History lessons
Ranjita Biswas | @twfindia | 15 May 2021
History lessons
Of late, strangely, figures from my school history books surface regularly into the mind– for whatever reason, or perhaps for an obvious one. Nero, for example. Of the apocryphal story that he fiddled while Rome burned. Some historians surmise the Roman emperor was mentally unstable and deliberately set fire to portions of Rome to ‘inspire’ him to play the instrument better.

And then there was Muhammad bin Tughlaq  who couldn’t make up his mind about anything – unorthodox while relating to religion but ruthless in other matters. One day he wants to shift the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad in the south, and then decides it’s not a good idea after all. So pack up,  back to Delhi.

These figures ruled over vast tracts of land but lacked the leadership and sagacity people looked for. They ruled with the help of satraps who closed their eyes to the misery of the hapless citizens, their poverty, their illnesses- in fact, everything that poor common man wanted to be rid of  and  live in peace. Luxuries dazzled their eyes, sumptuous food were piled up on their plates in parties. The ministers  and attendants kowtowing to them wasted half of it -throwing them to the bin which could have fed at least some of the hungry prajas.

Well, they were not benevolent kings like Harun al Rashid, Caliph of Baghdad, who, according to legends, roamed incognito at night through the streets of his capital to listen to grievances of his subjects, and then made amends during the day.

If some historians think that these guys – like Nero or Tughlaq, were actually bonkers, could we also reason in these lines about powers that be in our country  now who suffer from some delusions? That they know not what they are doing?  How will history judge them? About the way they let down their own people? And brainwashed their followers into believing  that they would bring glory to the land- a golden age?

But by then we will not be here anyway to read the chronicle of the time.