Ghalib – 26: A Tale Told by an Idiot?

Last week’s selection is nicely followed up by the following couplet:

baaziichah-e atfaal hai dunyaa mire aage
hotaa hai shab-o-roz tamaashaa mire aage

the world is a game/plaything of children, before me
night and day, a spectacle occurs before me

From resignation (ho rahega kuchh nah kuchh ghabraayeN kyaa) to equanimity (hotaa hai shab-o-roz tamaashaa mire aage) seems quite appropriate. After all, how seriously can one (or ought one) to take what goes on in the world?

Take for example, the current events in Pakistan. Do they have any import? In its over 60 years of existence, how many leaders have come and gone whose names are virtually impossible to recall but who were so incredibly important in their own times?

How well Ghalib fuses into Shakespeare:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.
— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5)

And yet, while the fools strut and fret and blunder their ways to dusty death, full of sound and fury signifying nothing, they still inflict tremendous damage on the poor country whose stage they occupy and whose audience they insult with their antics.

And for that reason, much as one might want to withdraw and muse over the spectacle as a spectacle, one needs to engage to ensure that the degree of foolishness declines over time.

And this brings us to some points to ponder:

Why has the quality of leadership declined so steeply in Pakistan?

Has there been a similar decline in the quality of leadership in other countries in South Asia? If yes, what are the systemic forces leading to this deterioration? If no, what explains the variations in the different countries?

Are there any reasons to expect the quality of leadership to improve over time?

See Mehr-e-Niimroz for a literary interpretation of this week’s couplet which is linked to our post on the Long March at the suggestion of Amit Basole.

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2 Responses to “Ghalib – 26: A Tale Told by an Idiot?”

  1. Malik Rashid Says:

    Intellectual integrity is made to conform to objective reality in politics. Jinnah, a secular individual turned out to be the leader of Muslims. Indra Gandhi, the product of Indian democracy imposed emergency. This is one innate mechanism of politics. Capitalism and corporate lobbying induces another factor that could potentially make a factotum into a world leader. Gandhi did attain a status in political history but did not make it to the position of head of state.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Malik Rashid: There are two distinct phenomena at issue. First, the one you refer to: How do intellectual principles adjust to political realities? We have addressed some aspects of this in an earlier post: Jinnah, Nehru and the Ironies of History.

      The second phenomenon is the one discussed in the post on Ghalib on which you have commented. This pertains to the quality of leadership and the question asked was why it has declined so steeply in Pakistan and how this decline compares to other countries in South Asia. We don’t have a good understanding of this phenomenon and need to pursue it further.

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