melon with crown

Summary of The Tale of Melon City by Vikram Seth

Snapshots Class 11 NCERT

This is a political satire about a king who was just, placid and peace loving. The king wanted an arch or monument to be constructed across the public road in order to enhance the beauty of his kingdom. The arch would signify the honor and valor of his kingdom. So, he gave orders to build the arch. Laborers were set to work and soon they constructed a very beautiful arch.

The king rode on his horse to make the first grand entry through the arch and address the public. But as the arch’s height was too low, his crown got struck and fell off. He called it a matter of shame and dishonor in front of his countrymen. So, he decided to punish the builder who will have to be hanged.

The builder pointed his finger towards the workers. The workers claimed that they were not responsible for the mistake but the sizes of bricks which indirectly meant the mason. The mason who actually made the bricks accused the architect as it was he who decided the size. The king called for the architect. But the architect reminded the king about certain amendments made to the plan by the king himself and in the process indirectly blamed the king. The King became very angry and he claimed it to be a very confusing situation. So, he called for the wisest man of his kingdom to the royal court and settle the dispute.

The wise man was too old to walk. The culprit must be punished – said the wise man. He examined the situation, listened to all the viewpoints, saw the arch and finally came to the conclusion that the arch was the real culprit and it should be hanged. But the councillor said that it would be very shameful to hang the arch that touched the king’s head.

The people became restless to see the blame game for long. The king understood the situation that the crowd wanted to see a hang. So, the king decided to set up the noose. The king announced that everyone present there would come and stand before the noose and they would hang the man whose height matched with it. Only one man matched the height and that was the king himself. With a sense of sorrow and happiness the ministers wished the king a long life and mourned his death.

Soon chaos prevailed in the kingdom. The ministers were in a dilemma about choosing the next king. So, they decided to go by their old custom. According to this, the person who passed through the city gate first would choose the next king. Soon an idiot passed through the City Gate. The guards asked him who should be the next king? The idiot replied “a melon”. They never knew that the man was an idiot whose only answer was melon always. So, a melon ceremony was held and the ministers kept a melon at the throne with a crown over it.

Now, this event took place long before. Whenever someone asked them about the melon king, they used to say that until and unless it curtailed their peace and freedom, they had no problem with a melon as their king. According to customary traditions, they made the melon their king. They liked to follow the principle of non-interference which meant the government didn’t interfere in public relations. This was established as the melon couldn’t interfere in their decisions.

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