Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Akbar-Birbal: The Harbinger of Bad Luck

AH's latest post, reminded me of an Akbar Birbal story.

A poor worker who used to work in Emperor Akbar's palace had the misfortune to be considered unlucky. He was one-eyed and according to a superstition it was very bad luck to see his face first thing in the morning. The legend went that you would not get food all day if you saw his face in the morning.

One day, when the Emperor woke up early and strolled out to his palace balcony. This one-eyed servant, let's call him Sirju, was doing some chores there and the Emperor happened to look at him. That made Akbar groan with disgust as he knew that his day would be ruined now.

Later that day, while coming down the steps of his court, the Emperor suddenly slipped and sprained his ankle. More than the pain, the Emperor felt anger because he blamed the servant, (what did we name him?, yes, Sirju), for his injury.

From his sickbed, Akbar ordered that Sirju be arrested and beheaded at sundown. When some courtiers tried to protest, the Emperor shot them down. Nobody was willing to risk their own lives for the well-known harbinger of bad luck.

As usually happens in these stories, Birbal was the last resort of the poor and the downtrodden for justice. Sirju's wife went to Birbal, crying and begging for mercy for her husband. Birbal promised to try and help him.

A little while before the beheading was to be conducted, Birbal went to see the Emperor and asked if he thought his harsh decision regarding Sirju was just. Despite Birbal's well-reasoned argument in favour of forgiveness and mercy, the Emperor refused to budge from his position.

He said, "Birbal, We (this is the royal WE)  are doing a service to all the citizen's of Agra by eliminating this constant bad luck that plagues them every day. If you see his face in the morning, you have to go hungry for the day..nobody should have to live in such fear."

Birbal replied calmly, "I believe you are right, Your Majesy! But consider this, this morning you saw his face and you sprained your ankle. But the poor wretch happened to gaze upon the Majesty's glourious countenance...and he's losing his life! Who would you say is more unlucky for this fellow humans?"

[Daily soap music and 3-shot close-up zoom shots as Akbar's head jerks up and he stares at Birbal in disbelif!]

Then, of course, the Emperor freed the poor man, and gave him some gold coins so that he'd not file a defamation case against him. ;)

Moral of the story? Never go to see an Emperor before he has had his morning coffee.


Always Happy said...

Aha! Good one. I had not heard of this story before.

I like the modern twist to this age old story - daily soap music in the background, defamation case against Akbar..haha..

Moral of the story - LUCK IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT. While Sirju's ugly face was unlucky for Akbar, akbar's bright face could have been unlucky for Sirju.

Sunil Goswami said...

Thanks, AH. Glad you like it. It's kind of a shortcoming of mine - I can't be serious for any length of time. :)

This actually opened the door for me to post more Akbar-Birbal stories, so thanks to you for that post. :)

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