The Tale of the Melon City – Vikram Seth

The Tale of the Melon City by Vikram Seth satirizes any government system that follows age-old traditions or being proud of beliefs and traditions too primitive. The Melon City represents any nation whose policies are based on superstitions, beliefs and age old convictions. The king is said to be a placid (peace loving) one but soon we realize how hollow/ironic that claim is. He wished to establish peace by eliminating anyone who committed a trifle of mistake. Looking at the way he is passing orders to execute innocent people, we can easily get this. Looking at the way how the convicts escape the law, too, we can see how how people benefited from the nation’s policies.

The order of orders

  • Chief of builders
  • Workmen
  • Mason
  • Architect
  • The king blamed for the amendments in the plan
  • The Arch
  • Any man who fits the height of the noose
  • The king was finally killed.

Stanza 1

In the city of which I sing
There was a just and placid King.
The King proclaimed an arch should be
Constructed, that triumphly
Would span the major thoroughfare
To edify spectators there.


  • Of which I sing – About which I am writing this poem
  • Just – Fair
  • Placid – Not easily disturbed; composed
  • Proclaimed – Announced
  • Arch – A curved, symmetrical structure above a tower or under a bridge, etc.
  • Triumphantly – Proudly
  • Span – Extend from side to side
  • Thoroughfare – The main road to the main entrance of the fort/palace
  • Edify – Instruct (The king used to instruct his people)
  • Spectators – Visitors; audience
  • The poet tells a very interesting story through this poem. The story is about a nation, its people and its peace-loving king. The king had the habit of edifying or meeting his subjects from the thoroughfare/entrance.
  • One day the king ordered his workforce to construct an arch over the thoroughfare. Good idea, it is very hot at times!

Questions & Answers

  1. How does the poet describe the king’s character?
    The poet describes the king’s character as one quite calm and composed. He ruled his people without any kind of unfair or unjust tactics. He wanted justice equally done to everyone including himself. Besides, like a good father to his sons, the king used to instruct his people.
  2. What for did the king proclaim the construction of an arch?
    The King proclaimed the construction of an arch that would proudly span the major thoroughfare from where the king used to instruct his people.

Next – Stanza 2

What do you think?

Interpreter of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri

5.8 Judiciary