The Fakir family archives state a tale about a chef/ hakim from central India who visited the prosperous kingdom of Punjab to seek employment. He was directed towards Maharaja’s trusted minister Fakir Nur-ud-din, who in turn directed him to his assistant Bishen Singh, who was also a hakim.
The chef explained that he had learned about the prosperous kingdom of Punjab and generous nature of the Maharaja, and had special talents as a chef which could do wonders for the health of the royal household.
He requested to be introduced to the Maharaja with a special ‘daal’ which he wished to prepare for him. When the approval was granted for this special ‘daal’, the treasurer got a shock when the chef asked for 303 rupees for the preparation of the dish. When asked, he replied 3 rupees for the daal and 300 for ingredients. Surprised at the astronomical figure, everyone wondered what kind of ingredients, herbs and spices he was going to use for this daal but he would not divulge the special recipe.
The chef had one special directive though. He wished the Maharaja to be the first one to eat it and that the Maharaja should consume it as soon as it is prepared and it should not have to cool down. Assured of his prompt consumption he began cooking the daal in secrecy on the decided day.
As luck would have it, Maharaja who was out on a hunt that day could not reach back in time due to unforeseen issues that caused a delay.
The dish was prepared but Maharaja was nowhere to be seen. When informed that the Maharaja had not yet reached, the chef was absolutely livid. So angry he was at finding out about Maharaja’s absence that he took out the entire dish and threw it around a dying tree and left the royal kitchen without telling anyone. The Maharaja returned to spilled daal all around a dying tree in the fort with no information on the chef who had left without a trace.
Life resumed to normal but just after a few days, peculiar news spread around the fort. The almost dead tree around which the chef had spilled his special daal in anger seemed to be reviving. And just within a few weeks, to the utter amazement of the people inside the fort, the tree had made a remarkable recovery and was now in full bloom. Efforts were made to locate the whereabouts of the chef but no trace was ever found. Neither was any information found as to what were the ingredients used in the daal.
It is a fact that so powerful was Ranjit Singh’s empire that the brits never dared to attack his kingdom so long as he was alive. It is commonly believed among historians that had he lived for a decade or two more, the history and geography of the Indian subcontinent and Punjab would have been different for brits could never have prevailed over him. Unfortunately, Maharaja Ranjit Singh didn’t live very long. Due to excessive opium consumption his health had weakened by the time he reached his 50’s and eventually gave up when he was 59. Perhaps if that magical chef had stayed in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s employment he could have lived longer. The cheeky ones would argue that if he had consumed that special daal, the history of Punjab and Indian subcontinent may have been different.
There are numerous trees inside the premises of the fort. Can one of the trees still standing inside the fort be that tree which got a new lease to life thanks to that special daal?