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A Hairy Tale

2006-07-13 21:12

  It was a hot summer morning. Emperor Akbar had not slept very well the previous night. It was clear to everyone That the emperor was not in a very good mood. “I've asked the keeper of the royal forests to prepare for a tiger hunt”, Raja Man Singh whispered to Birbal. “At such a time, what cheers the emperor most is to be out riding and camping in the forest away from the palace and the fort and the cares of government.” Birbal nodded. But in the meanwhile he knew he had to keep the emperor in good humour. So, when emperor Akbar asked abruptly, “Who can answer this? Why is it that no hair grows on the palms of my hand?” Birbal stepped forward at once. “Huzoor”, he replied, “How can hair grow on the palms of your hand? It is just not possible, because your munificence, your generosity is so great that the constant flow of gold and gifts that slip from your hands into the hands of your worthless servant wears away any hair that might grow there.”

  Akbar nodded and even smiled, but he was still a little irritable. “Is that so?” he said. “In that case, how is it that no hair grows on the palms of your hands, Birbal?”

  Birbal held out his hands to the emperor. “Jahanpanah, your generocity in filling these worthless hands with gold and gifts wears away every last hair that might grow there.”

  “And the others?”  Emperor Akbar pointed to all the courtiers who stood around them, filling the hall. “What about them? Am I so generous to each and every person gathered here. I'd soon have an empty treasury if I were as generous as you say.” Several of those standing nearby smiled at each other. Even Birbal, clever Birbal would find it difficult to answer that one, They thought, and waited expectantly to hear him admit that he was at a loss of words.

  But Birbal smiled back at then and replied and reply without moment's hesitation, “Huzoor when my fellow servants see the magnificence that our generosity bestows on my worthless being, they can not stop wringing their hands in jealousy. In doing this, they have rubbed away every single of hair that might have grown on their palms!”

  At this, even Emperor Akbar burst out laughing. Soon others joined in the laughter and a wave of merriment filled the hall. “Well done, Birbal Bhaiya!” Raja Man Singh whispered to him. “You've saved the day!”

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