Friday, July 19, 2013

The King orders his tomb

Short Story
The King was acutely aware of the smallness of his stature.  In fact he was the smallest man among all his adult citizens.  Even the queen stood half a foot taller.  He sought to solve the problem by making his crown as tall as possible so that the crest of the golden crown would stand above the heads of his citizens if at all he would ever come into contact with them.   
A king cannot live without ever coming into some contact with some people.  Every such contact made the King feel small.  He tried to masquerade the smallness with self-flattery.  “I am very popular among the citizens, aren’t I?” he would ask his ministers.  Or, “How was the cultural show I arranged last evening?”  “Isn’t my new robe designed by Christian Lacroix a marvel?”  Ministers are people who have mastered the art of diplomacy and self-flattery invariably loves to call a spade a clade.  Nevertheless there is an awareness that lies deep beneath the surfaces of flattery and diplomacy which wiggles and wriggles occasionally and even painfully.
Prompted by some such squiggly wiggle King decided to change his Prime Minister.  He would only have a man shorter than him in height as the PM.  The King’s wish is an order.  The courtiers soon found out a man shorter than the King.  He was a dwarf.
Standing beside the dwarf the King felt himself very tall.  The feeling of tallness became excitement when the King realised that his new PM was more intelligent than the one who was superannuated prematurely. 
“Who built the Taj Mahal?” asked the new PM.
“Shah Jahan, of course,” answered the King condescendingly.
“Wrong, Your Majesty.  20,000 labourers, many brought in from Iran and Central Asia built the monument.  Shah Jahan merely sat with one wife or the other and drank vintage wine and ate Mugalai chicken.”  Dwarf laughed merrily.  “That is the art of management, Your Majesty.  You sit down and relish the riches lavished on you by the Almighty and make others work.”
The King looked down with stupefaction at the man who was half a metre in height.  Is intelligence quotient inversely proportional to physical height, he wondered.
“I want to keep the mouths of all intellectuals and critics shut for ever,” said the King as if he was suddenly inspired.  “Give me an idea that works.”
“Make them the 20,000 labourers who will build a monument for you, Your Majesty.  They will have no time for talking and you will earn the fame of their work.  History belongs to those who enslave others.”
Thus the King ordered his own tomb.

Note: The story was partly inspired by Robert Browning’s poem The Bishop Orders His Tomb.

35 comments:

  1. Nice story Sir, very correct "History belongs to those who enslave others." Even though there's lot of transparency now a days but the situation is pretty similar!

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    1. Much has indeed changed from the days of the kings. Yet much remains the same!

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  2. What a message!
    To the victor go the spoils and the victor writes the history -
    All rolled into one!

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    1. I'm writing from a certain personal experience, Brendan. So it's as much the history of mankind as my personal one!

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  3. The king is a dwarfish both physically and mentally.

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    1. Very few kings have managed to rise above such dwarfishness.

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  4. Wow What a Great Read..And the message conveyed through this post is very much appreciated.. :-)

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    1. Thank you. I'm indeed glad you appreciate my writing so much.

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  5. Hi Tomchi. Because of barely visiting indi I am arriving here after a long time. The story depicts one of the harshest truth about corporate slaves. I agree we often forget that the work we are doing will in no way benefit us. We are only walking talking for someoneelse... what a wonderful way of retelling history :D

    Richa

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    1. It's always nice to get a comment from you, Richa. You always get the connections clear, connection between the apparent history in my stories and the present situation, connections that I only make subtly. Thanks.

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  6. History remains significant to date!! Great read.

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    1. History repeats itself endlessly, ad nauseam.

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  7. Reminds me of the many enlightening fables that have outlived times. Your stories belong to that genre and i love the way you manage to arrive at the message using the right amount of words, never too long, never too short. This was a wonderful work :)

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    1. Glad you like my stories and find them enlightening. Thanks for the appreciation.

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  8. Sir, hats off to you! Precisely expressed sarcasm. Howsoever the king manages to engage his employees, if he is not fair, he must be digging his own pit.

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  9. be the king .. the dwarf PM or the labourer .. is what I am not able to decide .. Of what I understand, Sir, you write such .. perceptions vary .. for each reader .. :)
    BTW,The issue with our nation is that the Dwarf PMs have become the kings too :)

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  10. Jack, I'm sorry if I confuse you at times. Blogging is also a kind of diary writing for me, a public diary of sorts, in which I let out my personal problems in a creative way. This story is one such writing.

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  11. Excellent. Never thought from the angle that kings were in fact digging their own graves by building marvelous monuments :-)

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    1. Not all kings dig their own graves, Santhosh. Visionless ones do :)

      A few years ago, I wrote a story about some Mughal kings and princes including Shah Jahan. That's as historical as a story can be. In case you're interested here's the link:
      http://matheikal.wordpress.com/2010/05/29/the-saga-of-a-warrior/

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  12. reading this intelligent piece of art i feel the en-slavers be enslaved once to realize how tall do they stand in the pit dug for them by they themselves!
    angellina

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    1. Though such turns have occurred in history they are exceptions. Once you reach certain heights of power, you keep rising! That's the normal rule.

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  13. Adam Smith starts his economic analysis on the value of money, and here is the interesting thing in the context of this post - the most important value is that of the labor in producing any thing, be it a palace or a mausoleum! The mausoleum cannot be transferred to or traded for anything else, but labor can be. So, the way I see it, the king has lost the game at the coin toss!

    RE

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    1. Yeah, so the labourers have the choice, the king doesn't. Though I had not thought in terms of Adam Smith, I knew that the King was digging his own grave.

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  14. "what everything really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it"

    "Labour was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things."

    RE, courtesy Adam Smith in "Wealth of nations"

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  15. I loved this sentence "History belongs to those who enslave others." How true!

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    1. I loved the patience with which you read half a dozen of my posts one after the other :)

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    2. I usually do that :) Unfortunately I am enslaved by the corporate world and hence can't read daily. Whenever I find time, I read all the pending posts in my list in one go. :D Some bloggers have named me a monsoon reader :P

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    3. I loved these monsoon showers. Thanks.

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