Birbal and His Animal Friends
Emperor Akbar was very proud of his courtier, Birbal. He believed him to be almost perfect, except for one of Birbal’s vices. Birbal had a bad habit of chewing tobacco. Akbar had warned Birbal of the bad effects of chewing tobacco, but Birbal was addicted to it.
Birbal knew that Akbar did not like this habit of his. So, he always hid and ate tobacco. However, Akbar knew about it and disliked it.
One day, Emperor Akbar and Birbal decided to go for a walk. They left the palace gardens and were soon passing a green field. Next to this field was a tobacco field.
Akbar and Birbal’s attention was drawn to a donkey approaching the tobacco field. The donkey was looking for some foliage to eat. But as soon as the donkey sniffed the tobacco plants, it turned away disgustingly.
Akbar noticed this and said, “Look, Birbal, even donkeys don’t chew tobacco!”
Birbal quickly replied, “Your Majesty, donkeys don’t chew tobacco as they lack the sense to appreciate tobacco!”
Akbar was taken aback by Birbal’s quick and witty response. But he said, “Birbal, I appreciate your witty response, but you know that tobacco is bad for your health.” “Chewing tobacco is a very harmful habit, and you must attempt to stop.”
Birbal knew what the Emperor was saying was true, so he said, “I know you mean well, Your Majesty.” I will try to make a conscious effort to stop chewing tobacco.
Just then, a guard came with a letter that Emperor Akbar’s half-brother would be visiting him. A nurse took care of Emperor Akbar when he was young. She fed him her milk when Akbar’s mother was away.
Thus, Akbar respected her like his own mother. The nurse had a son. Emperor Akbar considered him his half-brother since they were both fed by his mother.
Akbar loved his half-brother. He made elaborate arrangements whenever his half-brother came to visit him.
At times, Akbar absented himself from court to spend time with his half-brother. Birbal and the other courtiers did not like this. They did not want the Emperor to neglect his duties to anybody.
One day, Akbar asked Birbal, “Do you also have a half-brother?” Birbal replied, “Yes, Your Majesty. I shall bring him to meet you tomorrow.”
The next day, Birbal walked into the court with a calf. Akbar was shocked. He shouted, “Why have you brought this animal into the royal court?”
Birbal replied, “Your Majesty, please don’t insult him.” This calf is my half-brother. His mother, the cow, has fed me on her milk since childhood.
Akbar acknowledged that he should not give undue importance to his half-brother.
The next day, a messenger from a neighboring kingdom came to Akbar’s court with gifts. The neighboring king had heard a lot about Birbal’s wit. He wanted to witness it.
The messenger said to Akbar, “We have heard much about Birbal’s wit. My king has a question for him.”
Akbar permitted him to go ahead. The messenger looked at Birbal and asked, “What is the number of sparrows in Agra?”
The question made everyone nervous. However, Birbal responded confidently. “There are 88,457 sparrows in Agra,” he said.
“What if there are fewer sparrows?” inquired the messenger. “Some sparrows may have flown out of Agra to visit their relatives,” Birbal speculated.
The messenger then inquired, “What if there are more?” Birbal smiled, “Then perhaps some sparrows are paying a visit to their relatives here. I am certain of the figure. You are free to count the sparrows whenever you want.”
Everyone had a hearty laugh. The messenger was satisfied with the answer. He paid homage to Birbal’s wit and left. One day, Emperor Akbar said to Birbal, “I want you to bring two people to the royal court tomorrow.” The first should always be grateful if one favors him. He should also be ready to return the favor if necessary.
Birbal said, “As you wish, Your Majesty!” What do you expect from the second person?
Akbar smiled and replied, “The second person should be an extremely ungrateful man.” He should take all the favors for granted and never be satisfied.
All the courtiers thought that this time Birbal would lose the challenge. But Birbal smiled and said, “I will bring two such beings tomorrow.”
The next day, Birbal came to the court with his dog and his son-in-law. He pointed toward his dog and explained, “This is my dog. He is always grateful and extremely loyal. He will sacrifice his life for my sake.” Akbar clapped his hands and said, “Wonderful! Then, who is this man?”
Birbal said, “He is my son-in-law. He is never tired of asking for favors and is never thankful. So, I have brought the two desired beings and completed the challenge.” Akbar and the courtiers appreciated Birbal for his wit and wisdom.
Then, Emperor Akbar asked Birbal to join him for lunch. Akbar and Birbal sat in the dining room. They had just eaten a delicious lunch. Birbal teased Akbar, “Your Majesty, forgive me for saying this, but you are becoming fat!” Emperor Akbar nodded sadly, “It is because of the rich food the cooks feed me.”
Birbal said, “No, sir. It is because you have no worries. A well-fed person, who has a lot of worries, does not gain weight. Akbar said, “You are wrong, Birbal.” Even an animal that gains weight if fed well. “Prove your point!” Birbal bought a goat and kept it in the zoo close to his home to prove his point. He asked his servants to feed it very well twice a day. A month passed by; Emperor Akbar finally came to see the goat.
Akbar was shocked to see that the goat had not gained any weight. He asked, “Birbal, did you feed the goat well?” Birbal replied, “Your Majesty, he was fed very well twice daily.” You can check with the servants. However, I had tied the goat to the cage of a lion. The goat lived in the constant fear and tension of losing its life. So, it did not gain any weight. Akbar accepted that Birbal was right!
That evening, the Emperor’s manservant, Sitaram, went to meet Birbal at his mansion. Birbal was very intelligent and helpful! He looked worried, so Birbal asked, “What happened, Sitaram?”
“A fakir had given the Emperor a parrot. The Emperor gave me the parrot to care for and declared that whoever brought the news of its death would be hanged!” said Sitaram.
“So, what’s the problem?” Birbal was curious. “The parrot died despite my best efforts. I’m not sure how to notify the Emperor right now!” Sitaram stated this. Birbal reassured Sitaram before sending him home. Sitaram thanked Birbal and left. The next day, Birbal approached the Emperor and said, “Your Majesty, I just came back from seeing the fakir’s parrot. As it is deep in thought, it is undeniably a holy parrot.” When Emperor Akbar learned of this, he immediately went to see the parrot. When Akbar discovered the parrot had died, he was enraged. “Birbal! The parrot has passed away!” The Emperor indicated the parrot.
“Yes, Your Majesty! Everything that is born must die someday. You cannot punish Sitaram for this,” said Birbal. Emperor Akbar understood why Birbal had lied to him and forgave Sitaram. He appreciated Birbal for his clever way of conveying the message.
Thus, Birbal saved another life with his intelligence and animal love!
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