The Slow Cooking Khichri


Mind is an ass, and at times it needs whipping. What is true of an ordinary human being will hold good even to great men. Emperor Akbar was no exception to this rule. Birbal was there to lash the mind of his master whenever it went awry.

On a cold wintry evening, Akbar and Birbal were taking a walk along the lake. Birbal was thinking loudly:

"A man would do anything for money."

Akbar put his hand in the lake, and immediately, withdrew it, because the water was biting cold. Akbar thought aloud too:

"I don't think anyone would spend an entire night in the cold water of this lake either for money or for no money."

Birbal accepted this as a challenge that he would prove his words --"A man would do anything for money." So he set out to locate a person who would spend an entire night in the royal pond for a thousand gold coins. At last, he found a poor man who was desperate enough to accept the challenge.

The man entered the royal pond. Akbar had his guards posted there to make sure that the man really did as promised. The poor man was able to withstand the ordeal of spending an entire night in the cold water for money. Next morning he approached the emperor in royal court for his reward. But Akbar teased the poor man with a lot of verifications to ascertain weather he had really spent the entire night in the lake. He finally asked him how the man managed to spend the night in the lake. The poor man innocently replied, "There was a street lamp nearby, and I concentrated on the lamp. And so was I away from the cold."

By this reply he thought that the emperor would be all the more pleased.

But Akbar disappointed him, saying "No reward. You have taken the warmth from the street lamp". The poor man's confusion was confounded, and he left the court most frustrated.

Hearing this, Birbal wanted to do some thing to set right the wrong done to the poor man. That evening Birbal invited Akbar for a tasty Kichiri in his humble abode. Akbar, though an emperor, kindly and secular as he was, accepted Birbal's invitation thereby, Akbar and a few of him trusted confidants arrived at Birbal's house.

After a long bout of Shatranj (Chess), the emperor's party was ready for dinner. Now and then, Birbal went in to check if the Kichiri was ready in the Kitchen. But the Kichiri was not getting cooked at all.

Akbar and the crew, waiting for dinner, were infuriated. All went to see what was happening in the kitchen:

There they saw some burning twigs on the floor, and a bowl filled with Kichiri hanging five feet above the fire. Then emperor Akbar could not help but laugh:

"How can the Kichiri be cooked, if it is so far away from the fire?"

Birbal answered most thought fully.

"In the same way as the poor man received heat from a street lamp."

The king understood the meaning of Birbal's reply. Thereby, emperor Akbar called for the poor man to the court to award the promised reward.