Birbal And The Barber

Emperor Akbar had many ministers; among them, Birbal was his favourite. His jokes and his ability to escape difficult situations immensely pleased the Emperor. The other ministers were jealous of Birbal because he was always in the company of the Emperor and was highly esteemed by him. But the person who hated Birbal most was the Emperor’s barber.

This barber had also served under Akbar’s father and grandfather, and when he cut the Imperial beard, he talked of things nobody else knew about, not even the Emperor’s spies. Because of this, he was another favourite of the Emperor. However, the Emperor liked Birbal more than him, making the barber jealous.

One day when the barber cut the Emperor’s hair, he found him in a perfect mood. He took this opportunity to do Birbal an ill turn; He talked about the great fame of the Emperor’s victories and the width and wealth of his Kingdom.

“Your Majesty,” said the barber, if your forefathers in heaven knew of your greatness on earth, how pleased they would be.”

“Yes, but how can this be made possible?” asked the Emperor.

“All we need is to send a messenger,” replied the barber “, who should also be able to return to earth to tell us how pleased your forefathers are with your greatness.”

“It is a difficult task, my man,” replied the Emperor. To go to heaven, one must die; to return to earth, one must come back alive.”

“Your Majesty,” replied the barber, “this is not a difficult job for that Hindu fog Birbal.”

Akbar smiled secretly at the barber’s malice. He knew Birbal could get out of any situation with the utmost care and that he would not let him, a mere barber beat himself.

Birbal was immediately sent for and told of his mission to heaven. He knew at once who the mischief maker was. Bowing low before the Emperor, he said, “Your Majesty, what a delight it will be for me to see your grandfather and your father and to tell them of your greatness.”

“As you know, Your Majesty, going to heaven is not easy and getting hacked is worse,” continued Birbal. “Being a Hindu, I have to be burnt to death: to go to heaven and to return to earth, I have to cheat Yama’, our God of Death.” But nothing is impossible in your service, your Majesty.”

“That is the spirit Birbal,” said the Emperor pleased with his minister’s reply. “Then, will you be able to start on your mission tomorrow?”

“No, your Majesty”, answered Birbal; I need a month to plan my departure and a lakh of your silver rupees.

“We can wait for a month, but why a lakh of silver rupees?” asked the Emperor.

“My old mother will not agree so easily to my being burned alive said Birbal, “But it will be quite another matter if you give her a lakh of rupees.”

“It shall be done,” said the Emperor.

“May I be permitted to choose where I am to be burned?” asked Birbal.

“Agreed again,” said Akbar. The following month was a busy one for Birbal. He chose a spot that was in the depth of the forest. An underground passage was dug from that place leading to an opening two miles away, over which a hut was built,

Everyone in the Kingdom came from near and far. To see Birbal go to heaven. The Emperor, seated on a dais, watched the proceedings in all his pomp and glory,

A pyre of dry wood hid the mouth of the underground passage. Birbal climbed onto the pyre and asked his servants to cover him with logs of wood entirely and to set it alight only af half an hour.

During that interval, under cover of the piled-up wood, Birbal removed the logs covering the underground entrance, slipped into the passage and crept as fast as he could to the other end where the exit was.

Half an hour later, the servants poured barrels of oil onto the pyre and set it alight. The flames soon consumed the whole pile of wood, and the opening of the passage was choked with ashes.

The barber and all the ministers were very happy to see the end of Birbal.

A year rolled by even Birbal’s mother had forgotten. Him. Then a man with a long beard and sparkling eyes appeared in the Emperor’s court. At first, Akbar could not recognize Birbal, but the Emperor was overjoyed when he revealed his identity.

Kneeling before the Emperor, Birbal gave an account of his trip to heaven. He said, “Your forefathers are very proud of you. But they are all in great discomfort because they have not had a haircut for years and years. Their beards sweep the floor and get in their way when they walk. So, they want you to send a barber to heaven. Your father, in particular, mentioned Mubarak, your barber.”

Now it was the turn of Mubarak the barber to make his trip to heaven, and he was buried in the graveyard of the Imperial barbers with Royal honour,

A year passed, and many more, but he did not return to earth.

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