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The Ten Foolish Men
by Minal Saran & G.F. Wear
A Birbal Story

One day Akbar and Birbal were talking together.

' I was thinking,' said the king, 'that I have met many wise and clever men, but very few foolish ones. One can judge if a man is wise by his words and acts, but how can one judge a foolish one?'

' There is no difference, Sire,' answered Birbal. ' A foolish man is also judged by his words and acts.'

'Perhaps you are right, Birbal. Can you find the ten most foolish men in the city, and bring them to me?'

So Birbal went out into the city. He had met all kinds of men, rich and poor, strong and weak, but he could not think of any who were really foolish.

One day he saw a man riding a horse and holding some hay on his own head.

'Why do you carry the hay on your head?' he asked.

'I need my hands to guide the horse,' was the man's reply. 'I can't put the hay on the horse; he is so weak he would fall down and die if I did.'

Birbal took the man's name and address.

A little farther on he heard a man calling 'Help!' He went nearer and saw a man lying in the mud. The man was flat on his back, his hands held above his head. Between his hands was a space of about three feet. Seeing that the man could easily get up if he wanted,  Birbal did not help him.

'Why don't you get up?' asked Birbal.

'I can't,' was the reply.

'Well, take my hand, and I will pull you up.'

'No, I can't. Don't touch my hands. Pull me up by the hair.'

'Are your hands diseased, then?'

'No, there is nothing the matter with them. Pull me up by the hair, and I will explain.'

So Birbal pulled the man up by his hair. He still held his hands above his head with a space of about three feet between them. Seeing the strange way the man behaved, Birbal asked him again what the matter was.

'This is the story,' replied the man. 'I wanted a box made to fit a space in my house. The box-maker asked me how big the space was, so I went home to see; it was as broad as this.' The man looked at his hands. 'then, as I was coming back I slipped on the mud, and I could not use my hands to save myself, for I should have lost the measurement.'

Birbal took the man's name and address and left him.

Next morning Birbal was out for a walk, when a man ran against him and both fell over.

'Can't you look where you are going?' asked Birbal angrily. 'What's the hurry?'

'I beg your pardon,' said the man. 'It was my mistake. I was saying my prayers in the mosque down the road, and I wanted to see how far my voice had reached. I was running after it, and would have caught it if you had not got in my way.'

Once more, Birbal took the man's name and address.

Not far along the road, he found two men quarreling loudly. They were beginning to fight, when Birbal stepped between them to separate them. He asked why they were quarreling.

'What has my buffalo done that he wishes to set his tiger loose on her?' asked one man. 'I see no buffalo nor tiger,' said Birbal. 'Explain.'

'We were walking along,' said the first man, 'when this man asked me what I would choose if God appeared and gave us a wish. I said I would wish for a buffalo, as was always having trouble about milk. Then I asked him what he would wish for, and what you think he  said? "I would wish for a tiger to eat up your buffalo," he said.'

'And so I would,' said the second man, and the two nearly started fighting. As Birbal was stopping them, a man carrying a jar of ghee came up.

'You are a fool to talk to these two fools,' he said, and dropped his jar of ghee on the ground. The jar broke, and the ghee ran out.

'May my bones break like this jar,' he said, 'and my blood run like the ghee, if they are not fools.'

Birbal took the names and addresses of all three men.

It was some days later before he found the next foolish man. Birbal was coming back to the palace in the dark. He saw a man searching for something under a street lamp, and stopped to help him.

'What have you lost?' asked Birbal.

'A ring from my finger.'

As they could find nothing, Birbal naturally asked: 'Are you sure you dropped it here?'

'No,' was the answer. 'I dropped it over there, but it's dark there and light here. I am searching where I can see.' Birbal thought the man was a fool and took his name and address.

The next affair also concerned a ring. Birbal found a man looking for one in a heap of sand beside the road. Not wishing to waste his time as before, he asked the man if he knew that the ring was in the sand.

'Yes,' was the answer. 'I made a hole and put it in myself to keep it safe.'

'Didn't you mark the exact place?' asked Birbal.

'Yes. Do you think I would bury a ring of great value without a sign? Right above the place where I buried the ring was a cloud shaped exactly like a camel. Now the cloud has gone, and my ring seems to have gone also.'

Birbal took the man's name and address, and went to the palace. He asked Akbar to send for the eight men whose names and addresses he had. They all came and Birbal told the stories of them all.

'But there are only eight men here,' said the king. 'I told you to bring ten.'

'All ten are here, Sire. Eight I brought you; the ninth is myself. I wasted eight good days in getting these eight fools, so I am a fool also.'

'But the tenth?' asked Akbar.

'You, Sire, for instead of looking after the government of the country, you ordered me to find ten fools.'

'You mean both of us are fools?'

'Yes, Sire. You for giving such an order, and I for carrying it out.'    

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  
Bull's Milk
Gulbo The Tailor 
Pandit Ji 
The Ghee Merchants and the Gold Mohur 
The Old Woman's Money-Bag  
The Ten Foolish Men 
The Three Cases 

7-Oct-2007
 
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