Sunday, 7 July 2013

Warmth of a little bulb

One day Akbar and Birbal were walking in the palace gardens when the ministers came to them with a very serious matter. One of the rich merchants was slapped by a poor man for asking him to return the money he had borrowed. Both the merchant and the poor man were waiting in the court room when the Jahanpannah and Birbal arrived. 

The King asked them what the matter was and the poor man hung his head in shame. The merchant told the king that he had given money to the poor man and when he asked him to repay the money the poor man slapped him. The king looked at the distraught borrower and asked him why he had done so. The poor said that the merchant used foul language. Since the rains that year were not so good, he did not make enough money and wanted more time to repay the loan. But the merchant did not pay heed to his words and abused him in full public view.

The king told the man that he had no choice but to pay heed to the merchant’s complaint. Since the poor man had physically attacked him, he had to undergo some punishment. The merchant intervened and said that the poor man should stand in neck deep water for a whole night. 

“But”, protested the poor man, “It was winter time and the water would be very cold”. The merchant did not budge and the punishment was final. 

The poor man went to the river and stood alone for one whole night. Luckily he survived the cold and the next day the king ordered the palace doctor to provide him the best possible treatment. The merchant raised objection saying that a light that was glowing far off on the outer wall of a house must have kept the man warm and the punishment had not been carried out in the fairest of manners.   

The king thought for a while and told the merchant to come to the court the next day to decide in the regard. Meanwhile Birbal wondered what went on in the mind of the Emperor. He clearly understood that the merchant wanted the poor man dead. He probably eyed the land that belonged to the poor man in lieu of the money he had loaned.

The next day both interested parties were present in court. Akbar asked the courtiers if they had seen Birbal. But Birbal was nowhere around. The king came out of the court only to find Birbal trying to cook a pot of rice by tying it atop a bamboo pole while a feeble fire was lit underneath. The Emperor was both curious and angry. 

He looked at Birbal and ordered him to come to the court at once. Birbal bowed respectfully and told the Jahanpannah that he had not eaten anything and would join Akbar once the rice was cooked. “I will be there in a jiffy, your majesty. Please don’t worry”, said Birbal with sarcasm laced in his voice. Akbar asked Birbal how long he hoped to take as the pot was tied so high and the fire was not hot enough to cook the rice. 

To this Birbal replied, “Jahanpannah, when the heat form a small bulb glowing far away is enough to keep a person warm throughout the winter night, this fire is enough to cook the rice.” Akbar smiled knowingly and dismissed the merchant’s plea to re-look at the case and rewarded the poor man for accepting the punishment bravely. Good favours the brave, said the Emperor with pride and affection in his voice!