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Previous: Animals That Stammer

The family had just finished watching Guru – the film on Dhirubhai Ambani, the Indian tycoon.

“What do you think?” asked Isha.

“Interesting”, answered Rosh, “He certainly had the Midas Touch.”

“What’s that?” she asked.

“It is the ability to produce large profits with ease” he answered.

"The gift of profiting from whatever one does. Like the legendary Midas, who had the gift of turning whatever he touched into gold.”

“I’ve heard of the philosopher's stone”, she replied, “We call it Paras (पारस पत्थर) in Hindi, though I know of nobody who has ever seen the stone. It is said to have the power to turn base metals like lead into gold or silver.”

“I’m going to find it when I grow up”, Josh declared, “Then I’ll be rich.”

“You don’t need to find it” Rosh laughed, “you’ve got that magical alchemy right here in your own two hands. Work hard. Deserve success. You shall command it.”

“Pa,” said Hosh, as he came and sat beside his father, “tell us about King Midas.”

“I laaaav stories”, Josh squealed playfully, and came running too.

“It is a myth”, he nuzzled them both with pleasure and started speaking, “Midas is said to have been a king of Phrygia, a region that’s now part of Turkey.”

“But this story begins with the old and ugly satyr-chief Silenus, half man, half horse, who was the friend of Dionysus, the Greek God of Wine, known for his orgies.”

“What are orgies, Pa?” asked Josh.

“They are noisy, riotous parties with lots of drinking, like the ones some of our tenants have at New Year’s eve. But unlike them creating a scene in the neighborhood and disturbing everyone else’s sleep, Dionysus followers gathered in the woods for these orgies.”

“Satyrs came, as well as Maenads, who were wild women of the woods. There would drink for days, bang drums, blow horns, and dance lots, like mad crazy people.”

“One day after such a party,  Silenus wandered off drunk, having had too much wine. He was found by some peasants who bound the smelly beast up and carried him off to their king, Midas.”

“Midas recognized him and ordered him freed. He treated him with dignity and looked after him like a good host should. Later, for his safety, he even personally escorted him back to Dionysus.”

“Dionysius was very pleased with the courtesy King Midas had shown to his friend. He offered him a boon. “You can ask for anything you wish”, he said.”

“Midas asked that whatever he touched in future be turned into gold. His wish was granted.”

“So he returned home happily and ordered his servants to set up a feast to celebrate. He hopped around excitedly, touching different things to test his new power.”

“Everything he touched turned instantly into gold. It was miraculous. He touched a tree. Gold! He touched a stone. Gold! He touched a piece of shit. Gold!”

“Wow!” said Josh, “I really want that golden touch. Can Dionysus make me rich too? ”

“Ssh!” Hosh admonished him, “You’ll have to be good to others before he’ll give that to you. Especially be good to his friends.”

“I’m good to others”, Josh crowed, “I’ll look after Silenus if I ever meet him. Half man, half horse, I’ll know him straightaway whenever I see him. It’s such a cool story, amazing and funny. I love it, arf arf, woof woof, awoooooooooo.”

“Quiet”, Hosh shushed him again, “You’ll wake up our neighbors. What happened then, pa?”

“Zoe,” Rosh continued, “the daughter of Midas, saw that her father was back in the palace. She rushed out to meet him, as always.”

"Just look at this!" Midas croaked proudly at her, pointing to all the gold he had created, "Look at what daddy can do now!"

“She hugged him delightedly, understanding nothing, but happy to see him so excited. But the second he touched her, she went rigid. Turning instantly into a glittering, valuable, lifeless statue.”

“Eeeeeek”, squeaked Josh, horrified.

“Yea”, Rosh continued solemnly, “His touch became his curse. He could neither eat, nor drink now. The moment he touched food, it transformed into the golden metal. His drinks solidified into gold.”

“Shocked, Midas came to realize that he would never be able to eat or drink now. He realized that he couldn't ever touch any useful object without it losing in utility what it gained in monetary value.”

“He realized that his boon had become the bane of his life. He began to hate it. He began to hate all the gold that he had so loved, craved for and coveted.”

“It is ironic”, Hosh murmured, “Everything he touches turns into gold. That is such great power, such a thing to have. Yet he can’t even hug his own daughter without turning her into a golden statue.”

“Just goes to show that you need to be careful what you wish for”, Isha agreed, “lest you get it!”

Next: The Midas Curse

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