Q. Narrate ‘The Tale of Melon City’ in your own words.
Ans. Once upon a time there was a king. He was just and peace-loving. He proclaimed to construct an arch spanning the main thoroughfare, to improve the onlookers morally and mentally. Soon, the labourers set to work and the arch was constructed.
One day the king was riding down the thoroughfare. The arch was very low. His crown struck against the arch and fell off. There was an unpleasant look on the calm face of the King. He felt dishonoured and decided to hang the chief of builders. All the arrangements were made for the hanging.
The chief of builders said in his defence that it was the labourers’ fault. The king stopped the proceedings for a while and decided to have all the labourers hanged. The labourers said that the size of the bricks was wrong. The masons were summoned. They lay the blame on the architect. The King ordered to hang the architect. The architect reminded the King that he had made certain amendments to the plans when they were shown to him. Thus, the architect indirectly put the blame on the King.
The King was confused to hear the architect’s argument. He said that it was an intricate matter and he needed someone’s advice. He ordered to bring to him the wisest man in the country. The wisest man was found and brought to the Royal Court. He was so old that he could neither walk nor see. He said that the arch was the real culprit. It was the arch that had hit the crown violently and it fell. So, the arch must be hanged. The arch was led to the scaffold. Suddenly, a Councillor said that it would be a very shameful act to hang the arch that touched His Majesty’s head.
In the meantime the crowd was getting restless. Sensing their mood, the King said that someone must be hanged since the nation wanted a hanging. The noose was set up. It was somewhat high. Each man was measured turn by turn. There was only one man who was tall enough to fit in the noose and it was the King. So, His Majesty was hanged.
The Ministers heaved a sigh of relief that they were able to find someone, otherwise the unruly crowd might have risen in revolt. Now, they were confronted with the problem of choosing the ruler of the state. They followed their old custom.
They sent out the heralds to proclaim that the next to pass the City Gate would ’choose the King. An idiot happened to pass the City Gate. The guards asked him who was to be the king. The idiot replied, “A melon.” Actually that was his pet answer to all questions as he liked melons. The Ministers crowned a melon and placed their Melon king reverently at the throne.
his happened long long ago. Now, when someone asks the people how is it that their King appears to be a melon, they say that if His Majesty takes delight in being a melon, that is all right with them. They have no right to say what he should be as long as he leaves them in peace and liberty. It seems that the principles of Laissez fair were well established in that state.
Q. What impression would you form of a state where the king was ‘just and placid’?
Ans. The state where the king was ‘just and placid’ seems to be a backward region full of ignorant fools and ruled by a whimsical king. The king considers himself to be the custodian of people and gets an arch erected for their spiritual upliftment. The king’s word is a command and unwritten law. The whole process of changing judgement on the appeals of the victims appears as a mock-trial. The Ministers and Councillors seem to be selfish. They advise the king to serve their own ends, though they appear to flatter the king and seem dedicated to the state. The common people are uneducated and ignorant fools. They need mental as well as spiritual upliftment. They are fun loving. In their quest for fun, they can cross all limits. If deprived of fun, the unruly mob can rebel against the crown. They do not bother whether the king is a man or a melon. They want there personal freedom, free business and peaceful lives.
Q. How according to you, can peace and liberty be maintained in a state?
Ans. Various people advocate various means of maintaining peace and liberty in a state. Some are in favour of dictatorship while others favour democracy. I think the best course lies in good governance. Whatever is well-administered is most fruitful for the citizens as well as the rulers. It ensures peace and liberty to the common man. A strong state, in itself, is safe against any external threat. Dedicated rulers, enlightened citizens and proper law enforcing agencies can establish peace and harmony in the state. Narrow considerations based on region, religion, caste etc. should be discouraged because these are potent threat to internal security as they fuel dissensions among the people. Free expression of opinions must be allowed but respect for law and order be observed. People should be conscious of their privileges and rights as well as duties and responsibilities. This is the only way to maintain peace and liberty.
Q. Suggest a few instances in the poem which highlight humour and irony.
Ans. ‘The Tale of Melon City’ is full of instances of humour and irony. The just and placid king got an arch built to ‘edify’ spectators. The king’s riding under low arch and losing his crown also creates humour. The way the accused appeal to the king and shift the blame on others is quite funny. The unstable behaviour of the king also creates humour. The selfdefence of the architect is a masterpiece. He holds the king himself responsible for the disgrace as he had ‘made certain amendments’ to his original plan. The king’s anger and inability to act calmly create humour. The criteria for selection of the wisest man is quite ironic. It is assumed that wisdom comes with age. Being blind he does not know that an arch cannot be hanged. Others have eyes, yet they follow his advice and take the arch to the gallows. How ironic it is! The king wants to keep the crowd in good humour and orders that someone be hanged. Only the king is tall enough to fit the noose. What an irony! The king is hanged by his own order. The custom of naming the next king seems equally ridiculous. The idiot who passes by the City Gate suggests “melon” to be the next king. People who think only of their own interests do not bother whether the king is a man or a melon. This is at once humorous and ironic.
Q. ‘The Tale of Melon City’ has been narrated in a verse form. This is a unique style which lends extra charm to an ancient tale. Find similar examples in your language. Share them in the class.