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Tag: Emperor

When Providence Smiles At You – A folktale from Ancient India

In a village, in ancient India, lived a lad by name Boppanna.

Boppanna was very good at heart and wanted to be smart and good at studies like his classmates, but somehow, studies eluded him. He simply did not have the capacity to grasp even something that his classmates found damn easy.

His father was always worried about this. He tried all methods to make him study, but as I already said, studies simply eluded him. His father used to get very angry and shout at him. “Mandooka Mandooka”, he would yell at him.  “If you don’t study you will remain a like a Mandooka in the well” he would always say.

Mandooka means frog in Sanskrit and somehow the word has become synonymous with stupidity. Being like a Mandooka meant being like a frog in a well, not aware of anything happening in the outside world, and the stupid stare of Boppanna reminded his father of a frog’s eyes. So, Boppanna was more often called Mandooka, than by his own name.

Boppanna grew up and became a young man. He did odd jobs here and there as he did not get any good job for he did not possess good qualification. He could read and write though and that was all that he had acquired in all the years of his studies.

In due course of time, Boppanna’s parents got him married to a naïve girl from another village nearby. Now, that he was married, his income was not enough to support them.

One day, his wife had an idea. “Listen, my husband”, she said, “I hear that the King rewards people who write good poems. Why don’t you go and meet the King and write a poem for him? “

Boppanna was in a dilemma. He did not want to spoil his wife’s image of him, but he barely knew to write, leave alone write poems!!

Not able to refuse his wife’s idea, he set out with a palm leaf and quill to the palace. He had to pass a wooded area on the way and he wanted to rest for a while. As he sat down by the shade of a banyan tree, he saw a big boar near a tree on the other side of the pathway. The boar was rubbing its body against the rough bark of the tree to relieve itself of its itching. Boppanna was wondering what would happen if the tree got uprooted due to the force and fell on the boar.

He looked at the boar, and said pitifully, “Do not rub too much. Your life is in danger…”

Unable to think of anything else to write as sunset was fast approaching, he took out the palm leaf and scribbled the words he had told the boar, “Do not rub too much. Your life is in danger…”

Boppanna reached the city late in the night. Early in the morning, Boppanna went to the palace and met the security guard outside. “Here is an important document for the King. Please give it to him immediately” said he.

The guard immediately took the leaf and went into the chamber where the King was sleeping. The King was just then waking up. The King’s barber was already present in the chamber making preparations for the King to shave. The guard handed over the palm leaf to the King. “It seems this is an important document for Your Highness!!” he said and left.

The King read the message, “Do not rub too much. Your life is in danger” over and over again but could not make any sense out of it. Wondering what it meant, the King said aloud, “Do not rub too much. Your life is in danger”. The very next moment, the barber dropped his knife and the stone on which he was rubbing it and fell at the King’s feet.

“Forgive me Your Highness!” he cried, “I have been driven by greed and lust for money, as otherwise, I would have never dreamt of doing this heinous crime. Forgive me… please…” He was sobbing uncontrollably.

On enquiry, it came to be known that the barber had colluded with a minister to kill the King with the sharp knife used for shaving, that day. The palm leaf had saved the life of the King !!. The King got his security men to find out Boppanna and rewarded him with lot of gold and silver and gave him a house to live and made him his official astrologer !. The minister and barber were punished severely and banished from the kingdom.

Life was going on when one day, the diamond necklace of the queen got stolen. The queen was very upset since it was gifted by the King for their wedding and it was her favourite necklace. She could not rest in peace till it was found and she was looking so gloomy and sad all the time.

The King sent word for Boppanna. “Boppanna, please use your skills and find out who has stolen the necklace, for I cannot bear to see my dear queen grieving for her necklace.” Boppanna was at his wits end. How on earth was he going to find out who stole the necklace?

Anyway, he pretended to be calm and cool and told in a very calm voice, “Your Highness, please do not worry. I shall surely find the culprit but I need a secluded room and I will need a few days’ time too. There should be no guards or anyone in the room. I will have to do some meditation to pin point the culprit”

“Done!” said the King. He granted Boppanna a  room in a secluded part of the palace.

Boppanna went in and shut the door. He was lamenting at his fate. He decided that his wife was to blame for all that was happening. “Oh woman!” he cried out aloud, “See the fruit of your action. You will become a widow shortly. Already your husband has escaped once but now there is no chance to escape. I can see death coming. Alas!”

Suddenly he heard the door banging. Alarmed, he went to the door and opened it with great hesitation. The next moment, a lady barged in and fell at his feet and caught hold of his feet. She was a maid in the queen’s palace.

To a shocked Boppanna she said, “Sir, I heard that you had been asked to find out the thief and so I was following you and was hiding near the window. Sir, how did you know that it was me and my husband who have robbed the necklace and how on earth did you know that earlier we had robbed a gold ring which went unnoticed?”  She continued sobbing and said, “Sir, we will give the necklace and ring back, please tell the King to forgive us.” She was crying loudly.

Boppanna was amazed at the turn of events. He could not believe his luck.Here he was blaming his wife for his ill luck and the words had exactly matched the thief’s action!

Regaining his composure, he said, “Hush, hush woman.. Do not cry. I will try to speak to the King. He then went to the King and said, “I have found out the culprit, but I request you not to award them death sentence. You may punish them otherwise”.  The King agreed and the necklace and ring were returned and a heavy fine was imposed on the lady and her husband.

Boppanna was given a bigger bungalow and more gold coins and his fame spread far and wide.

One day, a messenger from the neighbouring Emperor’s Kingdom came to the palace. The King welcomed him with the usual protocol as his Kingdom was under the domain of the Emperor. On enquiry about his visit, the messenger said, “Our Highness, the Emperor has heard of your new astrologer and so has given me a task. I have brought this locked box with something inside. Will your astrologer be able to find out what is in it?”

“Why not?” said the King. “I will ask him to come to the court just now. He will surely predict precisely what is in this locked box!”

So, word was sent to Boppanna who was alarmed to the core. With his heart beating at top speed he came to the palace where in the Durbar there was a seat for him and on the opposite side the man with the locked box was sitting.

The King explained to Boppanna what was expected of him and Boppanna closed his eyes in fear. On the one side, he dreaded the punishment which he would receive if he did not predict correctly and on the other, he remembered images of his childhood and his father’s figure yelling “Mandooka” at him.

Repenting for not remaining in his village and for coming to the King in the first place at the insistence of his wife, Boppanna, in a quivering voice, hitting himself on his forehead said, “Oh! Mandooka… You should have remained in the well… Why at all did you come here? Ho…Ho…” He was crying aloud, when suddenly his opponent got up and hugged Boppanna with a great look of surprise. He immediately opened the box and PLOP! , there jumped out a frog. The box was containing a frog and the people thought Boppanna was crying at the fate of the frog and so there was rejoicing over his accurate ‘prediction’.

There was loud cheering from the crowds and Boppanna could not comprehend what was going on!!

“Boppanna, Boppanna… Long live Boppanna….” the crowds shouted. The King came up to the platform where the two were seated and handed Boppanna a big bag of coins.

Taking the coins Boppanna did the most sensible thing then. He bowed to the King and said, “Your Highness, when I was born, it was predicted that I would become a famous astrologer but would give only three correct predictions. Now that I have delivered all the three, kindly, allow me to proceed to my village where I will pursue the occupation of agriculture. I do not want to continue here as I will not be able to give correct predictions anymore!”

The King was shocked but nevertheless happy that Boppanna had told him the ‘truth’ and was not greedy to enjoy a royal life. So the King also let Boppanna go but not before he loaded his cart with gold coins and jewellery!!!

Boppanna thanked the Goddess of luck and returned home, a happy, rich and wiser man!!

He had realised that Providence may not keep smiling at him forever.

 

Birbal Cooks Khichdi!

Once Emperor Akbar had gone on a hunting expedition. It was the peak winter season and late in the evening, Akbar wanted to have a wash, after a tiring day. He went to the nearby river and when he tried to take the water, it was ice cold. Akbar was very surprised that the water should be so chill that he could not bear it even for the few seconds when he put his hand in. He made a casual remark, saying, “I bet nobody would have a dip in this cold water even if I give them one thousand gold coins!!” Birbal, who was present there immediately retorted, “No Jahanpanah, I can bring you a person who will even stay chest deep in this cold water through the night for getting thousand gold coins. Money is very powerful!” Akbar looked at him amused, and asked him to bring the person, the next day to court.

Birbal, obeyed the order and the very next day, brought a young , but poor man, to the court and the Emperor asked him whether he would stand in the river bare bodied in chest deep water through the night, if he was given a thousand gold coins. The man nodded his head vigorously and said that he will do it the same night. Akbar ordered the man to be taken to the river along with two bodyguards and told the guards to keep a watch over him while he stood through the night bare bodied in chest deep water. The man was taken accordingly and he stood in the river shivering through the night but did not give up. As the sun came up in the morning, the man went home.

Later, in the day, eager to claim his award, the man came to the court to meet the Emperor. “Hmmm…. So.. you stayed in the cold water throughout the night huh?” thundered Akbar. “Yes, Jahanpanah” replied the man meekly, “I stood throughout the night in the water.”

“Did you not feel cold at all?”

“I did… Jahanpanah.”

“How did you spend the night without sleeping?”

“Jahanpanah, there was a street light two hundred metres away and I kept staring at it to keep myself awake…”

“Well, you have earned your reward” said Akbar and called his minister to get the bag of gold coins as promised.

Just then, a voice was heard, “Salaam Jahanpanah! ” The voice belonged to one of the courtiers who was always jealous of people who got rewards from the king. “Excuse me” he continued. “Your Highness is an epitome of justice and your judgement is always impeccable, but now….”

Akbar looked at him questioningly. The man continued “ This man has already admitted that he was staring at the street light throughout the night and is it not possible that he grasped the warmth of the light ? Then how could he claim that he spent the entire night freezing in the cold water?”

Akbar considered this view point and shrugged his shoulders. “ It seems what my courtier says may be true. I don’t think I can give this reward to you.” The poor man face fell as he heard the words of the Emperor . He stood sadly for a moment and left the palace, without a word, his face really downcast. Birbal, was watching the entire proceedings and was shocked by this behaviour of Akbar and he also knew about the attitude of the courtier. He mentally made up his mind to see that justice was done to the poor man, but left the court silently.

A few days later, Birbal was absent in the court. He had assiduously sent word to the King that he would come to the court after he finished cooking Khichdi which he had started that morning. The next two days also, he was absent and word came that the “Khichdi was not cooked yet.” Akbar was curious and knew that this was not an ordinary matter.

So, the next day, accompanied by the courtiers, he paid a surprise visit to Birbal’s house. He was told that Birbal was cooking Khichdi in the garden behind the house. “Strange” thought Akbar as he walked to the garden. The sight he saw there was even more strange. Birbal has planted two long poles which were connected with a rope and in the middle of the rope hung a pot and Birbal was stirring its contents standing on a high stool, with a look of impatience on his face. There was a small oil lamp on the ground beneath the pot and the distance between the lamp and the pot was approximately two metres.

Akbar and his courtiers were genuinely amused, and Akbar asked “ Birbal, What is this I hear? I was told you were cooking Khichdi and…” Before the King could complete, pat came the reply, “Yes Jahanpanah, I am cooking Khichdi for the past four days and this stupid thing is not getting cooked yet!” Akbar asked, “But Birbal, how can the food get cooked at such a height with such a small flame?” “It is not that much of a distance Jahanpanah”, said Birbal, “When a man can get warmth from a lamp two hundred metres away, there should be no problem for the heat to reach this small pot from a small distance of two metres.”

Akbar immediately saw Birbal’s point and said “Well done Birbal, I see your logic and I shall summon the poor man today itself and give him the reward he earned.”

The poor man was very thankful to Birbal and once again, Birbal proved himself to be witty as well as just.

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