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Temper

2008-12-05 10:26

  In the village below Emperor Akbar's capital at Fatehpur Sikri, there lived a quick - tempered priest and his wife. The priest used to eat only one meal a day and his wife took a great deal of trouble to cook something delicious. Wonderful aromas would drift out of the kitchen, so when afternoon came and indeed. One day, as he broke off a piece of freshly made roti and dipped in into the bowl of fragrant, steaming dal, the priest noticed a hair floating on the dal. He flung the food away in a rage, shouting to his wife. “This food is bad! It's been ruined! There's a hair in the dal and it's not fit to eat!”

  The priest's wife came running when she heard her husband. She wept when she saw the dal and rotis scattered all over the courtyard. There was no time to make a fresh meal and the priest had to go without his food that day. He got angrier and angrier and when evening came. he said, “Beware, wife. If ever I find a hair in my food again, I'll shave off every last hair on your head.”

  This frightened his wife and she became even more careful, pulling her hair back tightly and covering her head with her sari. A week went by. The priest ate his daily meal with all his usual enjoyment. And then, one day, as he was about to bite into a morsel of brinjal and roti, he saw another hair. It was embedded in the roti. The priest sprang to his feet with a terrible roar and rushed towards the kitchen, shouting, “Bring me a razor. Now I shall have to shave off your hair!” His wife gave a howl of terror and, before he could reach the kitchen, she sprang up and slammed the door shut.

  “Open this door at once!” shouted the enraged priest “Oh, no, no, no, no!” wailed his wife. “Punish me, starve me, only promise you won't cut off my hair. Oh, forgive me, forgive me!”

  The woman's heart - rending cries and the priest's bellowing voice could be heard all over the village. People came running to see what disaster had befallen them. When they understood what had happened, some began to laugh and others began to argue. A few tried to reason with the priest. he turned upon them with a snarl. the crowd grew bigger and bigger as more and more people arrived. And all the while, the priest's wife wailed and wept unceasingly from behind the locked kitchen door.

  Finally, one very old woman murmured to her grandson. 'Only Raja Birbal can solve this problem, beta. Run as quickly as you can and beg him to come to the rescue of this wretched woman. The boy nodded and ran up the hill to the double - storied red stone house in which Birbal lived. Birbal listened to the tale and nodded. then he gave the boy certain instructions. The boy smiled and hurried away to do as Birbal had asked.

  Half and hour later, Birbal let a small procession towards the priest's house. It looked like a funeral procession. Two men carried a bamboo bier. It was empty, however. Another man carried some logs of wood. The boy carried some flowers and incense. They arrived at the priest's house and stopped besides the priest. he tuned and asked angrily, “What's going on? Has somebody died? Why have you brought the bier here?”

  “I heared that someone had died here”, said Birbal. “Only widows shave their heads, don't they? I heared your wife has about to shave her head and so I thought you must have died. Are you about to die? We've made all preparations for your funeral.”

  “He'll have to die first, won't he?” cried a cheeky little boy in the crowd.

  “But then who'll shave his wife's head? He wants to do it himself!” cried another. People began to laugh. The priest hung his head in shame. He understood what birbal was trying to show him. Slowly, he went towards the kitchen. “Come out, wife”, he said quietly. “I'll try never to be so foolish again.” His wife unlatched the kitchen door and came to stand beside him. “And I'll be even more careful when I cook, from now on.”

  Smiling, Birbal and the village people went home in cheerful humour.

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