Moving from town to town and kingdom to kingdom, the travelling historian reached the great Ottoman kingdom of Mercusary.
The kingdom was dubbed as invincible by other historians and the people of Eurasia. The astonishing factor was that the kingdom had the military, sports and business teams consisting only of youngsters from the age group of 18 to 24. Decades ago, a fellow historian had urged him to visit Mercusary to record and witness a dying nation. However today he was visiting the same nation that people thought of as invincible. He was keen to know and record the reasons behind this turnaround. Whilst sitting in the streets of the kingdom, he was hoping to meet an elderly man who can narrate to him the true story of this kingdom. He did come across many elderly men that were interested in telling him stories in return for money if he had any; however it was against his profession’s ethics to record anything that was bought because it might probably be just fiction.
Hoping for weeks, one day he found a very old man who was riding a black horse of a very superior breed and was roaming in the market with a sense of pride. When the old man’s horse came by, he called him to ask if he had something to tell this darvish who was making him so proud. The old man got off his horse and approached the historian. Many young men were quick to help him get off the horse and they obediently tied his horse to a nearby tree. The old man came and sat beside him. He smelled of fresh jasmine. His robe was of pure white silk. “Who are you? You are probably a stranger in this land, otherwise you would have stood up to greet me,” the old man asked the historian. The historian introduced himself as a darvish and told him that he roams the God’s land to discover Him.
The old man asked him if he was aware of the history of that invincible kingdom, to which the historian requested him to narrate how they had become one. The old man said that only a decade and a half ago, they were a dying nation. He informed he was a retired wazir of the king and was his close confidante even now. Some 15 years ago, it was nothing but a small kingdom. Its military was not as confident to win each war as it was today and its merchandise was hardly ever preferred. Its sports team too was unimpressive. Its engineers lacked the right skills to make inhabitable buildings and to pave the mountains for logistics.
After losing almost every battle that they ever fought in pursuit to expand borders, the king was very much upset and frustrated. He was spending much of his taxes for raising the best military, sports teams, engineers and businesses however so far it was not yielding any results. One day, the king asked the old man if he had a clue about why they were losing on all fronts. The old man guessed that it had something to do with a lack of true unity in the people of the kingdom. But he wasn’t so sure. That night, the king took him and some of his other trustworthy people and went out in the town. They visited as strangers the houses of several people living in the kingdom and asked for tea or some food and shelter.
Many people helped them however many others refused to give them food or shelter. Such people had a problem with their caste and ethnicity and suggested them to look for shelter or food from people of their own caste. The king realised that each member of the group of six including him belonged from a different ethnicity – which the king was only oblivious of until the people pointed it out to them. One of the king’s group members was an ethnic Pashtun, the other was Persian, one was Chinese and of Mongolian descent; the king himself was Uzbek and the wazir and his son were Georgians. Whenever they approached a family to help them, the king would ask one of the group members randomly to ask for help. If the family would happen to be from a similar ethnicity then they all would get help otherwise they wouldn’t.
After losing almost every battle that they ever fought in pursuit to expand borders, the king was very upset and frustrated. He was spending much of his taxes for raising the best military, sports teams, engineers and businesses, however so far it was not yielding any results. One day, the king asked the old man if he had a clue about why they were losing
This infuriated the king because he was spending much of his taxes on a nation that was not united at all. The next day, the king, the wazir and the close confidantes of the king decided to organise games in the city for a week. The king announced that the citizens can make groups of 11 people each and can compete in games ranging from wrestling to horse riding to shooting and poetry competitions. The king instructed his close confidantes to go around and silently observe if the teams were getting built on ethnicity. After a while, his close confidantes reported that the teams indeed were getting built on the basis of ethnicities and people were preferring their kith and kin only in the teams instead of selecting people on the basis of their abilities.
The king immediately cancelled the games and ordered that each and every household should handover their children under the age of seven to the service of the kingdom. All children under seven years of age were taken custody of and were moved to the quickly assembled shelters near to the king’s residence. The king also ordered that for the next 20 years, any child that is born to a mother in his kingdom should be handed over to the king’s shelters. Once the child reached the age of four, the parents would be allowed to meet the children but directly under the scrutiny of the state. In those shelters, the king himself would assign the children to various fields such as some were assigned for training as soldiers, others were given training as sportsmen, yet others were trained for becoming good business persons and engineers.
All the children were trained in the same linguistic medium and the parents that would come to meet the children were not allowed to talk to the children in their own native ethnic language. The children were placed in groups that were very much ethnically diverse. The king ordered that there should be no mirror in the shelters for the children so that they couldn’t differentiate themselves from others on the basis of their facial features. For the next one decade, the nation somehow survived with the old sports teams, businesspersons, engineers and military. However after a decade, the children that had all grown up started joining various fields of work.
To test the results of his decade long preparation, the king ordered his army that now consisted of a sizable number of men that had passed out from his shelters to attack a nearby larger enemy state in order to expand the kingdom’s borders. The military was enormously successful this time and succeeded a war against the much bigger enemy fairly easily. This started the tongues wagging; other kingdoms that were closely monitoring the war were not only impressed but they were also cautioned as well by the might of this kingdom. Similarly the king sent a team of sportsmen to compete in multinational games and the results were impressive in the games as well. Same were the results in business and engineering. Soon the nation became very popular for its merchandise, businesses and for its expertise in solving logistics and other engineering problems.
The king is still the ruler of this kingdom. And whereas people were reluctant in the past for sending their young children to the king’s shelters, today people are voluntarily sending the children to the king’s shelters. The aging population is fast getting replaced by the youngsters that speak the same language, prefer interethnic marriages, and identify themselves as the nationals of the Mercusary – the invincible nation and not as ethnic Chinese, Uzbek or Pashtuns. The historian was so impressed by how the elimination of ethnic distinctions turned a collection of ethnicities into a nation.
At this stage, the historian stood up, he struck off the dust from his clothes. Gradually he started packing his stuff and he placed his pen in his breast pocket and the notebook in the backpack. He nicely folded his mat and stuffed it too in his backpack. Before finally leaving for his next destination, he took a long look at the kingdom, took a deep sigh of happiness, looked directly into the readers’ eyes and said, “If a nation speaks the same way, they will also behave the same way!”
The writer is an assistant professor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in Daily Times, September 12th 2017.