Once the euphoria subsided, Sher Khan decided to clear his position: ‘I am neither a doctor nor therapist; I am the cousin of the Sanjan princess. She also suffers just like you. I traveled a long distance to find out solution for her problem but luckily cured your sickness as well’.
Now they became fast friend and reveled in every bit of life pleasure. One day, accompanied by retinue and guards, they set off on a hunting spree with horses, bows and arrows. Hardly did they leave the palace when Sher Khan disclosed the well-kept secret: ‘prince, you have to necessarily go with me on the journey to Sanjan kingdom, evidently to cure the ailment of Surraya and this is how you’ll compensate for what I have done for you.’
Gulsambar agreed hesitantly. Both embarked on a long and hard travel and it almost took months before they reached. Flushed and somehow perplexed, Sher Khan orientated the prince throughout the journey regarding ‘does’ and ‘don’ts’ in the new kingdom. He also advised him, time and again, to get himself mentally and physically prepared to cope with the situation upon arrival and the ultimate encounter with the princess. ‘You have to play a doctor, the way I did in your country. This could be the safest way to have the rendezvous,’ he faithfully drilled the idea into Gulsambar’s mind.
Upon arrival, Sher Khan visited the princess straight away, certainly to share the success story and to reassure her complication would be over soon. The news of inviting an outlandish doctor, meanwhile, was communicated to the king, who allowed him to treat his daughter but with a stern warning: ‘young doctor! Listen carefully to what I tell you. It would be a pleasure if you’ll treat her; otherwise all those doctors who failed have been…’ The king further reprimanded: ‘Look! For the sake of your own life, I ask you not to go in should you genuinely feel you won’t be able to…’
On the other hand, confusion and tension overtook the king, the royal employees and the entire kingdom over the disappearance of Gulsambar. Hectic search campaigns were conducted in every nook and cranny of the forest and deserts but to no avail. Rumors had it that prince and his friend succumbed in a fight with tiger. Guards and servants who accompanied them were severely punished for failing their responsibilities.
Successful treatment of the princess turned things favorable for Gulsambar, bolstered his reputation and contributed to his rapid recognition, connection and friendship. Given his professional excellence, good look and friendly manners, people in the Sanjan kingdom idealized him. In a very short time span, the king was so much impressed that he proposed his daughter’s marriage with the prince and gave him a share in his kingdom and wealth. Thus he became a close confidant of the king, who endeared him as much as his own son.
Nevertheless, prince Gulsambar never basked in the idea of permanent stay in the new kingdom. He simply didn’t forget his own country, family and people and planned to return one day. He consulted the matter with princess Surraya, his beloved wife and both succeeded in pleading the cause of their visit back to Sinbad kingdom.
Attended by a caravan of service men and soldiers on foot and horseback, they headed for a long and arduous journey in grilling sun and chilly nights over hair-raising mountains, difficult terrains and thick forests infested with ghost and wild animals. To recuperate energy, they regularly punctuated their travel wherever they found suitable places with cold spring water and dense shade.
By early spring, they sojourned in a lavishly green location in the vicinity of a turquoise blue lake fed by fresh streamlets. The landscape was carpeted with wild flowers; the air was thick with colorful butterflies and a variety of songbirds. The fresh aura of early spring was in the atmosphere all around. After staying for a while, they couldn’t resist staying rather longer.
One morning, Gulsambar unfastened Surraya’s diamond necklace whilst she was in deep slumber. He took it outside to examine against the sunlight. No sooner did he expose the precious ornament than a motley-colored bird snatched it away. Quite disappointed and regretful, the prince started chasing the ‘wild goose’ with a hope to get the necklace back but without success even after months. Eventually the bird disappeared into a vast garden enclosed by huge walls. The prince found the entry point but the watchman didn’t allow him to enter.
In effect, the prince had reached the magic kingdom and the arch magician (king) had sent the bird to pilfer the necklace. Gulsambar’s repeated requests for entering the garden didn’t yield. Finally, the watchman addressed him: ‘young man! You have reached in a magic kingdom where human beings do not enjoy fair reputation; I am genuinely worried about the treatment you’ll receive from the magic king,’ he said wearing pitying look at his face. Nonetheless, the watchman committed to keep him in a hidden place as long as he could. He also promised to arrange his return trip along with a caravan likely to depart in two months’ time. It was bad luck he missed out the said caravan and had to stay far longer, becoming more exposed to perils in the magical kingdom.
The princess plus her retinue were really worried about the whereabouts of prince Gulsambar. They kept on waiting for quite long time before they ultimately decided to proceed on their travel. They reached Sandalabad, a separate kingdom, the king where warmly welcomed them. In order to hide her true identity in the king’s court, princess Bardul-Badu played as a bridegroom (prince) and a lady in the party as his bride (princess). They made sure the king wont cast aspersion on their being genuine couple.
The Sandal king greatly admired the handsome ‘prince’, his charisma and etiquettes and showed willingness to give his only daughter in marriage to him. Now Badul-Badru was in dilemma. She could neither accept the offer of marriage, nor simply reject it. In either case she had to run into trouble. After considerable meditation, she nodded agreement. The marriage was arranged amidst festivities and fanfare.
However, the newly-wed princess observed cold and neglectful behavior in the ‘prince’ that caused embarrassment and frustration. This state of affairs persisted for few more days until their ‘marital relation’ was about to turn sour. The princess decided to disclose the matter about her new ‘husband’ to his father.
Before it was too late, Badrul-Badru at last confided her real gender to the princess: ‘I tell you something with a hope you’ll not disappoint me. In fact I am the wife of prince Gulsambar, who has gone missing during our travel to Sinbad kingdom. I seek your help by not revealing my true gender; which is likely to bring me, my father and my husband dishonor’. After passionately listening to the entire episode, the Sandal princess pledged her full support. ‘When my husband will return, Surraya reassured her, I promise to arrange your marriage with him.’
The longer prince Gulsambar trapped in the magic kingdom, the worse things turned for him. On day his unhappy encounter with the magic king further compounded the matter of his escape. He told the prince: ‘you’ll have to marry my daughter; dissolve yourself into my kingdom and do whatever I’ll dictate you to’. ‘Understand!?’
The message came as a huge shock for the prince, who always fancied joining princess Surraya sooner or later. Further tightening the noose, the magic king warned: ‘if you’ll not comply with what I tell you, you’ll face harsh punishment’. No way was the prince in a mood of compliance, so he got himself prepared for the punishment. Initially he was engaged in a handy mill with a mound of grain to grind per week. He had blisters all over his hands and his energy gave in day by day. His condition further deteriorated when the quota kept on increasing.
Fairy Rajoli came to know about Gulsambar’s misfortune, his punishment and his separation from his beloved wife. She requested Marjan, her father and the fairy king, to assist in delivering Gulsambar from a solitary confinement. To begin with, the fairy king didn’t well receive the proposition. He agreed only when his daughter narrated the background of the entire story; the way she had worked for the well-being of two human beings by arranging their marriage...