The Bold King, The Wise Minister And The Evil Citizens – Short fiction


The Bold King, The Wise Minister And The Evil Citizens.

imsai-arasan

The king was bored, truly bored. He had, ever since he had clawed his bloody way over to the throne subduing all internal opposition and dissent had true peace for once as he had also subdued almost all the neighboring countries under his rule. Just sheer gossip that he was amassing an army to invade often forced the neighboring countries to surrender immediately and offer up tribute to stave off the invasion. For they knew all about him and his barbarian ways and knew they could expect no pity from this man who had risen up from the dregs of society by his sheer bloodthirsty ways to become a warlord who ruled over all the lands with fear as his main weapon, lands which had once despised his kind but forced to now kowtow to him. And like all uneducated barbarians who rose to be kings by the power of their bloodthirsty swords this king too depended on the advice of a learned minister to take care of the day to day ruling of the empire the details of which bored him immensely. As long as the palace coffers were full and as long as there were enemies who could be beheaded, hung or burned alive the king did not bother to think about anything else. The minister, the kings right hand man as it were, was like all educated men forced to serve barbarian’s to survive, secretly hated and despised the king for his bloodthirsty attitude and was merely waiting for the chance which one day, the minister often assured himself, the barbarians idiocy would offer him on a platter, a chance to destroy and replace the king on the throne where the educated minister was sure he could perform better. And his chance came that day.

The king as we said was bored, and being bored wanted to be amused. He called his minister and asked “tell me minister is the country happy? Are the people happy?” to which the crafty minister replied “of course your kingship, the country is happy and the people, they are very happy”. The king frowned for of course this was not the answer he had expected to hear so he asked the minister “but why?”. The minister hesitated a moment to ponder whether this was a trick question before answering “well, because the nation is at peace, we have no enemies. The people are all prosperous and rich and that makes them happy”. The king thought this over and asked in a puzzled tone “the people are rich? The people of this country?” and the minister began to fear the tone of the king in the conversation and hurriedly said “yes your kingship, we have conquered all the surrounding lands and there is peace and prosperity everywhere. At last all our people are free to work hard, make money and grow rich”. The king went on to ask “but what about taxes? Don’t they pay taxes? How can they be rich then?” the minister now understanding the way the kings mind was working went on to say “of course your kingship the people are paying all the taxes we have thought up. But what to do, these people, these peasants, are hardworking, sincere and very industrious. The more we tax them and take away their money the more these people work day and night to save money”. But the king was still not satisfied “but how can they be rich? That means that we are not taxing enough if they have money enough to be rich even after paying taxes”.

The crafty minister smiled at this and said “but your kingship, you forget one thing, these cunning peasants never tell us how much they earn in truth for us to tax properly. It’s all about parallel economy and black money with those beggars. They never tell the truth of their incomes and earnings to our sincere soldiers who go for tax collections daily. If a potter sells ten pots a day he pays tax on nine pots only and saves the money he makes on the last pot for the day he falls ill and cannot make a single pot. Similarly that old woman who sells idlis for a living says she had sold fifty idlis a day when in fact she sells sixty, hoping to save that money for a rainy day when she cannot stand in the rains and sell any idlis because the customers avoid coming out in the rains. These people are all cheats your kingship, they are selfish and avaricious and they lie boldly to the hard working tax collectors about how much they have saved for calamities like rainy days or sickness or any family emergencies. Almost all these peasants and farmers have stacks of coins-one annas and two annas- tied up in old bed sheets under their beds. That’s how rich they are.”

The king was incensed on hearing this “they are rich, are they? How dare they be rich? How can they be rich in a country where I rule? Don’t they know that I despise money? I never had any money yet I became king through my talents. I want to punish them – punish them all severely minister. Shall we hang them all in the market place for hoarding black money?” The minister at last had the chance he had been waiting years for, the chance to get rid of this barbarian king once and for all. In a slow whisper he went on to say “I have a better idea my king. These people with their one anna and two anna coins think they are rich. Even if you hang them they will die happy thinking that they die rich. The only way to properly punish them is to make them poor. Make them beggars again. Show them that even hard work and industry is not enough to make someone rich in our country. Show them that if they are born poor they can only die poor and never better themselves. Make them despair of ever improving their lives” The king was pleased with this advice as it was what he believed in wholeheartedly “How? How? Tell me minister, how to make the whole country poor, so I can be the only rich man in this country?” The minister with a significant look at the king said “my lord, people think they are rich because they have money in their hands- so break their confidence on money itself. Just declare that all money today onwards is worthless and you can beggar the whole country in minutes. Then you and only you will be a rich man my king, while everyone else will be left holding worthless pieces of metals, those beggars.”

And the king who did not have the benefit of a proper education and never learned the concept of thinking things through which is the benefit of a proper education, by a single decree declared all money worthless and beggared his nation and people at one stroke. And the aftermath of this act was filled with tragedy and pathos and many deaths which is a tale to be told on another day.

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