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The Best Vegetable of All

2006-07-13 23:30

  One evening, as Emperor Akbar and a group of his courtiers strolled along a terrace which overlooked the river, the emperor remarked, “Brinjals are the finest vegetables, without a doubt.” All his courtiers were quick to agree. “Oh”, said one. “Brinjal is said to be excellent for one's health.” Another commented, “And the taste! Brinjal cooked with lamb or any other meat is delicious.”

  To everybody's surprise, even Birbal began to praise the brinjal. “What delicacy! What subtle texture!1 What fine colour!” he cried. “Oh, brinjal is the emperor of vegetables to be sure. It is a veritable gift from heaven!” And he went on and on, even reciting a small poem in praise of the brinjal. This was a bit too much , even for Emperor Akbar, who was accustomed to flattery and to fawning courtiers. He was certain that Birbal was teasing him and mocking all the courtiers who surrounded him. So, a few days later, the emperor declared, quot;There can be no better vegetable in all the world than spinach!“

  At once, all those around him began to praise spinach. “It's so good for the digestion”, said a very fat man who loved to eat. “And full of goodness”, said his extremely thin friend. “And it is excellent with meat”, added a man whose wife was notorious for her bad cooking.

  “Never has there been a tastier vegetable”, Birbal's voice rose over all the rest. “What delicacy! What fine colour! Oh, spinac is the emperor of all vegetables. It is a veritable gift of the heavens!”

  “Birbal!” Emperor Akbar cried in an outraged voice. “Only last week you were praising the brinjal in exactly the same words. have you no loyalty to your beliefs, no faithfulness to the truth!”

  Birbal's eye twinkled. “Jahanpanah”, he said, bowing very low. “My loyalty and faith are given only to you, my Shahhanshah, from whom all bounty flows. What do I care for brinjal and spinach if I may be near you?”

  Akbar looked around at all his courtiers, who were too nervous of him to ever question anything he said. He understood that Birbal was mocking their sheep-like behavior, as he proved his own loyalty in his own witty way. He smiled appreciatively. “Wah, Wah! Birbal”, he said. “You never fail to teach us something even when you make us laugh!”

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