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The Three Cases
by Minal Saran & G.F. Wear
A Birbal Story 

Suryasingh, the prince of Manipur, once came to the city of Delhi on business; but, as it was secret, he did not inform anyone before he left home, nor did be bring a single servant with him. This explains why an important man like the prince was traveling alone. On the way he saw a weak and tired-looking man sitting beside the road. He felt sorry, and said to the man: ‘Which way are you going?’ 

‘Good Sir’, was the reply, ‘I have to go to Delhi, and must be there before night, but I shall never reach the city, for I am tired.’

Suryasingh got off his horse, and told the man to get on it instead of him.

‘If you go slowly,’ he said, I shall be able to keep up with you. I like walking. I also am going to Delhi, but I do not know the road very well. You can show me.’

The man seemed to be waiting for this offer and he gladly got on the prince’s horse.

Suryasingh walked beside him. At the city gates, Suryasingh asked the man to get down.

The man looked surprised. ‘Why should I get off the horse?’ he said.

The prince explained politely, ‘Now that we have reached the city,’ he said, ‘we shall have to separate. I am staying here and do not want to be late.’

‘You may go where you like,’ was the reply. ‘I am not stopping you.’

‘But give me my horse first,’ said Suryasingh.

‘Your horse? Do you say it is yours?’

‘Of course, do you doubt it?’

‘You are taking advantage of a kind man,’ was the answer. ‘I showed you the way to the city. Now you say my horse is yours.’

‘Your horse?’

‘Yes, mine,’ said the man.

Before he could ride away, Suryasingh took the rein. ‘Let us go to the judge,’ he said.

The two came to Birbal, who was judging cases. They had to wait while these were finished. The first was a quarrel between a butcher and an oil-merchant.

Birbal asked the oil-merchant to give his story first.

‘Sir,’ he said, ‘ I was sitting in my little shop, counting money and writing the amounts in my book. This butcher came for some oil. I gave him what he asked for, took the money and started on my books again. Meanwhile this man took the bag of money beside me, and walked off with it. When I saw this, I stopped him and took back the bag. He wanted to fight, and said the bag was his.’

Birbal turned to the butcher. ‘What have you to say?’

‘Sir,’ answered the butcher, ‘This man is not telling the truth. I bought some oil from him, and paid him from this bag. Then he ran after me, saying the bag of money was his, and that I had stolen it. There were no people in the shop, or I could prove it.’

‘Leave the bag with me,’ said Birbal. ‘I shall give the answer tomorrow at this time.’

Birbal then called an old woman, who told him that she had left her box of precious stones with the judge in her village, while she was away a short time.

‘I trusted him,’ she said., ‘but when I came back, he said that he had never seen the box or the stones.’

Birbal thought for a moment or two. Then he said to the woman: ‘Go back to the judge, and ask him again for the box.’

lsquo;He will use the same harsh words as he used before,’ she said, not wishing to try again.

‘There is no harm in trying,’ said Birbal. ‘Come back at this time tomorrow, and tell me what has happened.’

When she had gone, Birbal asked Suryasingh politely what he could do for him. He heard the story of the horse from the prince and the traveler.

‘Leave the horse with me,’ he said. Tomorrow I will give it to its owner’.

After both men had left, Birbal told his servant to take the horse and to follow the two men at a distance, then to free the animal and see which one of the two it followed. Afterwards he was to bring it back and put it in the stable with others of the same color and size.

The next day, many people were present to hear Birbal, for they wanted to know what he would say in these cases.

Birbal gave holy books to the oil-merchant and the butcher; each said, holding the holy book, that he owned the money-bag. Birbal gave the bag to the butcher. ‘You spoke the truth,’ he said, and called guards to take away the oil-merchant. The latter fell on his knees and begged for mercy.

‘How can I show mercy to one who says what is not true, and says it by the holy book?’

After that, Birbal called the old woman. She said happily that the judge had given back her box of precious stones. Birbal was very angry with the judge.

‘You are there to give justice,’ he said, ‘not to rob poor people. You will lose your position.’

Then Suryasingh and the traveler were called, and taken to the stable. There were about a dozen horses there, mostly of the same color.

‘Your horse is here,’ said Birbal. ‘Take him.’

The traveler tried, but could not see which was the horse, but Suryasingh found him at once. The horse knew its master also.

‘This kind man,’ said Birbal to the traveler, ‘offered you a ride on his horse, and you tried to rob him. You shall have fifty strokes of the whip.’

Suryasingh took the horse and returned to the court. When everyone had gone, he said to Birbal: ‘Sir, I have to inform you who I am and where I come from.’

‘There is no need, Suryasingh,’ was the reply. ‘I did not ask for your name and address.’

‘You know me, then? I thought it was secret. I heard you were famous for judging, and I wanted to see you.’

‘I know you to be the prince of Manipur,’ said Birbal quietly. ‘We have a large country to rule and it is our business to know who is coming. The government have arranged for your stay here.’

Suryasingh thanked him. ‘There is one more thing,’ he said. ‘I heard your judgments, but I should like to know how you decided in these three cases’.

‘Willingly,’ replied Birbal. ‘In the first case, that of the butcher and the oil-merchant, you may remember that I took the money-bag. I did not leave it here but took it home. When I had emptied it, I washed it. When it was dry, I put the money back inside. But I examined the water carefully, and found it was slightly red; it smelled of blood also. I knew then that it belonged to the butcher.

‘In the case of the old woman and the judge, I felt from her words and the way she behaved that she was telling the truth. To make sure, I had a message sent to the judge that he was to take the place of the chief judge here while he was on a holiday. The message came to him before the old woman did. The judge was afraid that he might lose the position if she made trouble for him just then, so he gave her the box back.

‘As for your case, I knew who you were, and could not think that a man in your position would say what was not true for the sake of a horse. But my feeling was not enough; justice must be clear to all. My servant followed you both with the horse, and set it free; it went after you not the traveler. He could not find it in the stable, but you had no difficulty.’

The prince went away surprised by Birbal’s wisdom.

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 

27-Oct-2007
 
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