A Birbal Story
One day Akbar and Birbal were talking after a meal. Birbal said that some workmen were so clever that no matter how closely they were watched, they were always able to steal some material from the man who employed them. Akbar did not agree, for he thought that a watchman could be set to prevent any stealing. Birbal said that tailors always took a piece of cloth, if some material was given to them to make clothes; but Akbar said that no tailor could take anything if he were given the right amount of material. Akbar decided to try for himself. He had, he said, some very special cloth. There was just enough to make a blouse for the queen It was a lovely piece of material and there was nothing else like it in the city. Birbal knew a tailor who could make the blouse. He was called Gulbo.
Next day Gulbo was sent for, and came to the palace. His wife and son lived with him nearby. Birbal arranged for the blouse to be made, and told Gulbo that he would be watched so that no material might be stolen. Gulbo saw the cloth and was given a blouse to copy; and he agreed to make a blouse for the queen. Akbar took him to a closed room in the palace, set three courtiers to watch, and waited. Even the tailor's meals were brought to him.
For four days Gulbo worked, cutting and sewing. On the fifth day Gulbo's son, Nathia, came to the window of the room where his father was working.
'You are a good father!' the boy shouted. 'For four days you haven't been home. Mother is very angry.'
'That is no reason to shout so,' answered Gulbo. 'Remember this is the king's palace, not our street at home.'
'Perhaps so,' was the shouted reply, 'but when are you coming home?'
'When the queen's blouse is finished – tonight , I expect.'
'What kind of tailor are you? A blouse is a matter of two hours or so, and you have already taken four days over it.'
'What do you know about it, you fool?' shouted Gulbo angrily. 'This is not your mother's blouse; it is for the queen.' Nathia only laughed.
'Your hands have become slow in making blouses for my mother.'
The courtiers watching Gulbo laughed. They regarded this family quarrel as good fun.
'You little fool,' shouted Gulbo, 'you son of a donkey, do you want a beating?'
'Wait till you come home,' was the answer. 'We shall see who gets a beating; you called my mother a donkey.'
'Go away!' called Gulbo. Then he took his shoe and threw it out of the window at Nathia, who only laughed. The boy took the shoe and ran off shouting, 'Now we will see who gets a beating with this shoe.'
That evening the blouse was finished, and Akbar gave it to the queen, telling her that there was no other like it in the city. Gulbo was paid and allowed to go.
A few days later the queen was out driving in the city. To her surprise she saw at a window on one of the houses a woman wearing a blouse of the same kind as hers. She was angry, as any woman would be, and immediately went back to the palace. At first she would not tell Akbar why she was angry, but at last she explained.
'You told me that no other blouse in the city was like mine,' she said. 'Now I have seen one- I expect there are plenty like this in the city.'
Akbar was surprised, for he had gone to great trouble and expense to get the material. He sent a servant to find out who had been wearing the blouse. After a short time the man returned, saying that Gulbo the tailor lived in the house, and that it was his wife who had a blouse like the queen's.
Akbar sent for Gulbo. 'I trusted you,' he said, 'with this expensive material, and you secretly stole some of it.'
'No, sire. I didn't steal any. How could I, when your courtiers were in the room to watch me?'
'How do you explain, then, that your wife is wearing a blouse of the same material as the queen's?'
Gulbo told Akbar how his son Nathia had come to the window of the palace, and of the quarrel.
'Sire,' he finished, 'it was only when I went home and saw my wife wearing the blouse of that material that I remembered that I had put into my shoe some pieces of the cloth which I had cut. Nathia took the shoe home. When I saw my wife wearing that blouse, I told her togive it up, but she refused. You, Sire, know what women are.'
Akbar sent for Gulbo's wife, and asked her if this story was true.
'Ah, Sire, my husband may be mad, but I am not. How could I give to the queen something that had been in his old shoe? How could I let her have something I had worn myself? Finding the pieces of material in his shoe, I thought they were for me, so I mad a blouse. I was trying to explain all this to my fool of a husband when your guards came for him.'
Akbar was surprised that a simple woman could make such a clever reply. Then he remembered that Birbal had come from a village many miles away.
'Where did you come from, Gulbo?'
It was the same village where Birbal had lived.
A Birbal Story by Minal Saran and G.F. Wear
Birbal Brings a Princess from Heaven
Birbal Cooks Khichadi
Birbal Enters Akbar's Court
Birbal Makes a Journey to Heaven
Gulbo The Tailor
The Ghee Merchants and the Gold Mohur
The Old Woman's Money-Bag
The Ten Foolish Men
The Three Cases