Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Birbal and the King of Persia

 Many a times we are faced with tough situations. These are termed as ‘catch 22’ situations. The phrase ‘catch 22’originally refers to a novel written by Joseph Heller.
This novel is set during the World War II. The protagonist of the novel Capt. John Yossarian faces problematic situations and the solutions in sight were made impossible either by the circumstance inherent to the problem or by law. 

Birbal was invited by the King of Persia. Upon reaching Persia, Birbal received a very warm welcome. Parties were held in his honour and Birbal was immersed in gifts and presents that rained on him from the various power centers of the country.

Birbal was delighted beyond words. When it was time for Birbal to leave for home, the King of Persia asked Birbal to compare him to Emperor Akbar. Now this is what one may call a ‘catch 22’ type of a situation. Without angering either of the kings Birbal had to tell the truth. But the truth itself had to be sugar coated and presented in a palatable manner.

Known for his quick wit, Birbal lived up to his image. He told the King of Persia, that while he was like the full moon, Emperor Akbar was like the quarter moon!

The Persians were over joyed at such a comparison and invited Birbal to visit them more often. Birbal assured them that he would and set sail back home.

Little did Birbal imagine that he would have to face an irate Emperor Akbar. Birbal attended court the next day, rejuvenated and refreshed. As he stood to speak, he felt Emperor Akbar giving him a ‘cold shoulder’. Birbal was unable to comprehend the reason and decided to ask the Emperor directly.

“Alam Panah”, he addressed Akbar with care, “Is something bothering you?” he further prodded.

Akbar was sore and made no efforts to hide it. “I am very hurt and upset with your comments that compare me to a quarter moon”, said Akbar.

Birbal heaved a sigh of relief before continuing. “Your Majesty, I was only sugar coating the truth. The Persian king had to please me with gifts and presents to hear a few nice words. You have never done such things. This speaks volumes for the confidence you have in yourself. You never seek opinion from strangers about yourself; you seek advice from your wise ministers while handling situations”, said Birbal. The Emperor calmed down and understood what Birbal meant.

Birbal continued, “Jahanpannah, this is an indication that the Persian king’s power is only going to come down. Whereas, your strength is growing by the day, like that of the quarter moon, the Persian king’s strength is weakening like that of the full moon, which will only begin to diminish in size!” Akbar’s smile broadened as Birbal completed his explanation. 

According to ancient Indian customs, a new moon day is very auspicious to begin any good work. It is known as the ‘vallarpirai’. Custom has it that anything begun on this day will grow like the moon