One winter, the cold was very severe in emperor Akbar’s kingdom. As Akbar and Birbal were passing a pond, they noticed that it had frozen. Akbar asked Birbal – “Tell me Birbal, can anyone stand in that pond for more than a few minutes?”
Birbal replied, ” Jahapanah, man can do anything for money.” Akbar asked Birbal to prove it.
The next day, Birbal announced in the kingdom that, whoever can stand in that pond for a night, will be rewarded handsomely by the King.
One old man appeared in the court the very next day. He was penniless and had a large family to feed. The old man asked Akbar’s permission to spend the night standing inside the pond so that he can be rewarded by the emperor. Akbar agreed.
All arrangements were made. In the evening, the man went and stood inside the pond in neck-deep water. A guard was kept on the watch to ensure that the old man does not cheat.
The next morning, the guard brought the old man to the court. The man was shivering having spent the entire night in ice-cold water. Akbar asked, “Oh old man, how could you achieve such a brave thing?”
The man replied, “Hujoor, it was very tough initially and I thought of giving up. But then I saw a lamp glowing far. I kept on thinking about the warmth from the light. It helped me cross the night.”
To this Akbar replied, ” You cheat! you used the warmth of the lamp to stay in the water. You will not get any penny from me.” He asked the guard to take the old man away.
Birbal observed all this, without saying anything.
After a few days, Birbal invited Emperor Akbar to his house for a feast. Akbar accepted the invite. On the day of the feast, Akbar arrived at Birbal’s house at noon. Birbal took the king inside and offered him a nicely decored place to sit.
However, lunchtime was crossing, but still, no food came for Akbar. Akbar grew hungry and asked Birbal, “Birbal, is your lunch ready?”
Birbal replied, “Jahapnah, the Khichdi is cooking. Once it is done, I will serve you.”
One hour passed post that, Akbar grew very hungry. On enquiring, Birbal again provided the same answer.
Now, Akbar got up from his seat and went inside to enquire about the cooking. He saw Birbal, standing inside the garden beside a fire, but there was no vessel on the fire.
Seeing this, Akbar grew impatient. He scolded Birbal, “Birbal, if the Khichdi was done, why did not you serve yet?”
Birbal replied, “Hujoor, it is still cooking.” And pointed to the top of a coconut tree nearby.
Following the direction, Akbar saw one vessel tied to the top of the coconut tree.
Akbar erupted in anger, ” You fool! Is this a joke? The vessel is so far from the fire. The heat will never reach the vessel. And the Khichdi will never get cooked.”
Birbal replied humbly, “Jahapanah, if the poor man can get the heat from a far lamp, why can not the vessel get heat from this fire.”
Akbar became silent. He realized his mistake and understood that Birbal just wanted him to see the error in his judgment. Akbar accepted his mistake and told Birbal to find the man so that he can be rewarded justly.
Birbal smiled and bowed in front of the emperor. And presented Akbar with delicious lunch which was already prepared and kept.