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Crummy kings

Best Friend called to say that my comment about his kingly walk worried him. “I am dude, I don’t measure my steps, I stride,” he whined, writes Upala Sen.

india Updated: Feb 16, 2008 22:45 IST
Upala Sen

HAVE YOU ever noticed how comic-book kings walk? Hands behind back, body bent sliiightly forward, matching steps to some inaudible band… Ever since Best Friend took up this very, er, hefty assignment I noticed him 'gait change'. He has started doing the walk.

Looking back I realise that out of the hundreds of stories I have gorged on during the entire course of my childhood, the king made the least impression of all. In the Princess And The Pea he was just someone’s father, in Snow White And Seven Dwarfs he was again a father and a very spineless one at that, and in the Emperor’s New Clothes he was, well, a complete joker. Even in the Bengali counterparts to these he was at best the man with many wives (one was either a witch or a sorceress), several wicked sons, one good one and a satisfactory one to spare.

Not that there is any harm being king and father. Much later when I read Lear (I also re-read it on etext.library.adelaide.edu.au) I realised better that sometimes the father gets the better of a king. But that was later.

In my school years the only king I got around to liking was Makepeaces’s Canute. I am referring to the poem by William Makepeace Thackeray. If you like you can read it on fullbooks.com. I love the bit where the king is grumpy and the Keeper of the Seal asks him if his discomfort has got anything to do with the lampreys or the veal he has just had for dinner. And the irritated king replies, ““Psha!’ Tis the HEART, and not the dinner, fool…”

On authorama.com I came across this story of two kings. The story goes that two kings get into an introspective mood. Each wants an honest feedback about his own shortcomings but cannot get anything close to it because, well, they are kings in their kingdom. So they decide to go out on a long drive, individually. And that is when the two chariots happen to cross each other.

The two charioteers get embroiled in a hot debate as to which vehicle should pass first. They try to weigh one king’s age, power, position against the other’s. And when everything proves ‘same-to-same’ they get down to comparing virtues. Charioteer 1 says of his master, “The strong he overthrows by strength,/The mild by mildness/The good he conquers by goodness/And the wicked by wickedness too.

Charioteer 2 replies, “Anger he conquers by calmness,/ And by goodness the wicked/ The stingy he conquers by gifts/And by truth the speaker of lies.” Your guess who wins.

Best Friend called to say that my comment about his kingly walk worried him. “I am dude, I don’t measure my steps, I stride,” he whined.

That night I mailed him, ‘Bent because you have many responsibilities. The measured gait stems from innnate discipline. And hands behind back because there is a need to harness all that power. Every dude swaggers, but how many dudes are kings naturally. Listen to the attached file.”

The attached file was a lyric from Lion King. You can listen to the whole thing on metrolyrics.com. Nala says of Simba, Why won't he be the king I know he is?/The king I see inside?