I, Muhammad bin Tughlaq, understand demonetisation
By Sanjay Kumar
I am Muhammad bin Tughlaq and, for reasons unfathomable, I could never leave the alleys and byways of Tughlaqabad. Chastised and chastened by circumstances and felled by flawed fate, I have taken it upon myself to warn and forewarn my legion successors against adventures which invariably degenerate into misadventures. I warned Aurangzeb. Warned Indira, too. But Delhi is a strange place. Nobody listens – such arrogance of ignorance.
Delhi is a strange place because no one learns anything from anyone. This is partly because power and learning do not go together. It is also because Delhi has always been mainly about hindsight and seldom, if ever, about foresight. The wisdom of hindsight in the aftermath of my transcendental reforms which, people say, went atrociously amiss and hastened the decline of the Sultanate should have served as foresight for the succeeding rulers. But no….the very fact that they ruled and rule from Delhi make them impervious to the wisdom of memories. This disconnect between hindsight and foresight would always characterise Delhi because Delhi is such a heady and such an unreal place.
I should know after having ruled Delhi for a quarter of a century. One is almost tempted to feel that he could change the course of a ceaseless civilisation in fundamental ways. The feeling that he is uniquely positioned and providentially sent to change the way things have always existed is too powerful. The clique of hangers-on keeps urging you to undertake something impossible, something out of this world. And slowly and steadily, you start believing in the power of your caprices and fancies. One day you find yourself perched on a high pedestal of infallibility from where everyone and everything looks small, sad, surly, sinister, and needing redemption. They lack excitement in life.
This was at the core of my experiments. That is because small people clinging to small ventures and running each other down needed excitement in life. And what could be more exciting than asking them to move from Delhi to Daultabad. People clad in new dresses, imbued with a sense of mission, agog with new possibilities, sharing vision and dreams of my self-righteousness – it was so brilliantly conceived. And excitement once begun must run its full course, lest the image of the Sultan get tarnished. What if some people perished! They would have perished anyway. After all, life and death are beyond us.
I wished to inject the same level of excitement with the introduction of symbolic currency. And I am sure the reigning Sultan of Hindustan wished to use demonetisation as a means for hallowed goals. The power of something new, unexpected, and secret, when they are unleashed upon the people, is a great spectacle to watch. It could be possible that the ruler of this nation wanted to know how people run helter-skelter after a surgical strike. As he was not part of the para-commandos, who undertook the surgical strike across the border, he wanted to feel its excitement first hand.
So when tired men and retired pensioners, cynical mothers-in-law and penny-pinching fathers-in-law, factotums and idiots, urchins and boxwallahs, everyone rushed to the nearest ATMs, the Sultan must have felt himself vindicated.
Demonetisation could also be a way to test the power of mobilisation of people. What you people call democracy is not much different from autocracy. And just as mobilisation was central to my experiments, this also emanates from the need to mobilise people for protecting cows and building a muscular, monolithic, and majoritarian Hindustan.
When I introduced new coins, “Every house of Hindus”, as Barani says, “turned into a mint.” I believe Hindus, apart from Moslems and others including Jains, have not changed much. They would take recourse to every imaginable stratagem to launder everything from black to white.
Sultans generally hate Baniyas and bankers. They feel that they are underworked but overpaid and that they deserve some sort of poetic justice…so why not introduce new schemes through banks that would turn them underpaid and overworked?
How should I end it? Possibly with the words that politics and adventurism should be kept as apart as possible. When the two come together, they set off a chain reaction unleashing impossible monsters. I came to realise this in hindsight. Everyone should know this, especially those with totalitarian temptations and bereft of self-deprecatory sense of humour.
Sanjay Kumar attended Delhi University to pursue graduation and post-graduation. He is heavily invested in movies, history, literature, and popular culture. He is based in Patna, Bihar, India.
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One Response to “I, Muhammad bin Tughlaq, understand demonetisation”
What a brilliant article, Sultans generally hate Baniyas and bankers. They feel that they are underworked but overpaid and that they deserve some sort of poetic justice…so why not introduce new schemes through banks that would turn them underpaid and overworked?. Loved the comparison. Masterstroke