Tughlaq: Play Scene 8 - Summary & Analysis

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      A.D. 1332. Five years later. The scene is that of Daultabad fort. Two watchmen-one young and the other past his middle-age appear at past midnight. A conversation follows.

      The young man points to the road from Daultabad to Delhi that looked like a thin snake from the height of the fort. The old man who has lost his entire family on way to Daultabad feels deeply aggrieved and so he describes how that snake “bit the whole city to death” four years ago. The young man who has come recently from army is very much impressed to see the fort and calls it “magnificent” and ‘strong’. “No army could take this.”

      The old man is so much disappointed that he exposes metaphorically of course, the hollowness of the fort and comments “...if this fort ever falls, it will crumble from the inside”. He further uses the snake imagery and applies to the long passage, a big one, “coiled like an enormous hollow python inside the belly of the fort. And we shall be far far happier when that python breaks out and swallows everything in sight-every man, woman, child, and beast.”

      Meanwhile, enters Muhammad Tughlaq who commends young man’s dutifulness to do something extraordinary in life as he is a young man of nineteen. This is the age when he “can clasp the whole world in your (his) palms like a rare diamond.” He inspires him again to give his own example that he was only twenty-one when he, “came to Daultablad first, and built this fort. He tells him about his zeal, his vision, his romanticism: “I supervised the placing of every brick in it and I said to myself, one day I shall build my own history like this, brick by brick.” -

      Furthermore, Muhammad becomes poetic suddenly in describing how his vision, one night crumbled, his idealism shattered into pieces and he found himself on the earth completely disillusioned at the level of existential reality when everything “the torch, the gate, the fort and the sky-all melted and merged.” He feels miserable as nobody supported him to realize his dreams. He becomes conscious of his human frailties, his sinful activities and his limitations as a human being. He tells the young watchman on duty how he has been struggling all these years to find that glorious moment of great achievements, name and fame, but all in vain. He even wonders if the young man will ever remember him after twenty years, after his death, “lying under those woods.”

      The young man fails to get him, rather he is puzzled. Muhammad, on the other hand, suffers terribly from isolation and sleeplessness. In order to feel less lonely he has sent for Barani.

      What a change in Muhammad! He admits before Barani that there was a time when he used to be transported into a romantic world of beauty and idealism after reading Rumi, but now Rumi has become simply “a web of words,” meaningless, charmless, frustrating. He has also received messages of uprisnigs. Fakr-ud-din has risen against him in Bengal, uprising in Deccan, Ehsanshah has declared himself independent in Malabar and Bahal-ud-din Gashtasp is collecting army to revolt against him. Besides, natural calamity of drought in Doab is spreading far and wide and above all the minting of counterfeit copper coins has upset the kingdom’s economy. All these factors and many more have tortured his mind, shattered his dreams and demolished his edifice of idealism so much that he resembles a disillusioned romantic, what John colvin calls an existentialist who desires to confess his “self-pity” to Barani.

      He seems to be a victim of what Arnold calls “sick, hurry and divided aims of life”, of his own ‘ego’, his self-styled administration that has made his kingdom “honeycomb of diseases.” What could be the cure? It seems incurable now. When Barani reminds him of his learning, his reputation as a scholar all the world over, his knowledge of philosophy and poetry and denounces his act of killing people for nothing, only for satisfaction of his ego Muhammad is made to realize his departure from virtue to vice, good to bad and bad to worse. He is between the devil and the deep sea - he often thought of himself to give up this futile struggle and go to Mecca for peace, which Daultabad had not given him, but how he could leave his sick kingdom in wilderness to suffer all the more. He can’t separate himself from his sick kingdom as so many vultures (the rebels) are ready to devour.

      This sense of responsibility is very tormenting. He finds himself in a state of impasse (no exit) that is similar to the moral dilemma of an existentialist. The only way out seems to be self-pity, self-torture or even suicide and yet it is not possible. This is clear when he talks to Barani: “Don’t you see that the only way I can abdicate is by killing myself? I could have done something if the vultures weren’t so close.” He is fully aware that his subjects call him “Mad Muhammad:” The poor fellow asks Barani, “How can I become wise again Barani?” What a pity! What pleading tone! The only answer Barani gives is to stop bloodshed, stop torturing his subjects for small offence and hanging them on suspicion and turn back once again to his noble ideals, his belief in love, peace and god if he wants something better should emerge out of it. But Muhammad’s ego comes in his way. If he follows his advice it will be open admission of his guilt that he has been wrong all these years, and he asserts, “And I know I haven’t. I have something to give, something to teach, which may open the eyes of history, but have to do it within this life. I’ve got to make them listen to me before I lose even that!”

      The old watchman rushes in to break the tragic news of the suspected murder of Vizier Muhammad Najib.

Critical Analysis

      The scene reflects the horrible condition prevailing at Daultabad-the inevitable results of bloodshed, torture and hanging of the subjects on suspicion during Muhammad Tughlaq’s misrule. This scene also tells us that now Muhammad, the idealist has suffered disillusionment. He has utterly failed to bring his vision into reality for want of support of his subjects. Though his dreams were fantastic and ideas revolutionary; Yet far from being practical and reasonable. He is now a frustrated idealist who can be called a disillusioned romantic, or an existentialist.

      Time is standstill in Daultabad and this is the time of ‘night’, of darkness, of sufferings and disappointments, of human torture and misery, death, disease and hopelessness. “Now the night scarcely moves,” says the young man on duty at the fort. It is symbolic of the intensity of the darkness prevailing there, the prolonged period of human sufferings from which there seems no escape.

      The old Man’s deep anguish and mental, agony can be seen when he passes a sarcastic remark that he was the most unfortunate fellow to have survived, but “my family was more fortunate. They all died on the way.”

      The shifting of the capital from Delhi to Daultabad has given rise to horrible consequences. Muhammad took a bold step in spite of opposition and protests as he wanted to create history, but now, ironically enough, he knows fully well that he has earned the reputation of “Mad Muhammed.” As a result, he is at a loss to understand what he has done and what actually his people wanted him to do. He wanted to be an immortal, historical figure but now he suspects if he will be remembered at all after his death. He stands completely demoralized.

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