Rebuilding India

 Mughal-e-Azam was released in the ’60 and children accompanied their parents to watch the extravaganza. Its songs were a hit and boys took a particular fancy to singing “Pyar kiya to darna kya” to impress the girls in school.

Our Hindi teacher, Mr. Phillips, an Anglo-Indian with an excellent command of the language and a razor sharp mind posed a question to the class. What qualities made Akbar the most popular of the mughals?

Having listened patiently to the answers he set out to narrate a story thus.

“Tales of Birbal and Akbar are legend and I am sure you children must have heard many of them. Akbar was a Muslim while Birbal, his Prime Minister was a Hindu.

One day a delegation of maulvis arrived at Akbar’s court wanting to know why His Majesty had appointed a Hindu as Prime minister. Was there not even one learned man amongst Muslims that could occupy that post?

Akbar assured them, that should they suggest a learned Muslim, of a caliber to fit the post of the Prime Minister, he would certainly consider their suggestion.

A couple of weeks later the delegation returned. Amongst them was a maulvi, who was not only a learned man, but was well travelled and was widely respected amongst the Muslim community. While this learned man was being introduced, the emperor spotted a caravan in the distance.

He turned to the learned man and asked him to find out where the caravan was coming from. The man enthusiastically mounted his steed and rode off to find out what the emperor desired.

“Halt, in the name of the emperor. His exalted highness desires to know where this caravan is coming from.”

The leader of the caravan relied that they were coming from Calcutta.

Riding back, he reported to the emperor.

“And where are they going? “ asked the emperor.

The man mounted his steed again and returned a while later with the answer.
“Your Highness, they are going to Kabul”

“And why are they going to Kabul?” asked the emperor

As the maulvi turned to ride off again, Akbar asked him to stay.

Birbal had arrived. The emperor asked “Birbal, I spot a caravan in the distance. Find out where they are going?”

Birbal rode off and when he returned he presented his report.

“Your Highness. The caravan is coming from Calcutta and going to Kabul. They are Pathan traders that come down from Kabul during winters, when it snows there and return during summer; and he continued to provide information about what items they bring to India and what they carry to Kabul; how many days it takes them either way; and a host of information that the emperor demanded”

Having ended the story, Mr. Phillips continued.

“The story conveys five things;

  1.  Akbar valued talent

  2. Akbar valued an inquisitive mind

  3.  Akbar valued anticipation / vision

  4.  Akbar did not discriminate on the basis of religion. The best brains had to be with him to assist him to rule his empire.

  5.  And lastly by adopting such policies he sent out a very positive message to his subjects.

    (a) The emperor was approachable.
    (b) The emperor was willing to lend a patient ear to opinions and suggestions
    (c) Religion or caste was a personal matter that would not cloud
         an emperor’s judgment in matters of state.
    (d) The emperor stood for impartiality and justice
    (e) Decisions in matters of state were dispensed fast”

The popularity of Pandit Nehru and his government too rested on the perception of the population that they were approachable. Insharp contrast the population feels alienated today.

The bureaucrat is not approachable and is unaccountable. The political representative is by and large of questionable reputation if not criminalized

Let the government take a very small step in this direction.Introduce accountability.


More by :  Ravinder Malhotra

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