Fine line of thinking

Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar   | Photo Credit: Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar

Having read folktales from all over the world, let’s see what India has to offer. Some of the most popular ones are about the antics of Birbal, an advisor in the court of the Mughal emperor, Akbar. These stories focus on the quick wit of Birbal.

Akbar appointed Birbal as a poet and singer around 1556. He was closely associated with the emperor and was one of his important courtiers. Birbal was often referred to as one of the navratnas (nine jewels), in Emperor Akbar’s court.

In 1586, Birbal led an army to crush an unrest in the north-west of India, where he and his troops were ambushed by a rebel tribe. Birbal and many soldiers were killed.

By the end of Akbar's reign, many tales emerged involving Birbal’s interactions with Akbar, portraying him as being extremely clever and witty. The stories of how he gets the better of other jealous courtiers, his clever repartees which Akbar loved, are enjoyed by everyone.

Quick wit

Akbar was always coming up with puzzles and riddles for his courtiers to solve. One day, he drew a line on the floor. Then, looking up, he asked his courtiers to make the line shorter without erasing any part of it. The courtiers studied the line and tried to come up with several answers. But, sadly none of them came even close to solving it.

Soon, it was Birbal’s turn. He bendt down and drew another line below the original. It was longer than the first one. He looked up and smiled. He had made the line drawn by Akbar shorter, without ever having touched it, just as was required by the emperor.

Once again, Birbal had found the answer. Akbar and his courtiers were forced to acknowledge his unsurpassed wit.

Retold by Nimi Kurian

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 10:18:08 AM |

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