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Chapter 8 The Tale of Melon City

Text Book Questions and Answers

The Tale of Melon City About the Author

Vikram Seth (born 20 June 1952) is an Indian novelist and poet. He has written several novels and poetry books. He has received several awards such as Padma Shri, Sahitya Academy Award, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, WH Smith Literary Award and Crossword Book Award. Seth’s collections of poetry such as ‘Mappings’ and ‘Beastly Tales’ are notable contributions to the Indian English language poetry canon.

The Tale of Melon City Main Theme

‘The Tale of Melon City’ is a satirical story told in a humorous way. It is based on a story by Idries Shah.There was once a city. The king of this city was ‘just and placid’. He ordered that an arch be made in the city so that his people might improve morally. When ‘the arch’ was complete, the king rode under it. But the arch was low and so the king lost his crown. The king was angry and ordered that the chief builder . be hanged. The chief builder said that it was the workmen’s fault. The king ordered all the workmen to be killed, but they blamed the masons. This went on and finally it was the king who had to be hanged.

After the king’s death, a new king had to be chosen. The ministers decided that the next man to pass the city gate would be their king. The man who passed next was an idiot. He said, “A melon should be the king.” because he was very fond of melons. So the ministers crowned a melon and put it on the throne. The people were happy because the melon did not interfere and let everyone live in peace.

The Tale of Melon City Reading with Insight

Question 1.
Narrate ‘The Tale of Melon City’ in your own words.
Answer:
The Melon City
A king ordered an arch to be constructed to ‘edify’ the people. The arch was low and the king lost his crown when he passed under it. The king ordered the execution’ of the chief of the builders, but the latter said it was the fault of the workers. The workers laid the blame on the bricks because they were of the wrong size. So the masons were called. They blamed the architect, but the architect said that the king himself had made some alterations.

At this the king sought the counsel of the wisest man in the country. The oldest man alive was brought and he advised that the arch should be hanged. The arch was not hanged because it had touched His Majesty’s head. The king said that because the nation wanted a hanging they will hang whoever fitted the gallows. By chance, the king himself fitted best and was hanged. The king’s ministers decided that the next man who passed the City Gate would be their king. As it happened, an idiot was the next man to pass the City Gate. He said a ‘melon’ should be the king. So the ministers crowned a melon and the people were happy.

Question 2.
What impression would you form of a state where the king was ‘just and placid’?
Answer:
The place where the king was just and placid would have never required governance, enforcement of rules. The King must have left the citizens to live in peace and liberty. The citizens would have enjoyed laissez faire.

Question 3.
How, according to you, can peace and liberty be maintained in a state?
Ans.
Peace and liberty of citizens can be maintained only through proper governance by the rulers. The principles of governance should be justice, equality, freedom, dignity and prosperity of the people. The rulers should be honest and dedicated to the welfare of the people.

Question 4.
Suggest a few instances in the poem which highlight humour and irony.
Answer:
Some illustrations that highlight humour and irony are:

  • An arch will lift the morals of the people.
  • Someone should be hanged because the people expect it.
  • The man whose neck fits the gallows will be hanged.
  • A melon should be the king — People got happy in the Melon King’s rule.

Question 5.
‘The Tale of Melon City’ has been narrated in 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.
Answer:

  • Bhartendu Harishchandra’s play in Hindi Andher Nagri Chopat Raja.
  • Shastra Dekho Shastra, a verse play in Hindi about four highly educated but foolish Brahmins. Students to find some more such Hindi plays.
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