One day Akbar said to Birbal: “Can you tell me how many bangles your wife wears?”

Birbal said he could not.

“You cannot?” exclaimed Akbar. “You see her hands every day while she serves you food. Yet you do not know how many bangles she has on her hands? How is that?”

“Let us go down to the garden, Your Majesty,” said Birbal, “and I’ll tell you.”

They went down the small staircase that led to the garden. Then Birbal turned to the emperor: “Your Majesty,” he said, “You go up and down this staircase every day. Can you tell me how many steps there are in the staircase?”

The emperor grinned sheepishly and quickly changed the subject.

Birbal was in Persia at the invitation of the king of that country.

Parties were given in his honor and rich presents were heaped on him.

On the eve of his departure for home, a nobleman asked him how he would compare the king of Persia to his own king.

“Your king is a full moon,” said Birbal. “Whereas mine could be likened to the quarter moon.”

The Persians were very happy. But when Birbal got home he found that Emperor Akbar was furious with him.

“How could you belittle your own king!” demanded Akbar. “You are a traitor!”

“No, Your Majesty,” said Birbal. “I did not belittle you. The full moon diminishes and disappears whereas the quarter moon grows from strength to strength. What I, in fact, proclaimed to the world is that your power is growing from day to day whereas that of the king of Persia is about to go into decline.”

Akbar grunted in satisfaction and welcomed Birbal back with a warm embrace.

A farmer and his neighbor once went to Emperor Akbar’s court with a complaint.

“Your Majesty, I bought a well from him,” said the farmer pointing to his neighbor,” and now he wants me to pay for the water.”

“That’s right, your Majesty,” said the neighbor. “I sold him the well but not the water!”

The Emperor asked Birbal to settle the dispute.

“Didn’t you say that you sold your well to this farmer?” Birbal asked the neighbor. “So, the well belongs to him now, but you have kept your water in his well. Is that right? Well, in that case you will have to pay him a rent or take your water out at once.”

The neighbor realized that he was outwitted. He quickly apologized and gave up his claim.

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.