Akbar, the emperor, and Birbal, his top minister, were wandering through the streets of Agra disguised as ordinary men. They heard the yelling of a woman from inside a house. They both thought she had been screaming at her child. But to their surprise a man came sprinting out of the house. Akbar was furious. He could not believe that men in his kingdom were cowards. Birbal disagreed and said that while Akbar was a great king, men like the man who was running away from his wife were ordinary men and had to be kind to their wives or get kicked out of the house.
Akbar and Birbal argued for days and days. Finally Akbar called a meeting in his palace gardens. He invited all the married men in Agra. He then asked the men who listened to their wives to move to the left and the men who did not to move to the right. One man moved to the right. All the rest moved to the left.
Akbar told Birbal that he wanted to reward the man that had moved right. But Birbal asked the man why he had moved to the right. The man said that he did so because his wife told him to stay away from crowds!
Birbal had won the argument with Akbar. This was no surprise because Birbal’s wit always outsmarted Akbar, and Birbal did it in the most clever way imaginable.
Akbar, the great Mughal emperor, lived from 1542 to 1605. He thought of himself as an incredible emperor, which is what he was. Birbal lived from 1528 to 1586. He was Akbar’s most trusted advisor and a wise ambassador who found a way around war. Birbal helped Akbar see through problems that he could not fully understand. Birbal was an outstanding minister both to his people and his king.
Amita Sarin has narrated this book elegantly and in a funny way. I found myself smiling or laughing at the end of each story. The author has sneaked in some historical facts along with the anecdotes. The way Birbal solved problems stunned me.
This is a joyous book. Anyone can read it because it is a fantastic swirl of Indian history, Indian ways of life and hilarious descriptions of events.
Unbelievably, I thought this was going to be some boring history book my mom bought for me. Finally, I learned my lesson. Never judge a book by its cover or its blurb!