The Smartest of All | Akbar Birbal
Once, Emperor Akbar and Birbal fought. Birbal was angry and left the palace. While walking on the city streets, a man came running to him. The man stopped near Birbal and asked, “Are you the famous Courtier Birbal?”
Birbal smiled and said, “I am Birbal.” What can I do for you? ” The man said, “I have travelled many miles to meet you. All along the way, people said that you are the most generous. You fulfil the wishes and demands of all who come to you. I am honoured to meet you!”
Birbal at once understood that the man wanted money from him. He did not want to hurt the man. He thought of an intelligent answer. Birbal said, “The pleasure is mine. Would you be going back to your town by the same route?” The man was surprised by the question and said, “Yes!” Birbal said, “On your return, please tell people that the stories about my generosity are all false.”
The man understood that sweet talk would not help him win the wise Birbal. He apologised and asked, “Will you join me for dinner this evening if you are free?” Birbal said, “I am looking for a temporary place to stay, as I need a break from my work in the palace.”
The man said, “You can stay as long as you want in my uncle’s house here.” The man thought the clever Birbal could help him earn easy money. But Birbal hesitated and said, “I want no one to know where I am staying.” The man replied, “Oh! Don’t worry; it will be a secret.” So Birbal went with the man to his uncle’s house.
Nobody knew where Birbal had disappeared. Emperor Akbar started to miss him. He thought, ‘How can I bring Birbal back?’
Then, he had an idea!
The following day, Akbar announced, “This is a contest! Any person who can walk in the sun without carrying an umbrella but still be under shade shall win 1000 gold coins.” Many tried but failed. When the man heard about the contest, he asked Birbal if he could help him win the contest and the gold coins. Birbal whispered a plan to the man. The next day, the man came walking in the sun. He did not carry an umbrella but held a cot made of jute strings over his head. He said, “I have won the contest! I have walked in the sun but was still under the shade of this cot.”
Emperor Akbar asked, “Who gave you this idea? I am sure someone has helped you.” The man was in a dilemma, as he had promised Birbal to keep his stay a secret and decided not to reveal Birbal’s name. So, he replied, “A man who has been living in my house for the past few days.” Emperor Akbar immediately knew that only Birbal could give a clever idea!
He went to the man’s house where Birbal was staying. When Birbal saw the Emperor, he was overjoyed. This time, Birbal was caught because of his intelligence! He explained everything and requested the Emperor not to punish the man. He said, “Your Majesty! The man needed money, so he lied.”
Then Akbar gave 1000 gold coins to the man and sent him away.
Once, Emperor Akbar asked, “Birbal! Can you prove that a man can do anything for money?”
Birbal said, “Yes, Your Majesty! Please let me show you.” Birbal brought a poor Brahmin with him. Emperor Akbar said, “If this Brahmin stands in the icy-cold lake throughout the night, I shall reward him.”
The poor Brahmin stood in the icy-cold lake all night, as he needed money badly. Akbar’s soldiers kept a watch on him. The following day, Akbar was surprised to see the Brahmin still standing in the lake. He asked, “How did you stay in the cold water?”
“I kept staring at the glowing lamp in the distance. This gave me hope to stay in the lake.” Emperor Akbar laughed, “So, you gained warmth from that lamp. You lose the contest!” Birbal then thought of an idea to show the determination of the poor Brahmin. He did not go to the palace for five days.
Emperor Akbar was puzzled about Birbal’s absence again and went to Birbal’s home. He saw Birbal sitting with a pot of uncooked rice and was very angry. Birbal said, “Your Majesty! I was trying to cook the rice!”
“How can you cook rice without fire?” yelled Akbar. Birbal said, “The rice will cook from the lamp burning in the distance.” Akbar said, “How is that possible?”
Birbal said, “The Brahmin got warmth from a lamp a mile away. My rice should also cook.”
Emperor Akbar realised his mistake and rewarded the Brahmin handsomely. He appreciated Birbal’s wisdom in front of his courtiers. He mentioned, “Birbal demonstrated how honesty and determination could lead to success. But I want to know the difference between truth and falsehood in less than three words!”
The courtiers were surprised. They did not know how to express themselves on such a complex topic in less than three words.
Emperor Akbar was amazed, “How come nobody knows the answer? What about you, Birbal?”
Birbal took a step forward and said, “Greetings, Your Majesty! I am silent as I want others to speak first.”
Akbar then added, “It seems nobody knows the answer. Go ahead and tell me the difference between truth and falsehood, but in less than three words.” Birbal at once replied, “Four fingers!”
Akbar was confused. Birbal added, “Your Majesty! Truth is what we see with our eyes. But what we hear with our ears may not always be true. It could be false.” “I understand. But what do you mean by ‘four fingers’?” Akbar asked. “The distance between our eyes and ears is the width of our four fingers!” Emperor Akbar was once again happy with Birbal’s answer.
Birbal showed that one could win everybody’s heart with clear thinking. But Emperor Akbar decided to outwit Birbal. So, he thought of an idea. He put on a fake smile on his face. When Birbal saw the smile on the Emperor’s face, he was surprised.
He wanted to know the reason behind the amusement on the Emperor’s face. Birbal enquired, “Your Majesty! What is the reason behind your delight?”
Emperor Akbar said, “Birbal! You are my favourite courtier. You are so close to me that I saw you in my dream last night.” Birbal said, “It is an honour for me, Your Majesty! What did I do in the dream?”
Akbar said, “In my dream, we were walking in a garden.” It was dark and lonely. All of a sudden, we both fell into ditches. I was lucky because I fell into a ditch filled with honey. But you fell into a ditch filled with garbage. That is why I smiled. Akbar thought, ‘I have acted smarter than Birbal.” But Birbal smiled back and said, “Your Majesty! Your dream was incomplete.” “How can you say that?” asked Akbar.
Birbal said, “I too had the same dream. When we came out of the ditches, we looked out for some water to clean ourselves. But there was no water around. So, in my dream, I was licking you, and you were licking me!” All the courtiers laughed. Akbar agreed that Birbal was the smartest of all!
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