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March 2, 2015



The amir in the market

Out of my head
So it was a lazy, pleasant afternoon in Saazishabad, the capital of Conspiristan. A cool, gentle breeze was blowing and there wasn’t much going on except for an occasional little mini-dharna here and an odd, piffling dhamaka there (nothing to worry about when compared to all that had happened just recently in the capital and the country).
The amir-ul-jaish wasn’t in the motherland being on one of his now-regular overseas trips so the amir-ul-momineen wasn’t expecting any mid-day phone calls of instruction (midnight calls could still happen, of course, but midnight was still many hours away) and he was feeling unusually peppy. Could this overabundance of pep have had something to do with the absence of the amir-ul-jaish? Who can say?
In any case, the commander of the faithful called in his personal trainer and put in a solid hour at the gym working up a terrific sweat from 10 sets of 10 reps each of thumb twiddling. But he still wasn’t satisfied. The meds hadn’t kicked in yet and he still had plenty of energy left. So he called in the faithful (his progeny, his siblings, his other relatives, his samdhis, his few trusted musheers) and asked them what he should do to kill the time before the next episode of Mera Sultan aired in the evening.
“You must do something for the people”, said one musheer. When the amir looked at him quizzically, the musheer quickly explained, “I meant you must be seen to be doing something. Whether you actually do anything, is something else entirely.” The amir nodded, a far-away look in his eye as if deep in thought. “Yes, I must do something,” he said and everybody in the room went “Wah, Wah!”
“I have an idea,” piped up the wazir-e-paani-o-bekasi. “We had promised the people that we would solve the electricity and power crisis within 90 days of being elected. I think I have found a way of doing just that, my amir. You only need to give your approval and the problem will

“How can we do that?” said the amir, intrigued.
“It’s a case of resource management,” said the wazir. “We conserve electricity in one place and provide it to all our industrialist friends in another.”
“Yes, yes”, said the amir, a bit exasperated. “Fine for you to say. But how exactly do we conserve this energy? It’s not that easy!”
“Yes, it is!” exclaimed the wazir. “We just switch the light off at the end of the tunnel!”
There was stunned silence in the room. Then everybody broke into applause at the brilliance of the notion. The amir-ul-momineen was smiling. “I like the plan. It’s genius,” he said. But then they noticed that the wazir-e-bhai-aala was shaking his head. “It’s also too risky. We’ve had enough of soft coups. We won’t be able to deal with the hard revolution that is likely to follow such a move. No, no. It’s just too risky.”
So the smiles turned upside down and everybody went back to stroking their chins. And then the wazir-e-samdhi spoke. “My amir, why don’t you do what Khalifa Haroon-ul-Rashid and Sultan Suleiman used to do? Go amongst the people in disguise, check the prices of foodstuff in the market, something like that. The people will love you after that. And we can then start calling you sultan-e-momineen.”
Once again the room resounded with the sound of loud clapping and cries of ‘Wah, wah!’ broke out. But this time it was the amir-ul-momineen who was shaking his head. “You fool! If I’m in disguise, how will the people know that it’s me? And then they’ll never accept me being called sultan-e-momineen,” he said. And then I’ll never get my Hurrem, he also thought.
“Wait”, said the wazir-e-bhai-aala. “It’s not completely a bad idea. Let’s go to market but just not in disguise.”
“Brilliant!” exclaimed one and all and clapped their hands. “I’ll alert the media,” said the wazir-e-ghalti-e-itilaat. “Every channel’s camera will be there.”
So, laughing and smiling, the amir and his faithful trotted off to market with dozens of cameramen following them. Special emissaries were sent on ahead with instructions for all the people in the market – the sellers as well as the buyers – that they must tell the amir when he asked them that the prices of fruits and vegetables had all come down substantially recently thanks to his instructions.
And so it was when the amir arrived in the market. The would-be sultan picked up an apple and asked its price. The fruit-seller said, “My amir, for you it is free.” The amir smiled, turned to the cameras, and said, “See how cheap the fruits have become.” A musheer quickly whispered in his ear and the amir said, “I am joking, of course. I know fruit is not free. Tell me, my good man. Is the fruit cheaper than it was a month ago?”
The fruit vendor nodded vociferously and an old woman, with craggy skin, gray hair, a toothless smile, thick spectacles and tears of gratitude in her eyes was brought in to hug the amir who stroked her head, called her ‘Amma’ and beamed at the cameras. Everybody burst into applause.
“What about the vegetable?” called out one journalist over the clapping.
“Oh, you can call him sultan-e-momineen from now on,” replied the wazir-e-ghalti-e-itilaat.
The writer is a freelance columnist.
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @KhusroMumtaz