Once upon a time in a land of milk and honey, there dwelt a gentle and much-put-upon eastern potentate. He had a Grand Vizier who was a source of continual trouble to him. This Vizier was permanently evolving feuds with this or that ethnic minority, seeing the worst in every possible person, and eternally plotting to kill people. Worst of all, he never gave the Sultan any peace. He was always making dramatic entrances into the Sultan’s library, which was situated in the quietest part of the palace gardens. There he would harangue and complain, giving the Sultan indigestion with the passionate frenzy of his unbalanced tirades against his, and purportedly, the Sultan’s enemies.
Once, after some particularly diabolical piece of machination, and unforgivably evil behaviour, the Sultan ordered the Vizier’s execution. The Sultan did this with a heavy heart, as he hated making these sorts of decisions. Then he went for a stroll among his favourite porcelains, and chose some jewels to give to his favourite concubine.
After some time, peculiar things started to happen in the land. The silk and money began to be in scant supply. There were famines and earthquakes, and the people were increasingly disheartened and miserable. Delegations of unhappy citizens would seek audience with the Sultan, begging him to take a more active interest in politics. Being a gracious man, he could hardly refuse.
Diligently, he transformed himself from a scholar and an inveterate dreamer, into an excellent legislator. He became commanding, far-sighted and even occasionally stubborn to the point of tyranny. Over time, he became more worldly-wise. And slowly, he grew more tyrannical, impatient and suspicious until eventually he began to reveal the personality
traits he himself had most detested in his Grand Vizier.
The day finally came when he could no longer bear what he saw himself to be. Nor could he bear the hatred and ill-will of almost everybody in the kingdom. His courtiers lived in dread of his reasonless explosions. His family never knew what to expect. Choosing a mode of death far less cruel than most he had commanded, he rode his horse over the edge of the sheerest cliff in the kingdom.
© Dipti Saravanamuttu