Tughlaq: Play Scene 2 - Summary & Analysis

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      As the curtain rises Muhammad Tughlaq is seen seated in a room in the palace and bent over a chess-board. He is also seen smiling due to excitement as if he had found solution to some difficult move. Just then enters his stepmother whom he tells about his success in solving such a difficult problem that even adil and al-suraki, the famous chess players had failed to solve. As she is indifferent to chess she asks him to communicate his feeling to his dear friend and fellow champion in chess, Ain-ul-Mulk. To her surprise Muhammad informs her that Ain-ul-Mulk has turned hostile and at present in a mood of rebellion, he is ‘marching on Delhi’.

      Being questioned by Muhammad why she had come at that point of time she shows her deep concern for his life of anxiety and sleepless nights. To this he replies that he is mainly worried about the welfare of his subjects. He wants to create history by doing something extraordinary and unique, something which even past rulers had not been able to do. So he has to work day and night and he can’t afford to sleep in the night.

      The step-mother is, however, not impressed with his lyrical outburst and airy flights based on his attitude of self-importance and calls him a “pompous ass” and adds that he is not the only one, other kings too had done the same. ‘No’ says he and while contradicting her statement he says that other kings could not bear the weight of their crown; they found it too heavy and big for them - they failed to do justice. As a result either, “they died senile in youth or were murdered.”

      The word ‘murder’ strikes her like a bell and she can’t help sharply reacting to it and asks Muhammed not to joke about murder. Muhammad suspects naturally, that his step-mother too believes in the rumor as others do include her own mother that he is responsible for the murder of his father and brother. Meanwhile, politician vizier Muhammad Najib and historian Zia-ud-din Barani enter the stage.

      Najib breaks the news. In order to fight against Ain-ul-Mulk they won’t get more than six thousand soldiers. Another problem. Sheikh Imam-ud-din has arrived in Delhi from Kanpur after having become “a backbone of the rebels.” He also criticizes the Sultan publicly and holds the view that Tughlaq is incompetent. When Muhammad desires to take the blessings of the Sheikh who is considered a renowned saint, Najib ironically suggests that they should get rid of him. Barani, however, doesn’t like this idea about “a holy man.”

      On being asked about the Sheikh by Muhammad, “What’s he like? Is it true he looks like me?” Barani, replies “A little your Majesty.” And what does he say? asks Muhammad. Barani adds, “the Sultan is a disgrace to Islam”. Najib voices the opinion of Imam-ud-din that Muhammad has forfeited the right to rule, by murdering his father and brother, and that too, at prayer time. This adds fuel to the fire. Muhammad is incensed. Barani tries to pacify him and says he must have said these little things in anger but Muhammad takes it seriously and tells Barani that, the charges are serious, ‘parricide’, ‘fratricide’, ‘pollution of prayer’ can’t be little things. Even his own mother and step-mother think he is a murderer. It is not what people say about him but “their crooked minds that horrify” him.

      A long discussion follows as to why a good man and childhood companion of Muhammad Ain-ul-Mulk revolted against the Sultan. Only Najib, the politician knows the answer. He explains. When Muhammad Tughlaq came to the throne Ain-ul-Mulk was made the Governor of Avadh who “crushed the rebels, restored law and order” and the people think him a god almost. But suddenly he got letter of the Sultan making him the governor of the Deccan he felt annoyed and suspected, “a knife in his back”. Muhammad too realizes this fact now and asks Najib what to do next. Najib again gives him a secret suggestion by reminding him that “the Skeikh has a striking resemblance to you”. Muhammad, simply stares at Najib and calls him a ‘devil.’

      Muhammad Tughlaq reacts briskly. “Good, we’ll think about that,” and asks Najib to get the army ready to march to kanauj the day after tomorrow. He deputes Najib to look after the local administration. Besides he has invited Shihab-ud-din, the Prince of Sam panshahr to be in Delhi during his absence. Though Barani doesn’t like the idea, the Sultan very politely tries to convince him that he is going to play this game in his own way. He takes Najib with him and moves ahead to see the commander-in-chief.

      On the stage now only Barani and the step-mother are left. A brief conversation follows in which the step-mother praises Muhammad for his intelligence, hard work and sincere concern for the welfare of his subjects, though impulsive. She tells Barani not to leave Muhammad as he needs the support of a ‘sober’ man like him, who is also honest and ‘level-headed.’ She, somehow is worried about Najib’s influence on Muhammad though she admires his integrity.

Critical Analysis

      Chess-board symbolism is remarkable in this scene through which Kamad suggests that Muhammad Tughlaq is an expert chess player, on the chessboard of political diplomacy. The Sultan finds himself in great trouble caused by the revolt of his close friend Ain-ul-Mulk and the great saint Sheikh Imam-ud-din. He treats pieces, on the chess-board as his political rivals and tries to find out political solutions after taking well-calculated moves.

      The audience is introduced to several new characters. Najib and Barani appear on the stage, but the rebellious Ain-ul-Mulk and Sheikh Imam-ud-din are indirectly mentioned and described. Muhammad’s step-mother is also on the stage showing her great concern for Sultan’s sleepless nights and the difficult situations he is passing through. Another cause of her concern is the reputation of Muhammad as a murderer of his father and brother. This again is going to play dramatic role in creating hostile situations for the Sultan in later part of the drama.

      Another significant aspect of the scene is that a secret suggestion given by mentioning striking resemblance between Tughlaq and the Sheikh is likely to be used for dramatic purposes in the of the play. It is not a mere coincidence, it is meaningfully introduced.

      Muhammad’s character is also revealed in his long and yet theatrical speech. He tries to establish his image as a great benefactor of his subjects - both Hindus and Muslims. He displays his extraordinary courage, honesty and will to work day and night for the welfare of his people, to do something outstanding which was never done by any of his past rulers. He is a crafty fellow. His longing ‘to believe like the Hindu’ is just a theatrical utterance to win a large Hindu population.

      This public announcement is a part of Tughlaq’s liberal policy. It displays his faith in democratic values. He is open to criticism. The Sheikh will be at his liberty to point out publicly the “wrong measures,” if any, taken by the Sultan’s administration.

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