Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a kind old man named Wali Dad Gunjay, who was also known as Wali Dad the Bald. He didn't have any family, but he lived happily in a cosy little mud hut nestled amidst the lush jungle. Wali Dad had a simple job of cutting grass and selling it as fodder for horses, which earned him only a small amount each day. But he was content with his humble life and managed to save a tiny portion of his earnings.
One fateful night, Wali Dad decided to count the money he had been saving, hidden away in a large earthen pot beneath his hut's floor. With great effort, he pulled out the bag and was astounded by the pile of gleaming coins that spilled out. He pondered about what to do with this unexpected wealth. However, he never thought of spending it on himself, for he cherished his simple life and had no desire for luxuries.
Gently placing the money into an old sack, he tucked it safely under his bed and drifted off to sleep, wrapped in his tattered blanket. The next morning, Wali Dad embarked on a journey, carrying the sack filled with money to the shop of a friendly jeweler in town. He struck a deal and exchanged some coins for a precious gold bracelet. He carefully wrapped the bracelet in his cotton waistband and sought out a wealthy friend who was a traveling merchant. This friend often journeyed through various lands with his camels, trading goods.
Luckily, Wali Dad found his friend at home and engaged in conversation. After a while, he inquired about the most virtuous and beautiful lady his friend had ever encountered. The merchant immediately spoke of the renowned Princess of Khaistan, known far and wide for her exquisite beauty and kind heart.
"In that case," Wali Dad exclaimed, "when you next venture to her land, please present this delicate bracelet as a token of my deep admiration for her virtuous spirit. Let her know that I value goodness far more than any wealth."
With these words, Wali Dad retrieved the bracelet from his waistband and handed it to his astonished friend. The merchant, though taken aback, agreed to fulfil Wali Dad's heartfelt request.
Time passed, and eventually, the merchant arrived at the grand capital of Khaistan during his travels. He seized the opportunity to visit the magnificent palace, carrying the bracelet neatly nestled in a small, sweet-smelling box he had prepared. As he presented the gift to the princess, he conveyed the message entrusted to him by Wali Dad.
The princess was utterly perplexed when she received the mysterious gift and couldn't fathom who might have bestowed it upon her. In response, she instructed her servant to inform the merchant that she would provide her reply once he had completed his business in the city. After a few days, the merchant returned, and the princess rewarded him with a camel-load of sumptuous silks and even some money for himself. With these treasures in tow, he embarked on his journey.
Months later, the merchant returned home from his extensive travels and set off to deliver the princess's gift to Wali Dad. The kind-hearted old man was astounded to find a heap of lavish silks piled at his doorstep! He was left wondering what to do with such precious riches. After much contemplation, he approached the merchant with a peculiar request: he asked the merchant if he knew of a young prince who could make use of these splendid treasures.
Amused by the idea, the merchant chuckled and exclaimed, "Of course! From the bustling streets of Delhi to the magnificent city of Baghdad, and from the vibrant markets of Constantinople to the enchanting lands of Lucknow, I know them all! And there is no prince worthier than the courageous and wealthy young prince of Nekabad."
"Very well, then," Wali Dad sighed with relief, "take the silks to him, and may an old man's blessings accompany you on your journey."
Filled with excitement, the merchant embarked on his next voyage, carrying the magnificent silks. Eventually, he arrived at the grand city of Nekabad and requested an audience with the prince. Upon being granted an audience, he presented the beautiful silks as a humble tribute from Wali Dad, expressing deep admiration for the prince's greatness. The prince was deeply moved by the generous gesture and, in return, bestowed upon the merchant twelve of the finest horses known in his kingdom. As a token of gratitude for the merchant's service, he also rewarded him with a generous sum of money.
Once again, the merchant returned to his homeland, but this time he set forth to Wali Dad's humble abode with twelve magnificent horses. As Wali Dad spotted the horses approaching in the distance, he thought to himself, "Here's my lucky day! A majestic herd of horses! Surely they will need an abundance of grass, and I can sell all that I have without even going to the market."
Filled with enthusiasm, he hastily cut as much grass as he could carry and rushed back to his home. However, to his surprise, he discovered that the horses were intended for him and him alone. At first, he was puzzled about what to do with these splendid creatures, but soon an extraordinary idea struck him.
Wali Dad decided to gift two of the horses to the merchant and requested him to deliver the remaining horses to the princess of Khaistan, as she was undoubtedly the most deserving of such magnificent animals. The merchant departed, chuckling at Wali Dad's ingenuity. True to his promise, he embarked on his next journey, accompanied by the horses, and safely presented them to the princess. Intrigued by the mysterious giver, the princess summoned the merchant and inquired about the person behind these remarkable gifts. Although the merchant was generally honest, he hesitated to reveal Wali Dad's true circumstances as an old man living a humble life on meagre earnings. Instead, he conveyed that Wali Dad had heard tales of the princess's beauty and goodness, inspiring him to present her with the finest gifts.
The princess, filled with gratitude, sought her father's advice on how to reciprocate the kindness of a person who persisted in showering her with such lavish presents. The wise king pondered for a moment and suggested, "Since you cannot refuse these gifts, the best course of action would be to send our generous friend a present so splendid that he will be unable to surpass it and feel ashamed to send anything more!"
With the king's counsel, he ordered that for each of the ten horses, two mules laden with shimmering silver be dispatched as a return gift. In a matter of hours, the merchant found himself leading a majestic caravan and had to hire armed guards to protect the valuable treasure from the clutches of robbers. Finally, he arrived back at Wali Dad's humble abode, filled with relief and joy.
Overwhelmed with gratitude, Wali Dad exclaimed, "Ah, this is a perfect opportunity to repay the kind prince for his magnificent gift of horses! But, my dear friend, you have incurred significant expenses on this journey. However, if you would kindly accept six mules and their loads and deliver the rest to Nekabad, I will be eternally grateful."
The merchant felt abundantly rewarded for his efforts and marvelled at the turn of events. Without hesitation, he accepted Wali Dad's offer and, as soon as he made the necessary arrangements, embarked on his way to Nekabad with this new and princely gift. Oh, the wonders and surprises that await on this enchanting journey!
The prince of Nekabad was taken aback by the extravagant gifts he had received and grew curious about the identity of the generous giver. The merchant, feeling a sense of responsibility for his reputation, decided that he would no longer continue the charade but couldn't resist embellishing Wali Dad's character with such vivid descriptions that even Wali Dad himself wouldn't recognize.
Meanwhile, the prince, like the king of Khaistan, was determined to respond with a gift of royal magnificence, hoping to dissuade any further presents. He assembled a grand caravan consisting of twenty splendid horses adorned with golden embroidered cloths, luxurious Moroccan saddles, and silver bridles and stirrups. The caravan also included twenty swift camels, akin to racehorses, capable of tirelessly trotting all day long. Lastly, there were twenty majestic elephants, embellished with splendid silver howdahs and silk coverings embroidered with shimmering pearls. To ensure the care of these magnificent creatures, the merchant hired a small army of men, and the entourage made a breathtaking sight as they set off on their journey.
From a distance, Wali Dad spotted the swirling cloud of dust raised by the approaching caravan and caught a glimpse of its resplendent adornments. He exclaimed to himself, "By Allah! A grand procession is coming! Elephants too! Today, grass will surely sell like hotcakes!" Filled with excitement, he hurried off to the jungle and swiftly gathered bundles of fresh grass. Upon his return, he discovered that the caravan had halted at his doorstep, and the merchant eagerly awaited to share the news and congratulate him on his newfound riches.
"Riches!" Wali Dad exclaimed in astonishment, "What use does an old man like me, with one foot in the grave, have for riches? It is that beautiful young princess who would truly relish these splendid treasures! Keep for yourself two horses, two camels, and two elephants, along with their glorious trappings, and present the rest to her."
Initially, the merchant objected to Wali Dad's suggestion, expressing his growing unease with these diplomatic missions. He reminded Wali Dad of the discomfort and nervousness he felt during each journey. However, eventually, he agreed to embark on one final adventure, vowing to himself never to undertake such endeavors again.
After a few days of rest, the caravan set forth once more, destined for the enchanting land of Khaistan. When the king of Khaistan witnessed the splendid procession of men and beasts entering his palace courtyard, he was so astonished that he rushed down himself to inquire about it. He was left speechless upon learning that these magnificent gifts were also from the generous Wali Dad, intended for his daughter, the princess. Excited by the notion that Wali Dad desired to marry her, the king hurried to the princess's chambers to share the news. He suggested that they personally visit Wali Dad, as he must be an incredibly wealthy man, deeply devoted to the princess. The king even hinted that marrying him might not be such a bad idea.
The princess agreed wholeheartedly with her father's words, and preparations began immediately. Vast numbers of elephants and camels were readied, along with luxurious tents, fluttering flags, comfortable litters for the ladies, and swift horses for the men. The king declared that the merchant, who had represented Wali Dad so faithfully, would guide their entourage.
The poor merchant found himself in a desperate predicament, unable to escape the situation despite his longing to run away. He was treated with utmost hospitality as Wali Dad's emissary, leaving him with no real peace and no opportunity to slip away. Days passed, and his despair grew to the point where he resigned himself to fate, believing that escape was impossible. However, he fervently hoped that a twist of fortune would unveil a way out of the difficulties he had inadvertently entangled himself in, despite his good intentions.
After a week, they set off amidst resounding salutes from the city's ramparts, accompanied by a cloud of dust, joyful cheers, and trumpets blaring. Day after day, the miserable merchant continued to suffer, his illness and misery intensifying. He pondered the gruesome fate the king might devise for him, tormented throughout sleepless nights as he agonized over the situation, enduring almost as much pain as he would if the king's executioners were already preparing to end his life.
Finally, they were just one day's march away from Wali Dad's humble mud home. A grand encampment was set up, and the merchant was sent ahead to inform Wali Dad that the King and Princess of Khaistan had arrived and sought an audience. Upon reaching Wali Dad, the merchant discovered the poor old man having a meagre meal of onions and dry bread.
Unable to bear the weight of the news he had to deliver, the merchant hesitated to burden Wali Dad with the reproaches that welled up inside him. Wali Dad was overwhelmed with grief and shame, not just for himself and his friend but also for the princess's name and honour. He wept, tugged at his beard, and groaned in despair. Tearfully, he implored the merchant to delay their meeting by any means possible and to come back the next morning to discuss their options.
Once the merchant had departed, Wali Dad found himself engulfed in shame and distress. He believed that there was only one honorable way to escape the mess he had created through his foolishness—by taking his own life. In the dead of night, he ventured to a place where the river flowed alongside steep cliffs towering above him. Wali Dad resolved to throw himself into the dark abyss and end his suffering. As he approached the edge, he took a few steps back, gathered his courage, and prepared to leap into the dreadful black void. But at the very last moment, he couldn't do it! Fear gripped his heart, and he recoiled in horror.
From below, the unseen water roared and churned around jagged rocks, its ferocity amplified by the pitch-black night. Wali Dad could envision the place in his mind, even more, pitiless and forbidding than he remembered in the darkness. The wind whispered and sighed through the gorge, creating eerie rustles and murmurs. The bushes and grasses that clung to the cliffs' ledges appeared to him like living creatures, dancing and beckoning in the shadows. Suddenly, an owl hooted 'Hoo! hoo!' right in front of his face as he peered over the edge, causing the old man to jolt back in horror. He was consumed by fear. Trembling, he covered his face with his hands and wept uncontrollably.
But then, a gentle radiance began to illuminate the surroundings, casting its soft glow before him. Could it be that morning had arrived, hastening to expose his disgrace? Wiping away his tears, Wali Dad beheld two beautiful beings standing before him—beings that his instincts told him were not mortal, but Peris from Koh-e-Kaaf.
"Why are you weeping, old man?" one of them asked, her voice as clear and melodic as a nightingale's song.
"I weep out of shame," he replied.
"What brings you here?" the other Peri inquired.
"I came here to end my life," confessed Wali Dad. And as they probed further, he divulged his entire story.
Upon hearing his tale, the first Peri stepped forward and placed a hand on his shoulder. Wali Dad began to feel that something extraordinary—though he couldn't quite comprehend it—was happening to him. His tattered garments transformed into beautiful linen and embroidered cloth, while his bare feet were now adorned with warm, soft shoes. A magnificent jewelled turban graced his head, and around his neck, a heavy golden chain gleamed. Even the old and worn sickle he used to cut grass had turned into a splendid scimitar, its ivory hilt shining like moonlit snow.
Standing there, bewildered like a man in a dream, Wali Dad suddenly noticed a magnificent gateway open before him. The Peris led him down an avenue lined with towering palace trees, leaving him speechless with astonishment. At the end of the avenue, right where his humble hut had stood, a breathtaking palace materialized, bathed in the brilliance of countless lights. Busy servants occupied its grand porticoes and verandas, while guards paced back and forth, saluting him with the utmost respect as he approached. Wali Dad stood there, utterly stunned and unable to comprehend what was happening.
"Fear not," one of the Peris reassured him. "Go to your new home and learn that Allah rewards those with pure hearts."
With those words, both Peris vanished, leaving Wali Dad to stand in awe. He continued walking, still believing that he must be caught in a fantastical dream. Soon, he retired to rest in a splendid room that surpassed even his wildest dreams.
As the first light of morning gently kissed the land, Wali Dad awoke from his slumber, and to his amazement, he discovered that the palace, his servants, and everything around him was real. It wasn't a dream at all!
But if Wali Dad was astonished, the merchant who arrived soon after sunrise was even more bewildered. He confessed to Wali Dad that he had spent a sleepless night, setting out to find his friend as soon as the first rays of sunlight appeared. His search had been a remarkable one! The wild jungle that had stretched endlessly the night before had transformed into lush parks and vibrant gardens. If it weren't for some of Wali Dad's newfound servants who located the merchant and brought him to the palace, he would have believed that his worries had driven him mad and that all he saw was a mere illusion.
Wali Dad wasted no time and shared the incredible events with the merchant. Following his advice, Wali Dad extended an invitation to the king and princess of Khaistan, inviting them to be his esteemed guests. He welcomed their entire entourage, from the highest-ranking nobles to the humblest servants in their camp.
For three joyous nights and days, a grand feast was held in honour of the royal guests. The king and his nobles dined on golden plates and drank from golden cups, while the common folk enjoyed their meals on silver plates and sipped from silver cups. At the end of each evening, every guest was gifted their respective plates and cups as cherished mementoes of the splendid occasion. Never before had such magnificence been witnessed. Amidst the lavish banquets, there were sports, hunting expeditions, lively dances, and all kinds of amusements to delight everyone.
On the fourth day, the king of Khaistan took Wali Dad aside and inquired about his true intentions. He had suspected that Wali Dad desired to marry his daughter. However, Wali Dad, expressing deep gratitude for the honour, admitted that he had never even considered such a grand possibility. He believed himself too old and unattractive for such a beautiful princess. Instead, he proposed that the king stay with him until he could send for the Prince of Nekabad, a remarkable young man known for his courage and integrity. Wali Dad was certain that the prince would be delighted to seek the hand of the lovely princess.
The king agreed to this proposal, and Wali Dad dispatched the merchant to Nekabad, accompanied by a group of attendants and bearing splendid gifts. The prince, upon receiving these offerings, immediately fell head over heels in love with the princess. Their marriage took place in Wali Dad's palace, surrounded by an outpouring of joyous celebrations.
Eventually, the King of Khaistan, along with the Prince and Princess of Nekabad, returned to their respective lands. Wali Dad lived a long and fulfilling life, always ready to lend a helping hand to those in need. Despite his prosperity, he maintained the kind-hearted and generous nature he possessed when he was known as Wali Dad Gunjay, the humble grass cutter.