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.