What The Drop Taketh

The anecdotes of Emperor Akbar and his trusted aide Birbal are entertaining as well as enlightening. Once, the Emperor received the gift of a rare perfume. As he opened the bottle, a drop of perfume fell to the floor. Akbar instinctively moved to retrieve it by wiping the floor with his finger. As he looked up he noticed a bemused look on Birbal’s face… his eyes seemed to mock the Emperor for being scrounging.

To change Birbal’s perception, Akbar summoned him the next morning to his bath. He asked his attendants to fill up the bathtub with the best of perfumes. Akbar sought to show Birbal that as Emperor he could afford to waste as much perfume, as he wanted. Birbal when asked to react said the immortal lines, “Boond se jati, woh haudh se nahi aati” (An entire tub full cannot retrieve what the drop took way!)

Birbal sought to tell the Emperor that his earlier instinctive action (that exhibited miserliness) could not be undone by an intentional action (aimed at big-heartedness). Our character is determined by our reactions, not by forced posturing. It is better to be transparent then wear favorable masks. In fact every little action and reaction, every spoken word and emerging thought reflects our true self!

The King of Iran had heard that Birbal was one of the wisest men in the East and desirous of meeting him sent him an invitation to visit his country.

In due course, Birbal arrived in Iran.

When he entered the palace he was flabbergasted to find not one but six kings seated there.

All looked alike. All were dressed in kingly robes. Who was the real king?

The very next moment he got his answer. Confidently, he approached the king and bowed to him.

“But how did you identify me?” the king asked, puzzled.

Birbal smiled and explained: “The false kings were all looking at you, while you yourself looked straight ahead. Even in regal robes, the common people will always look to their king for support.”

Overjoyed, the king embraced Birbal and showered him with gifts.

Famous musicians once gathered at Akbar’s court for a competition.

The one who could capture a bull’s interest was to be declared the winner.

One by one, they played the most heavenly music but the bull paid no attention.

Then Birbal took the stage. His music sounded like the droning of mosquitoes and the mooing of cows.

But to everyone’s amazement the bull suddenly became alert and began to move in a lively manner.

Akbar declared Birbal the winner.

One day the Emperor Akbar stumbled on a rock in his garden. He was in a foul mood that day and the accident made him so angry that he ordered the gardener’s arrest and execution.

The next day when the gardener was asked what his last wish was before he was hanged, he requested an audience with the emperor.

This wish was granted, but when the man neared the throne he loudly cleared his throat and spat at the emperor’s feet.

The emperor was taken aback and demanded to know why he had done such a thing. The gardener had acted on Birbal’s advice and now Birbal stepped forward in the man’s defence.

“Your Majesty,” he said, “there could be no person more loyal to you than this unfortunate man. Fearing that people would say you hanged him for a trifle, he has gone out of his way to give you a genuine reason for hanging him.”

The emperor, realizing that he had been about to do a great injustice, set the man free.

Once Akbar told Birbal ‘Birbal, make me a painting. Use imagination in it.

To which the reply was ‘But hoozoor, I am a minister, how can I possibly paint?’

The king was angry and said ‘If I don’t get a good painting by one week then you shall be hanged!’

The clever Birbal had an idea.

After one week, he went to the court and with him he carried a covered frame.

Akbar was happy to see that Birbal had obeyed him, until he opened the cover. The courtiers rushed to see what was wrong. What they saw made them feel very happy.

At last, they would not see Birbal in court! The painting was nothing but ground and sky. There were a few specs of green on the ground.

The Emperor, angrily, told Birbal ‘what is this?’ To which the reply was ‘A cow eating grass hoozoor!’

Akbar said ‘where is the cow and grass?’ and Birbal told ‘I used my imagination. The cow ate the grass and returned to its shed!’

Once King Akbar questioned Birbal if he knows the number of blind citizens of their kingdom.

Raja Birbal had requested Akbar to give him a week’s time.

The next day Raja Birbal was found to be mending shoes in the town market. People were astonished to see Birbal doing such work. Many of them started to question “Birbal!! What are you doing?”

Once when he was asked this question by someone he started writing something. It continued for a week when on the 7th day King Akbar himself asked Birbal the same question.

Giving him no answer, Birbal reported at the court the next day and handed over a note to King Akbar. Akbar read the note when he found that it was the big list of people who were blind.

Emperor Akbar was stunned when he found his own name in the list. Angered by this, Akbar asked Birbal the reason for writing his name in the list.

Birbal said “O! My majesty! Like all other people you also saw me mending the slippers but you still asked me what I was doing. Therefore I had to include your name too.”

Akbar started laughing at this and everyone enjoyed Birbal’s sense of humor.

Mahesh Das was a citizen in the kingdom of Akbar. He was an intelligent young man.

Once when Akbar went hunting in the jungle, he lost his way. Mahesh Das who lived in the outskirts helped the king reach the palace. The emperor rewarded him with his ring.

The Emperor also promised to give him a responsible posting at his court. After a few days Mahesh Das went to the court. The guard did not allow him to enter.

Mahesh Das showed the guard the ring which the king had given him. Now the guard thought that the young man was sure to get more rewards by the king. The greedy guard agreed to allow him inside the court on one condition. It was that Mahesh Das had to pay him half the reward he would get from the Emperor. Mahesh Das accepted the condition.

He then entered the court and showed the ring to the King.

The King who recognized Mahesh asked him “Oh young man! What do you expect as a reward from the King of Hindustan?” “Majesty! I expect 50 lashes from you as a reward.” replied Mahesh Das. The courtiers were stunned. They thought that he was mad. Akbar pondered over his request and asked him the reason.

Mahesh Das said he would tell him the reason after receiving his reward. Then the king’s men whipped him as per his wish. After the 25th lash Mahesh Das requested the King to call the guard who was at the gate.

The guard appeared before the King. He was happy at the thought that he was called to be rewarded. But to his surprise, Mahesh Das told the King ,”Jahampana! This greedy guard let me inside on condition that I pay him half the reward I receive from you. I wanted to teach him a lesson. Please give the remaining 25 lashes to this guard so that I can keep my promise to him.”

The King then ordered that the guard be given 25 lashes along with 5 years of imprisonment. The King was very happy with Mahesh Das. He called him

One day Akbar and Birbal were riding through the countryside and they happened to pass by a cabbage patch.

“Cabbages are such delightful vegetables!” said Akbar. “I just love cabbage.”

“The cabbage is king of vegetables!” said Birbal.

A few weeks later they were riding past the cabbage patch again.

This time however, the emperor made a face when he saw the vegetables. “I used to love cabbage but now I have no taste for it.” said Akbar.

“The cabbage is a tasteless vegetable” agreed Birbal.

The emperor was astonished.

“But the last time you said it was the king of vegetables!” he said.

“I did,” admitted Birbal. “But I am your servant Your Majesty, not the cabbage’s.”

One day Akbar asked his courtiers if they could tell him the difference between truth and falsehood in three words or less.

The courtiers looked at one another in bewilderment.

“What about you, Birbal?” asked the emperor. “I’m surprised that you too are silent.”

“I’m silent because I want to give others a chance to speak,” said Birbal.

“Nobody else has the answer,” said the emperor. “So go ahead and tell me what the difference between truth and falsehood is — in three words or less.”

“Four fingers” said Birbal

“Four fingers?” asked the emperor, perplexed.

“That’s the difference between truth and falsehood, your Majesty,” said Birbal. “That which you see with your own eyes is the truth. That which you have only heard about might not be true. More often than not, it’s likely to be false.”

“That is right,” said Akbar. “But what did you mean by saying the difference is four fingers?’

“The distance between one’s eyes and one’s ears is the width of four fingers, Your Majesty,” said Birbal, grinning.