Once upon a time there was a kingdom called Purano Bagan (old garden) which was in the clutches of a King who had grown too old and ineffective. He was given to literary debates of no significance and in his absence, his goons had taken over. There was lack of governance and the kingdom was in a state of anarchy.
In such a scenario, people were getting oppressed and those who spoke up were tortured in dungeons and some never got to see the light of the day. Many started leaving the kingdom. In the kingdom there lived four friends. One was a rich businessman, the other an intellectual, the third was a medicine-man and the fourth was a simpleton. Though they belonged to different professions and background they were good friends. Like the others, they too one day decided to leave the kingdom, much against their wishes.
The businessman wanted to leave as he was not able to invest and conduct business safely in the kingdom. The intellectual’s views were being suppressed and were seen as an alternate ideologue as he was proposing ideas for a change and the kings goons were against that. The medicine-man wanted to leave as there was no atmosphere for research and thus no development in the field of medicine. The fourth was a simpleton, and wanted to leave as he saw no future in the city for simple folks like him.
So one fine morning they all decided to leave. From the outskirts of the kingdom, they gave one last look to their beloved land and turned their faces in sadness. Just then, they saw a battered woman lying on the ground badly wounded. They immediately knew that she must have been a victim of the oppression of the king’s henchmen. Surprisingly, all the three, except the simpleton seemed to have an idea, as if together!
The medicine-man said that he could manage to revive the woman and give her all the physical powers that she might need, but that would require a lot of money. The businessman immediately agreed to fund the treatment. The intellectual said he would be able to feed her with all the education on ideology that would be required. The simpleton was puzzled – “What for” he asked. As if in unison, they all replied – “The change that we need, you silly! She will be the harbinger of change!!” The simpleton was not sure and said that he wasn’t sure if he was willing to go with them. He tried to dissuade them, but the three would not listen to him. Sadly the simpleton, decided to leave the kingdom all alone.
The three friends were too excited to care for their friend and they got to work. They took her to a nearby empty hut. The businessman paid a lot of money based on which, medicines and some life saving drugs were bought secretly. They nursed the woman, who seemed to be reviving faster than expected. As soon as she was in a position to sit up and listen, the intellectual started reading out the classics and teaching her all about the philosophies of the world. He told her all about the liberal ideologies and how culture flourishes in an open atmosphere. How debate is the foundation of all societies and consensus ought to be the main way of resolving all issues. Soon the woman was ready to be sent to the king’s court.
The woman was named Ma as she was going to give birth to a new regime. On her way to the court, she gathered more supporters who were awed by her very gait, her radiance and her demeanour. She entered the court and challenged the King to a verbal duel on any topic of his choice. The king was too old to challenge, and her goons were too awe-struck to oppose. To cut short the story, Ma won hands down. There was celebration in the entire kingdom as now they would live in peace and harmony and the three friends were called to the court the next day for felicitation.
The three friends put their finest dress and walked in to the court with pride on their face. On reaching the court, they looked at Ma, their own creation sitting on a green throne – green was the colour of prosperity and change. Ma on the throne was looking royal and a leader to look up to. The King was gone and so were his henchmen. However, what took the three friends by surprise was that the replaced people looked no different from the Kings henchmen, but then this was not the time to be cynical, after all this is the day they were waiting for.
The three of them bowed as Ma looked at them from her throne. Ma then spoke. Her first order was that the businessman’s property be confiscated, so that she could usher in a regime of equality where all would be equal. Next she said that the medicine-man be not allowed to practice as he and the businessman could join hands and create monsters which could be detrimental in the new regime. As far as the intellectual was concerned, he was ordered not to teach and debate as his lectures and deliberations could mislead people to an unnecessary revolution and that is one thing that the kingdom did not require. What the kingdom now required was a single point of agenda, to eliminate the old order and change all that she thought it better. In this new order there was going to be change, but change the way she saw, change the way she wanted and not what the others wanted.
She then called the Minister for Education and suggested a series of changes in the text-books and suggested the deletion of many important aspects of history from the books. She then called the Minister of Culture and suggested the kind of music that the people in her kingdom should now onwards listen to, irrespective of whether people wanted to hear or not. She then called the Minister for Law and Order and suggested guidelines on what should be passed as crime and what should not be, irrespective of what people wanted to complain about. She also suggested that all lawlessness charges be levelled on the erstwhile Kings henchmen, and that there was no need to verify prior to levelling of the charges. She and her men were beyond reproach.
The businessman, the medicine-man and the intellectual were shocked to learn that they had created a Frankenstein. If only they had listened to the simpleton and left with him, they would have been better off. But it was too late.
Ma then took to learning to play the sitar. She got so engrossed in it, that she did not bother to see what was going on in her kingdom. Once there was a fire which led to many more fires and it seemed that the whole kingdom was up in flames. When people rushed to tell her about it, she was engrossed in playing her sitar. Disappointed, people went back, saying – “While the kingdom is burning, Ma is busy playing the sitar.” This reminds us of Nero playing the fiddle when Rome was burning.
Does anybody remember what happened to Nero after that?
(Adapted from an old folk-tale – “The Four Brahmins and the Tiger”)
Published in LITIZEN on 03/07/2012