Mock interview for admission to Takshila university

‘What is the purpose of good government, Chanakya?’ asked the admissions director. They were seated on the floor in his office, a sparsely decorated room filled with musty scrolls, parchments and manuscripts. The room smelt of the eucalyptus oil lamps that illuminated the area in the evening.
The reply from Chanakya was prompt and confident. ‘In the happiness of his subjects lies the king’s happiness and in their welfare, his own welfare,’ he replied emphatically.
‘Son, what are the duties of a king?’
‘A ruler’s duties are three. Raksha—protecting the state from external aggression; palana—maintenance of law and order within; and finally, yogakshema—welfare of the people.’
‘O son of Chanak, what are the possible means by which a king can settle political disputes?’
‘There are four possible methods, sir. Sama—gentle persuasion and praise; daama—monetary incentives; danda—punishment or war; and bheda—intelligence, propaganda and disinformation.’
‘What is the difference between a kingdom, a country, and its people?’
‘There cannot be a country without people, and there is no kingdom without a country. It’s the people who constitute a kingdom; like a barren cow, a kingdom without people yields nothing.’
‘What constitutes a state, wise pupil?’
‘There are seven constituent elements, learned teacher. The king, the council of ministers, the territory and populace, the fortified towns, the treasury, the armed forces and the allies.’
‘Why does a king need ministers at all?’
‘One wheel alone does not move a chariot. A king should appoint wise men as ministers and listen to their advice.’
‘What is the root of wealth?’
‘The root of wealth is economic activity, and lack of it brings material distress. In the absence of fruitful economic activity, both current prosperity and future growth are in danger of destruction. In the manner that elephants are needed to catch elephants so does one need wealth to capture more wealth.’
‘What is an appropriate level of taxation on the people of a kingdom?’
‘As one plucks fruits from a garden as they ripen, so should a king have revenue collected as it becomes due. Just as one does not collect unripe fruits, he should avoid collecting revenue that is not due because that will make the people angry and spoil the very sources of revenue.’
‘To what extent should a king trust his revenue officials?’
‘It is impossible to know when a fish swimming in water drinks some of it. Thus it’s quite impossible to find out when government servants in charge of undertakings misappropriate money.’
‘How important is punishment in the administration of a kingdom?’
‘It is the power of punishment alone, when exercised impartially in proportion to the guilt, and irrespective of whether the person punished is the crown prince or an enemy slave, that protects this world and the next.’
‘How should a king decide which kings are his friends and which are his enemies?’
‘A ruler with contiguous territory is a rival and the ruler next to the adjoining is to be deemed a friend. My enemy’s enemy is my friend.’
The admissions director looked at the boy in amazement. He then turned to Pundarikaksha and smiled. ‘I have no doubts regarding his knowledge, analytical skills and intelligence, but who will pay his tuition?’ he asked. The dean grinned sheepishly. ‘My childhood chum Katyayan has called in a loan, my friend. I shall bear the cost personally,’ he revealed.
Chanakya prostrated himself before Pundarikaksha and requested him to accept the ten gold panas that remained from the fifty that Katyayan had provided for his trip. ‘Keep it, Chanakya. I will call in the loan as and when I deem appropriate,’ declared Pundarikaksha. ‘You shall unite the whole of Bharat; your brilliance shall be a flame that attracts kings like fireflies until they are humbled into submission; arise, Chanakya, our motherland needs you,’ pronounced the dean. The grateful lad touched Pundarikaksha’s feet wordlessly and left.
‘I wonder whether this one really needs a Takshila education,’ whispered the admissions director to the dean as Chanakya left.

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