Agreat forest lay on the foothills of the Vindhya Mountain Range. It was full of trees and wild animals, who were ruled by Simha, the mighty lion.
Simha was in the prime of life. Golden brown skin, muscular body, sharp eyes and a great shaggy mane gave Simha a royal bearing.
He would meet the animals every day, listen to their concerns and solve their problems. He would walk to all parts of the forest to see that everyone was taken care of. The forest was green and bountiful under Simha’s rule. That’s why everyone respected Simha and Simha respected every one.
But lately something had started worrying Simha. He would stare into the distance during meetings until someone called his attention. He would lie down brooding for hours together.
The Queen noticed this. But she said nothing. She knew Simha would confide in her when he was ready.
One day, as the lions were about to sleep — lions, as you know, are awake at night and sleep during the day — Simha asked the Queen if she could join him for a walk.
The Queen was tired from the night’s hunt. But she could see that Simha really wanted to talk. So the two set off on their favourite path — up a small green hill. The hill top offered a view of the entire forest. Simha came here when he was trying to solve a particularly difficult problem.
As they were walking up, Simha stopped and asked, “Do you notice anything different about me?”
The queen looked intently at Simha and replied, “You have looked very worried lately. I assumed it was because of all the meetings you have been attending.”
“No, I mean in my appearance. Do you notice anything different?”
Again, the Queen looked. She smiled, “No. You are every bit as handsome as the day I met you.”
Simha sighed. He ran his paws over his mane and held it in front of the Queen. There were 7 or 8 strands of hair on it.
The Queen was confused. What did this have to do with anything?
“This happens every time,” said Simha, “It’s worse when I take a swim.”
“I don’t understand Simha.”
“Don’t you see? I am going bald!”
Now the Queen noticed that there were patches on Simha’s face where the hair had thinned out in patches. “So you are losing your hair. How does that matter?” she asked.
There was anger and dejection on Simha’s face. He quietly walked on ahead.
On the top of the hill he was once again lost in thoughts, watching the forest below. Only the earliest rising birds were up. Soon they would wake the others up.
The Queen came beside him. “Simha I can see that this bothering you. Why don’t you speak to someone about the problem? Lionesses don’t have hair. So I don’t know if I can help you.”
Simha said nothing.
“Why don’t you ask some of the other male lions?”
“You know the male lions aren’t friends like you females. Despite my best efforts, we barely talk to each other.”
“Then what about the bears. They seem to have a lot of hair all over the body. They will surely help the King.”
“That’s a good idea.” Simha suddenly had a purpose. He was fully alert. “I will go meet him right away. You will…”
“I will see you at home,” the Queen said, “Come back soon.”
Simha quickly made his way down the hill. The bear caves weren’t very far off. It was quiet there. Bears were late risers.
“Hello? Anybody there? Babloo, are you awake?”
Simha heard a huge yawn from somewhere deep inside the cave, and then some heavy footsteps.
“Who is making this noise so early in the morning?” Babloo could barely open his eyes.
“It’s me,” said Simha with the authority of a King.
“Who’s me?” Babloo demanded. At last he opened his eyes and saw Simha standing in front of him.
“Oh it’s you Your Highness. Forgive me I didn’t see you!” Babloo said.
“No, no. It’s my mistake. It is too early. But I wanted to discuss a problem with you.”
“Yes, yes of course. Tell me.”
And so Simha told Babloo about his problem. “It is a strange problem to have. And we bears have never had this problem. Perhaps it is because of all the honey. You should try it.”
“How will honey go with the meat I eat?”
“Oh no Your Highness. I was suggesting that you apply it all over your face.”
Simha could barely stand the smell of honey. Now to apply it all over his face. The flies would be all over him in no time. He would be in deeper trouble if he tried this crazy idea.
“No Babloo. I don’t think that’ll work. Thanks for your help.”
Babloo was dejected. “Sorry Your Highness.” But then a thought occurred to him. “Your Highness, why don’t you ask the lizards? They seem to grow their tails back even after losing them.”
“You’re right,” said Simha, “I will check with them. Thanks Babloo.”
Geckos which are a type of lizard stayed all over the forest. They lived on trees and were generally invisible to normal eyes. But Simha knew where the Master of Geckos lived.
Master Gecko was about to go to sleep when Simha called out to him.
“Your Highness? At this late hour?”
“Yes Master Gecko. I need to speak to you about a problem.”
Master Gecko’s tongue flicked in and out as he wondered what problem he could help the King with.
“Of course Your Highness. How I can be of help?”
“I want to know how the geckos manage to grow their tails back.”
“Our tails Your Highness?”
“Yes, you do leave them behind when you want to run faster from predators, don’t you?”
“Ah yes. May I ask why you wish to know?”
Simha told him the whole story.
“Your Highness it takes a lot of discipline and a very healthy diet.”
“Oh I am very good at discipline,” replied Simha, “And I can stick to any diet if my hair comes back. What can I eat?”
“Only insects Your Highness,” Master Gecko said gravely. His tongue flicked in and out.
“Insects?” asked Simha.
“Yes. Beetles, grasshoppers, bugs of all kinds, moths… Well, you can indulge in some juicy flies from time to time.”
“Yes yes,” Master Gecko said his cold eyes gleaming, his tongue slipping out more quickly now, “You find some fat ones by the lake.”
Simha sighed and thanked Master Gecko. The taste in his mouth had turned bad just at the thought of a fly in there. This insect diet would never do.
Dejected, Simha started walking back towards his home.
Pintu the Monkey was sitting on a high tree listening to this whole conversation. He followed Simha and called out to him.
“Ah, Pintu. How are you? You haven’t come to the meetings in a long while. Hope the fruits are good this year.”
“Yes, they are Your Highness. I just heard your conversation with Master Gecko.”
“And are you worried your King is going to eat insects?” smiled Simha.
“Of course not! What do Geckos know about losing hair? I think I know somebody who might help you.”
“Who?” asked Simha. There was a gleam in his eyes.
“A human. He has recently moved into our forest and stays by the fast stream. He wears these orange clothes and stays alone. But people come and visit him at times. They look very sad when they come, but are smiling when they leave. May be he can make you smile too?”
“That’s an excellent idea Pintu. I will see him right away.”
Simha turned to go when he stopped and asked, “He doesn’t have any weapons, right?”
“No Your Highness. He is quiet strange. One day I entered his house and he suddenly came in. Instead of shouting the way humans normally do, he offered me a banana.”
“Thank you Pintu.”
And so Simha made his way towards the home of this strange human. He found the house in a small clearing very close to the fast stream.
Simha stood hidden amongst the trees observing carefully for any sign of the human. But there was no one at the house. Simha decided to take a closer look.
He stepped into the house. It was just one room. A stove stood at one end. But apart from a few vessels and blankets it was empty.
Simha turned to go out and just at that moment the human walked in. Simha flinched expecting the human to cry out in alarm. But to his surprise the human bowed low to him.
“It’s my honour to have you at home Maharaj.” The human was wearing orange robes, just as Pintu had described. He wasn’t fat, but not too thin either. He had chubby face and very kind eyes. But what struck Simha the most was his bald head!
“The King is free to roam wherever he wishes. But if I may ask, what brings you to my home?”
“What do I call you?” asked Simha.
“People call me Guruji.”
“Guruji I was told that you could help me with a problem. But now I see that you really can’t.”
“That may be so,” said Guruji, the slight smile never leaving his face, “But I will try my best if you share it with me.”
Simha told Guruji his problem and then said, “But now I see you too have the same problem. In fact, you are fully bald. I don’t see how you could help me!”
Guruji let out a loud laugh. “I can truly understand your problem Maharaj. There was a time when I too would have worried about hair loss. Humans have developed many medicines that can prevent hair loss. Why, they can even make your hair grow back.”
“Can you get me these medicines!?” Simha asked.
“But Maharaj, I don’t think hair loss isn’t as big a problem as you are making it out to be.”
“What do you mean?” asked Simha.
“What do you think would happen if you did lose all your hair like me?”
“I don’t know what it means to you humans. But for us lions it is a big deal. I would stop being a King!” Simha thundered.
“And what does it mean to be a King? I mean what do you do as a King?”
“I have to listen to complaints and problems of all animals. I have to judge what’s right and wrong. And I have to make sure that no animal is treating others unfairly.”
“And would you stop doing that if you lost all your hair?”
“No. I wouldn’t. But that’s not the point. Animals would stop treating me like a King.”
“Even if you continue to treat them fairly? From what I heard from Pintu you are a great King.”
“But appearance matters Guruji.”
“Maybe. But it won’t change who you are. And that’s why it will not stop the animals of the forest from respecting you.”
Simha was quiet, looking into the distance.
“Think about it Maharaj. Otherwise we can always try those hair-growing medicines. I am not sure if they will work. But we can try.”
“Thank you Guruji. I will see you soon.”
This time both Simha and the Monk bowed to each other.
Simha thought a lot about what the Monk had told him. The Queen was asleep by the time he reached. Simha yawned and curled up next to her. And he slept peacefully like he never had in so many days.