Tughlaq: Play Scene 13 - Summary & Analysis

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      The scene is that of another part of the palace in which Muhammad and Barani are seen engaged in a conversation. Barani requests Muhammad to permit him to go to Baran, his home town, to attend his mother’s funeral. The cause of her death is still unknown. When Muhammad asks him if he will return after the funeral, however, Barani is not certain.

      Meanwhile, a soldier informs them that Aazam, the friend of His Holiness Griyas-ud-din Abbasid is murdered and his body has been found lying at the mouth of the secret tunnel. Furthermore, two horsemen were seen flying away with a big bundle, but they could not be recognized. This news shocks Barani, but the shrewd Muhammad could see everything. He sends for Aziz. He understands, Aziz is masquerading as a saint and at once expresses wonder (almost to himself) “Don’t you think it’s ironic that a man who has just come from Arabia should prefer the bloody streets to the palace?” When Barani fails to understand what actually is happening Muhammad asks him to wait till the Holy man comes in and then he will show him the ‘farce’ about Him (expose him how a dhobi was masquerading as a saint with ridiculous boldness). Thus Barani, the historian, will come to know how history is made. When Barani discourages him for “public prayer” to be initiated by the holy Khalif at the time of mourning Muhammad simply contradicts and asserts:

No, no, no! This is the first public prayer in my kingdom after a silence of five years! We are praying because a holy man like Ghiyas-ud-din Abbasid has come to our land and blessed us! Oh Barani, Nazib should have been here now. He would have loved this farce.

      The act of prayer to be revived by the so-called, saint will be another ‘farce’, perhaps Muhammad means it, besides the farcical role of Aziz.

      Aziz now enters the stage disguised as the Holy man, Ghiyas-ud-din Abbasid. Muhammad, at first pretends to pay him due honor by bowing to him along with Barani. Then he regrets for not having given him personal attention. Then he breaks the tragic news of Aazam Jahan’s murder. When Aziz starts crying and sheding crocodile tears Muhammad stops him and asks him sternly. “Who are you?” Aziz is frightened and before he utters anything, Muhammad questions him in strong words:

Who are you? How long did you hope to go on fooling us with your masquerade?

      Aziz took no time to understand the whole situation that Muhammad is wise enough to have known everything about his ‘game’. He has no option except to reveal his real identiy and confess the roles he has been playing since the beginning, “a dhobi masquerading as a saint”. This is the conclusion drawn by Muhammad Tughlaq.

      Aziz also admits that he killed Ghiyas-ud-din and deceived Muhammad and his subjects, but he is confident he won’t be punished though he never underestimated. His Majesty’s power of imagination. With his power of eloquence and witty replies he very boldly displays his strength of conviction and his loyalty to the Sultan and ultimately wins his sympathy. At times, Barani expresses his opinion and requests Muhammad that this treacherous fellow should be given severest punishment and Muhammad himself threatened him several times, but this ‘dhobi’ always creates win-win situation for himself by his emphatic words that impressed Muhammad to make him realize that ultimately he has found a match in him. He reminds Muhammad of his policies and orders and proves that he has been his “true disciple” in following his instructions with great loyalty. He praises Muhammad’s effort to explain his “ideas and acts to the people”, but he regrets how few have understood them. Only he, in fact, understood them. It makes little difference that he is a ‘dhobi’ and Ghiyas-ud-din a descendant of the khalif and he reminds Muhammad of his greatness: “Your Majesty has never associated greatness with pedigree.” Moreover, when it comes to washing away filth no saint is a match for a ‘dhobi’.

      Aziz is wise enough to remind Muhammad of his noble and secular policy that got support, strength and popularity when a court case was decided in favor of a brahmin Vishnu Prasad.

.....When your Majesty came to the throne and declared the brotherhood of all religions. Does the Sultan remember the Brahmin who brought a case against him and won? I was that Brahmin.

      Aziz puts forward many other examples to prove his worth, ability and loyalty to Muhammad. The Sultan within is amused and asks him only for his punishment. To this Aziz replies, “Make me an officer of your state,” “I beg your majesty to give me a chance to show my loyalty. I am ready to die for my Sultan.” The reply was an amusing one that wins Muhammad who stands amazed and impressed as well.

      Muhammad gives him a letter to Khusrau Malik appointing Aziz as an officer in his army and asks Aziz to return to Arabia after Aazam Jahan’s funeral, and disappear on the way, only then he shall go to Deccan to meet Malik.

      When Barani fails to understand the working of Muhammad he raises question “But why? why?’’ Muhammad’s simple yet meaningful answer is, “All your life you wait for someone who understands you”. Muhammad’s wait is over; he has met Aziz who alone understands him. Muhammad’s realization that all his hopes and aspirations to create a new history ended in smoke forces him to undo what he has done i.e., to go back to Delhi now: “Back to Delhi, Barani, I have to get back to Delhi with my people.”

      Barani, however, is not convinced with Muhammad’s logic. In the following conversation both discuss justice and consider many things, but Muhammad’s conclusion is that he has been chasing such words for five years in vain perhaps, they are without any substance or meaning. This is because of Muhammad’s disillusionment in life that everything seems to have lost its meaning for him. He is aware that his isolation will be complete the moment Barani leaves his company. Still he tries to console himself and brushes aside the idea of being alone and seeks redemption in the company of God who will share his madness, as he supposes:

But I am not alone. I have a companion to share my madness now-the Omnipotent God!

      Extremely exhausted and drowsy Muhammad permits Barani to go, but asks him to pray for them before the goes. He has in mind, possibly, that many things are wrought by prayer. The great and all-powerful Mohammad realizes his littleness, insignificance and powerlessness before that all mighty Omnipotent God. Only He is supreme.

      Muhammad is seen alone on the stage, fast asleep. His head has fallen forward on his chest in sound sleep. A servant brings a shawl which he carefully wraps round the Sultan. Muezzin’s call is heard and the prayer starts off stage. When it ends, Muhammad Tughlaq suddenly opens his eyes, but looks confounded and scared, unable to comprehend anything.

Critical Analysis

      This concluding scene is quite significant as it completes the isolation of Muhammad Tughlaq on the stage when his third confidant, Barani also leaves him on the pretext of attending his mother’s funeral. Muhammad is aware of his loneliness and yet like a tragic hero he maintains his dignity in showing courage to face existential situation. He boldly asserts his existence when he says, he is not alone and God will share his madness.

      What an irony! There was a time when his utopian plans invited criticism from all quarters that he was a mad fellow. Now his own doings, his frustration and failures in translating his dreams into reality have maddened him.

      The scene highlights the tragic irony in the life of Muhammad, who expresses his strong desire that God should share his madness and for that he must pray. This perhaps is the last lesson that he has learned when he stands isolated in the world, and also asks Barani to pray:

Go, Barani. But before you go-Pray for us.

      He is quite aware of his guilt, wrong-doings, his use of prayers for murdering his father and brother as people say, and also the prayer time that saved him from the attack of the Muslim chieftains along with Sheikh Shams-ud-din who conspired to murder Tughlaq. Prayer is used as a symbol to make Muhammad understand himself. What U. R. Anantha Murty says in his Introduction to the play is pertinent - “That prayer, which is most dear to Tughlaq, is vitiated by him as well as his enemies, is symbolic of the fact that his life is corrupted at its very source”. That is why, though Muhammad aspires for divine grace in the end through prayer, ironically enough, he falls asleep when Muezzin’s call to prayer is heard. It was only when the Muezzing’s call fades away “Muhammad suddenly opens his eyes,” but “looks around dazed and frightened.”

      At the level of existential reality Tughlaq emerges as a tragic hero who realizes the futility of his irrational, irreligious, and fanatic moves and also of his utopian plans, yet he hopes to redeem his evil-doings through prayer and God’s benevolence. This scene throws light on Muhammad’s complex nature: “Tughlaq is what he is in spite of his self-knowledge and an intense desire for divine grace ’’(Murthy).

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