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THE TALE OF

MELON CITY

Short Q & A

What argument did the architect advance in self-defence? How

did the king take it?

The architect reminded the King that he (the King) had made some

changes in the plans when they were showed to him and the King

seemed to have forgotten it. The King got very angry and almost

lost his head to rage.

What sort of king ruled over the state? What did he proclaim?

The king who ruled over the state was just and placid. He

proclaimed that an arch should be constructed over the major

thoroughfare in the city to benefit the spectators.

Who was held responsible for the disgrace? How did he/ they

react to it? What do you learn about the king?


The ‘chief of builders’ was held responsible for the disgrace when

the King’s crown fell under the low arch. He reacted angrily and

ordered the offender to be hanged at the gallows. We learn that the

king had an ego. He was stubborn and short tempered.

Comment upon the criteria of selection of the wisest man and

the quality of counsel he offered?

The wisest man, according to the King’s courtiers was carried to

the court. He could neither walk nor see. He was very old and

hence was selected. The counsel he offered was that since the arch

had banged the King’s crown off, so the arch should be hanged.

This was a very ridiculous and absurd suggestion.

Why did the king need some counsel and from whom? Do you

think the man was really the wisest one? Give a reason for your

answer.

The King needed a counsel from the wisest man in the country. He

needed a counsel when the architect blamed the King himself for

having forgotten that he had made changes in the plans. This

made him very angry. The wise man was not really the wisest one

as he could not choose the right culprit.


What does the comment of the councillor about the arch reveal

about himself and the King?

As soon as the arch was led to the gallows for hanging, the

councillor commented on how they could hang so shamefully the

arch that touched his head. The comment reveals that he was a

clever man and very cunningly persuaded the King to change his

mind. The King being fickle minded himself, argued to postpone

the consideration of finer points like guilt.

Why did the King give into public demand?

The king gave into public demand because the crowd by now, had

become restless and was muttering and grumbling loudly. He was

a foolish king and gullible too. His motive was to move on quickly

with the hanging to satisfy his public.

What was the result of the King’s thoughtless order?

The thoughtless order given by the King was that the tallest man

who would fit into the noose would be hanged. The result was

that the King himself was hanged by Royal Decree as he was the

tallest man around.

Why did the ministers feel relieved? Do you think their elation

was justified?
The ministers felt relieved because if they had not found someone,

the unruly town might have turned against the crown. The elation

was more ironical because now the town was actually without a

crown as the King was hanged due to his own foolishness.

How was the new ruler of the state selected?

The new ruler of the state was selected when an idiot, who was the

first man to pass the City Gate, was given the privilege to choose

the next king. He immediately chose the ‘melon’ as the King as it

was his standard answer to all questions. So, the melon was

crowned as the King.

How did the people and ministers react to the selection of ‘a

melon’ as the new ruler?

They reverently carried the melon to the throne and placed it

there. If, years later they were asked to explain how the melon

became their King, they would reply that it didn’t matter to them

who was the King as long as he left them in peace and liberty.

What do you mean by the principles of ‘Laissez faire’? Did they

apply in the state ruled by the melon king?

Yes, the principles of ‘Laissez faire’ applied to the state ruled by

the melon king. The principles meant that the state had the policy
of allowing private business to develop without government

control.

Describe the features of the arch that was ordered to be built by

the King?

The arch was ordered to be constructed in a way that it would

triumphantly span over the major thoroughfare of the city and

edify the spectators there.

What happened when the King rode down the thoroughfare?

The king rode down the thoroughfare after the arch was

completed but just as he was under the arch; his crown hit it and

fell down. The arch was perhaps built too low or the king was too

tall.

What was the King’s reaction when the crown fell?

He said that it was a disgrace and that the chief of builders should

be punished for making the arch too low.


Poetry-based Q & A

O king, you do not realize

The bricks were made of the wrong size

a) Who said these words?

The words were spoken by the workmen when the king ordered

them to be hanged.

b) Who was at fault now?

The workmen put the blame on the masons for making the bricks

of the wrong size.

c) Who got into trouble because of wrong size of bricks?

The masons got into trouble because the workmen put the blame

on them. The masons defended themselves by saying that the

architect had planned everything wrongly. Hence, he was to be

blamed.
The king said, ‘this is a disgrace’

The chief of builders will be hanged

The rope and gallows were arranged

a) What was a disgrace?

The fact that the King’s crown fell off as the arch was low, made

the king remark that it was a disgrace and that the arch was faulty

and defective.

b) Why would the chief of builders be hanged at the

gallows?

The chief of builders was to be hanged because he was responsible

for building the defective arch.

c) Who was hanged eventually and why?

Eventually it was the King who was hanged because the chief of

builders, the workmen, the mason, the architect, all started

blaming each other, which made the public restless. Therefore, the

King ordered the tallest man to be hanged in order to pacify the

restlessness amongst the public. He came out to be the tallest man

and he himself got hanged.


But in a quavering voice, he said

‘the culprit must be punished’

Truly the arch it was that banged

The crown off, and it must be hanged

a) Whose voice was quavering?

The voice of the old wise man, who was lame and blind, was

quavering when he spoke.

b) In this case, who was found to be the culprit and why?

The wise man blamed the arch to be the culprit because it had

knocked off the King’s crown and hence he suggested that it

should be hanged.

c) Why was the culprit spared and who was hanged?

The arch was spared because the councillor asked the king how

they could hang so shamefully, something that had touched his

head. Eventually the king was hanged because the public got

restless and wanted a decision.


In the city of which I sing

There was a just and placid king

The king proclaimed an arch should be

Constructed, that triumphantly

Would span the major thoroughfare

a) Name the poem and the poet.

The name of the poem is ‘The Tale of the Melon City’ and the poet

is Vikram Seth.

b) What kind of a king ruled over the state?

The king who ruled over the state was just and placid. He was fair

to all and was complacent and unassuming.

c) What was the aim behind getting an arch constructed?

What happened to it?

The aim of getting the arch built on the major thoroughfare was to

edify the spectators there, i.e. he wanted to benefit the onlookers

spiritually. As the king rode the arch, it hit his crown and his

crown fell.