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The Tale of Melon City Summary in English by Vikram Seth
The Tale of Melon City by Vikram Seth About the Author
|Poet Name||Vikram Seth|
|Born||20 June 1952 (age 67 years), Kolkata|
|Education||Corpus Christi College, St. Michael’s High School|
|Nominations||National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography|
|Awards||Padma Shri, Sahitya Akademi Award|
The Tale of Melon City Summary in English
The poem is set in a city that was ruled by an impartial and mild-mannered king. He announced, one day, that an arch should be built in the city that would extend over the major main road to improve the condition for the masses. The workmen obeyed the orders and constructed the arch as they were directed. After it was built, the king rode through the street and while crossing below the arch, his crown fell off because it was built too low.
His mild expression turned into a scowl. He took this as a dishonour and sentenced the chief of builders to be hung till death. The rope was brought and gallows prepared. When the chief of builders was brought, he pleaded that it was the fault of the workers. The King stopped the procedures because he was fair and ordered that all the workmen be put to death. The workmen protested to the king that they were not the ones at fault but it was the masons who had made bricks of the wrong size.
The king called the masons and as they stood trembling in fear, they blamed the architect. The architect was sent for. When he arrived, the king proclaimed that he be hanged. The architect reminded the king that he, himself, had made certain changes in the plans when they were shown to him.
When the king heard this, he was so angry that he almost lost his ability to reason. Since he was righteous and tolerant, the king admitted that this was a difficult situation. He required advice, so he called for the wisest man in the country. The wisest man was found and carried to the royal court as he could neither walk, nor see. He was an old and an experienced man. He said in a trembling, feeble voice that the offender must be penalised—the arch that had thrown the crown off, must be hanged. Thus the arch was taken to the platform where the criminals are executed when, suddenly, a councillor said that it would be a disgrace to hang something that touched the honourable head.
The king was thoughtful and felt that the point raised was valid, indeed. But by this time, the crowd that had gathered around became restless and started grumbling. The king noticed their mood and was worried. Addressing all the people gathered there, he said that they must put off thinking about points like faults and responsibilities, as the country wanted to see the execution. Hence, someone must be hanged immediately.
The loop in the rope was got ready and was set up. It was a little high. Hence all the people were measured, one by one, to see who would reach the noose. Finally they found the man—it was none other than the king. Thus he was hanged as per the royal ruling. The ministers were glad that they had found someone to keep the unmanageable people in the town from rebelling against the king.
After his execution, they shouted, “Long live the King! The King is dead.” They pondered over the difficulty of the situation and being good at finding solutions, they sent out the messengers to announce that the next person to cross the city gate would decide the ruler of the kingdom. According to their practice, this decision would be made obligatory in a suitable ceremony.
The next man who crossed the city gate was a fool. The guards asked him to decide who ought to be the king.
The fool replied it ought to be “a melon”. This was his usual answer to all questions because he liked melons. The ministers crowned a melon and accepted it as their king. They carried the melon to the throne and respectfully placed it on it.
This event took place many years ago. Now, when the people, are questioned how a melon came to be their king, they say that the decision was based on “customary choice”. They argue that if the king is delighted in being a melon, they have no reason to criticise him as long as he left them live in peace and liberty. In that kingdom, the philosophy of laissez faire (refusal to interfere) seems to be well established.
The Tale of Melon City Summary Questions and Answers
What do the words ‘just and placid’ imply?
The phrase implied that the king was fair and mild. The king, ‘a great believer injustice’ ensured justice was meted out to his subjects. He was also mild mannered and rarely showed any displeasure—and even if he did frown, he quickly wiped the frown off his face.
Where did the king want the arch constructed? Why?
The king wanted an arch to be erected which extended over the major main road. He felt, the road would edify the spectators—it would improve the morals and knowledge of the onlookers there.
What happened to the king as he rode down the road?
After the arch was built, the king rode through the street. He wanted to edify the spectators there. But as he was crossing below the arch, his crown fell off as the arch was built too low. This angered the king.
What order did the king give when his crown was knocked off his head?
The king was angry because his crown was knocked off his head as he tried to ride under the arch. He ordered the chief of the builders, responsible for building the arch, to be hanged.
How did the chief of the builders escape hanging?
When the chief of the builders was led away to be hanged, he pleaded innocence. He claimed that it was the fault of the workers that the arch was built so low. He escaped hanging as the ‘just and placid’ king could not bear to punish an innocent man.
Why were the workmen to be hanged? How did they escape hanging?
The king ordered the workmen to be put to death as they were painted responsible, for building the low arch, by the chief of the builders. The workmen protested that they were not the ones at fault and blamed the masons who had made bricks of the wrong size. They, too, escaped death by hanging.
Whom did the architect lay the blame on?
The masons blamed the architect for the poor design of the arch. The architect, in turn, passed on the blame to the king who had made certain changes in the architectural plans of the arch.
How did the king react to the architect’s accusation? Why did he react that way?
When the king heard the architect’s accusation, he was so angry that he almost lost his ability to reason.
Since, he was righteous and tolerant, he admitted that this was a difficult situation. The king solicited advice and called for the wisest man in the country for counsel.
How was the wise man brought to court? What advice did he offer?
The wisest man was found and carried to the royal court, as he could neither walk nor see. He was an old and experienced man. He said in a trembling, feeble voice that the offender must be penalized. He condemned the arch, guilty, for throwing the crown off the king’s head.
The arch was not punished in the end. Why?
The wise man declared that it was the arch that had thrown the crown off, and it must be hanged. A councillor objected to the arch being hanged; he called it a disgrace to hang something that had touched the honourable head of the king. The king agreed with the councillor and the arch was spared.