The prince of Kabari was young and handsome. He was sought after by every rich family for their daughters. He had his pick of beautiful women. There were banquets, balls, all sorts of occasions orchestrated by his family for him to meet women with the hope that one of them would be his betrothed but none of these women interested him. His family became frustrated and wondered if he would ever marry while others began to question his sexuality. He didn’t care what his family or anyone said or thought. He refused to be forced into marriage and was quite prepared to remain single for the rest of his life.
A person can become king without getting married, he told his distraught mother. “Take the British for example. The title of king is bestowed by the line of succession—not marriage.”
“But, Amir, what about heirs to carry on after you are gone?”
“Dushyant will be king after I’m gone and through him you will have your grandchildren.”
She shook her head. “I just don’t understand it,” she said. “There are so many young, beautiful and suitable women for you to choose a wife from and still you haven’t shown any interest in any of them. People are beginning to talk–to wonder about you.”
“Let them talk, let them wonder about me, it is of no consequence to me.”
She stared at him, distressed. “Amir, you can’t mean that,” she exclaimed.
“Mother, I will not marry to arrest rumors or to appease Father and you.”
“At the rate you’re going, I’m beginning to think that you will never get married.”
“It wouldn’t be the end of the world if I didn’t get married.”
“But how could Kabari not have a queen?”
“It wouldn’t be the only country without a queen, Mother.”
“Amir, I insist that you stop being so obstinate and choose a wife.” She turned and bustled out of the room.
The seemingly endless parade of women continued. He sat there now, thinking that he would rather be fighting in a bloody war than to sit through this. A beautiful girl came and stood before him, adorned with jewels, her eyes the shade of honey and her skin the shade of caramel. She was wearing a traditional red saree and her hair, the shade of charcoal was swept back from her heart-shaped face. She was by far, the most beautiful of the women who had been presented to him and he felt that maybe she could be the one. Then, his eyes moved past her to another woman standing in the background.
Signaling to one of his attendants and when he went over to him, he had him lean closer so that he could say to him, “Find out who that woman over there is.”
His attendant bowed and went away.
Prince Amir seemed to have forgotten that the girl was still there, looking at him, wondering why he was no longer seemed to be interested.
His attendant returned. “She’s a Siddi from the Bantu peoples of Southeast Africa,” he informed him.
“What is she doing here?” Prince Amir asked.
His attendant shrugged. “I don’t know, Rajkumar. Would you like me to find out or just get rid of her?”
“No. Take her to the inner courtyard and have her wait there.”
The attendant left and Prince Amir watched him and the woman leave. Then, he returned his attention to the girl standing before him. He waved her away dismissively and she left, mortified. He told his other attendant to send the other women away. He got up and after quickly left the audience hall. His attendant followed closely behind him but when they got to the courtyard, he dismissed him. “I would rather be alone,” he informed him when he protested. Reluctantly, he left.
Prince Amir approached the woman as she stood there. Up close, she was stunning. He couldn’t stop staring at her. None of the women he saw had this effect on him. This one took his breath away. It didn’t matter to him that she was African. “Hello.”
She did a small curtsy. “Hello, Rajkumar.”
“What is your name?”
“Are you Muslim?”
“What does your father do?”
“He’s a merchant.”
“Why are you here at the palace?”
“I came to sell kawandi.”
“What is kawandi?”
“They are quilts.”
“I see that you aren’t carrying any with you which means you were successful in selling them.”
“Are you betrothed?”
His question startled her. “No.”
“You are aware that as the next king of Kabari, I’m expected to take a wife.”
“For weeks I have seen many women–all beautiful, accomplished and suitable. A short while ago, a very beautiful young girl appeared before me and I thought that she might be the one.”
Adanna lowered her eyes. “So, Rajkumar has found his future queen?”
“I thought I had until I saw you.”
She raised her eyes but was not sure what to say. The way he was looking at her made her heart pound and it felt like there were butterflies fluttering about in her stomach.
“I’m looking at the future queen of Kabari,” he said quietly.
Her eyes widened in shock. “You want to marry me?” she exclaimed.
“But, I’m a Siddi.”
“That doesn’t matter to me.”
“Your family and the people of Kabari will not accept me.”
“Don’t concern yourself about them.”
“I–I don’t know what to say.”
“You find me attractive, don’t you?”
“And I find you very desirable.” He reached out and caressed her bare arm, making her catch her breath. Heat burned in his loins. It took all of his will power not to take her in his arms and kiss her even though he longed to very badly. He removed his hand and assumed a businesslike stance. “Yes, you are the future queen of Kabari. I will make the announcement tonight at the banquet.”
He tarried with her for a while longer and then, he took his leave of her. She left the palace and returned to her family’s home to tell them the incredible news. He made the announcement that night at the very festive banquet and there was a shocked silence.
His father was understandably incensed and his mother look about ready to faint. The guests looked at each other, not sure what to say. The future queen was a Siddi? How could that be? What about all of those beautiful, eligible Indian women–why couldn’t he have chosen one of them?
“It’s a disgrace,” the King said after the guests had gone. “Out of all the women here in Kabari, you had to choose a Siddi woman. What madness has come over you?”
“I’m perfectly sane, Father,” Prince Amir replied calmly. “You and Mother wanted me to choose a wife and I have.”
“But, she’s not one of us,” his mother protested. “She’s a Siddi.”
“Her father is a merchant. She was here at the palace today selling quilts. And, she’s Hindu like us.”
“The people will never accept her,” the king fumed.”
“If they want me to be their future king, they will have to accept her.”
“They won’t,” his mother wailed. “They will never accept her as their queen.”
“If they don’t accept her, I will abdicate the throne.”
The king stared at him in consternation. “You can’t be serious!” he exploded.
“Amir, you can’t do that,” his mother protested. “You can’t give up the throne because of a woman you met just today.”
“I’m going to marry Adanna and if the people of Kabari refuse to accept her, I will abdicate.”
Nothing the king or queen said would change his mind and so, on a fortnight, he married Adanna. Only a few friends and the Siddis attended the wedding. True to his word, Prince Amir abdicated and his younger brother, Dushyant would be the next king of Kabari. Amir was stripped of his royal status, not longer addressed as Rajkumar and was exiled. They moved to the island, Gaibari where they settled and lived happily ever after.
After he had announced that he was going to marry her, Adanna had asked him, “You would give up being king because of me?” His reply had been, “Yes, because I’m madly in love with you. I would give up everything for you.”
He had given up everything for her–his future reign, his country and his family but he knew that she was worth every one of those sacrifices.