“Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16
How does one become a force of life?
Not far removed from reality, a Force of Life is one with the heartbeat of the people.
The 2008 Bollywood film Jodhaa Akbar is a love story between the Mughal Emperor, Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar, and Rajput Princess, Jodhaa. Their epic romance happened at a time when the unity of the subcontinent of Hindustan (now India) under the Mughal Empire is being challenged by treachery, rebellion and political manoeuvrings from within the family of the emperor as well as from kingdoms that refused to pay homage to the Mughal emperor. It was a pivotal time in the history of India as the empire of Hindustan stretched as far as Afghanistan in the northwest to the Bay of Bengal in the east, and from the Himalayas in the north to the Godavari River in the south. In fact, Emperor Akbar is remembered in history as the most illustrious ruler of the Mughal Empire.
The film may be about the greatest among the Mughal emperors but it is also about the Rajput princess who was able to influence the emperor to become a great leader beyond the battlefield. In the film, Jodhaa’s marriage to Emperor Akbar was that of political convenience as her father King Bharmal of Amer presented her to the Mughal emperor to strengthen the alliance of Amer and the Mughal Empire. She refused to be a mere pawn in the political game among rulers. She used whatever influence that she had at that time to reveal to her husband the plight of the common man. She used her marriage to the greatest Mughal emperor as a platform to raise the issues of the world outside the royal court. She believed that for her husband to be a truly great emperor, he must first win the hearts of his subjects but first and foremost becoming one with them in spirit.
In this dialogue, Jodhaa challenges her husband, the emperor, to become a man whose heart beats with the hearts of the people of Hindustan. In essence, she was telling her husband that being married to her means being married to the simple folk of their empire.
Jodhaa: “You know how to wage war and conquer. But do not know how to rule.”
Akbar: “What did you say?”
Jodhaa: “That you have only conquered me but not won my heart yet.”
Akbar: “This is unfair. I have fulfilled your every wish. I have respected every demand of yours. I have carried out my duties as a husband!”
Jodhaa: “If that were true you’d never have sent me away without hearing my side.
Akbar: “But try to understand that considering the circumstances, a misunderstanding was inevitable.”
Jodhaa: “But you should have at least tried to know what really happened. But the truth is that you are far removed from reality. You do not know how to win hearts. To do that, you need to look into their minds, discover their little pleasures and sorrows, and win their trust. Be one with their heartbeat! And the day that you will succeed in doing that, you will rule my heart!”
Asking for her forgiveness, Akbar eventually embarked on a journey to discover what it was like to be a simple man in Hindustan. He went incognito in the marketplace to understand the daily needs of his subjects and, in the process, he discovered the unjust Pilgrim Tax that his empire had for the longest time collected from his Hindu subjects. He immediately abolished the Pilgrim Tax and his people began to see that he is indeed a great leader, a leader of all people in Hindustan regardless of culture or religion.
“Akbar” is a word that literally means “great”. But Akbar only became truly great when he finally became one with the heartbeat of his people. Jodhaa was once a Rajput princess who was used as a pawn in a marriage of alliance but she only became worthy to be called “Empress of Hindustan” when she fought for the simple and oftentimes forgotten people of her empire. Their marriage transcended its original purpose which was only to build an alliance between Amer and the Mughal Empire. Instead, they created an empire founded in truth, justice, and benevolence.