One day Emperor Akbar asked Birbal what he would choose if he were given a choice between justice and a gold coin.

“The gold coin,” said Birbal.

Akbar was taken aback.

“You would prefer a gold coin to justice?” he asked, incredulously.

“Yes,” said Birbal.

The other courtiers were amazed by Birbal’s display of idiocy.

For years they had been trying to discredit Birbal in the emperor’s eyes but without success and now the man had gone and done it himself!

They could not believe their good fortune.

“I would have been dismayed if even the lowliest of my servants had said this,” continued the emperor. “But coming from you it’s . . . it’s shocking – and sad. I did not know you were so debased!”

“One asks for what one does not have, Your Majesty!” said Birbal, quietly. “You have seen to it that in our country justice is available to everybody. So as justice is already available to me and as I’m always short of money I said I would choose the gold coin.”

The emperor was so pleased with Birbal’s reply that he gave him not one but a thousand gold coins.

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.