Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Bob’s Banter


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By Robert Clements

The Emperor’s New Clothes..!
For the last few months I’ve been curious about the many inaugurations by the Prime Minister of the Vande Bharat trains, and so I decided yesterday I’d travel in one of them from Goa to Mumbai.
The train came in late from Mumbai, and so the cleaners made us wait on the platform. Two of them cleaned the dusty windows outside, but only the window glasses of the Executive Class. When I finally sat on my seat, I found that the food tray was permanently on my lap. I told the TC that I would be happy if it could go back to it’s place and he agreed and told me the maintenance people would fix it in a few minutes. Well, in the eight hours I sat in the train, the food tray seemed quite comfortable on my lap.
The train swayed and shuddered from side to side, and I’m sure at the end of the journey many shippies from Goa going to join their ships in Mumbai, must have thanked their stars for the intense practice sessions they received even before they went out to sea. And as I tried to doze off with a tray that loved the comfort of my legs and a seat that refused to go back, storyteller that I am, I thought of an emperor of long ago, who loved new clothes and decided to stitch himself another set of new ones.
It was said, he spent most of his kingdom’s money on clothes. One day, he decided to stitch clothes that had never been stitched before and employed two weavers who said they could produce cloth from a formula they had read in ancient books. The clothes made from this wonderful cloth he was told would be invisible to everyone who was unfit for the job he held, or who did not believe in the beliefs of the emperor.
“They think like me,” chuckled the emperor, and he gave large sums of money to both the weavers in order that they might begin their work at once. So, the two pretend weavers set up two looms. They worked very busily, though in reality they did nothing at all. They asked for the finest silk and the purest gold thread. They put both into their own knapsacks, then they pretended to work at the empty looms until late at night. Finally, the Emperor himself wished to see the costly material while it was still in the loom. He took many officers of the court. As soon as the weavers saw the Emperor approach, they went on working faster than ever although they still did not pass even one thread through the looms.“Is not the work absolutely magnificent?” said the two weavers. “If your Majesty will only be pleased to look at it! What a splendid design! What glorious colours!” and pointed to the empty frames.
“Oh! The cloth is charming,” the emperor said aloud wondering inside why he couldn’t see anything. “I approve of it completely.” He smiled most graciously and looked closely at the empty looms. No way would he say that he could not see anything because then the world would think that he was unfit for his job.
He presented the weavers with the emblem of an order of knighthood.
On the day of the procession, when the emperor would walk in a parade in his new clothes, the emperor was undressed for a fitting, and the thieves pretended to array him in his new suit. The Emperor turned round and from side to side before the looking glass.
“How splendid his Majesty looks in his new clothes, and how well they fit!” everyone cried out, afraid to tell him the truth, that he was near unclothed “What a design! What colours! These are indeed royal robes!”
“I am quite ready,” said the Emperor finally. He appeared to be examining his handsome suit.
The lords of the bedchamber, who were to carry his Majesty’s train, felt about on the ground as if they were lifting up the ends of the mantle. Then they pretended to be carrying something for they would by no means want to appear foolish or not fit for their jobs.
The Emperor walked under his high canopy in the midst of the procession, through the streets of his capital. All the people standing by, and those at the windows, cried out, “Oh! How beautiful are our Emperor’s new clothes! What a magnificent train there is to the mantle; and how gracefully the scarf hangs!” No one would admit these much-admired clothes could not be seen because, in doing so, he would have been saying he was either a simpleton or unfit for his job.
Suddenly a little boy cried out, “But the Emperor has nothing at all on!” What the child had said was whispered from one to another. “But he has nothing at all on!” cried out all the people at last. The Emperor was upset, for he knew that the people were right. However, he thought the procession must go on now! “I will behead anyone who says I have no clothes on!” he shouted and continued walking on and on and on, and the people were too afraid to tell him that he had nothing on.
I sat in the Vande Bharat train with the tray on my lap, some dhal which the food man had spilled on me when the train had lurched, and with a seat unable to go back. The dusty windows didn’t allow me to see where I had reached.
The TC smiled at me, “It’s an excellent train, what progress we have made!”
“I smiled and said fearfully and dutifully, “What beautiful clothes the emperor is wearing..!”
The Author conducts an Online Writers and Speakers Course. For more details send a thumbs-up to him on WhatsApp 9892572883.


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