Reading D: Tales from India (100 Words)

You will find the texts of the stories below the audio, and the titles are linked to individual blog posts where you can learn more about sources, see notes, etc.
You can also find storytelling ideas here: Teaching Guide, see #150-157.


~ 151. The Couple who Cooperated ~
In a village there lived a woman who could not walk because she had lost the use of her legs. In that same village, there lived a man who could not see because he had lost the use of his eyes.
Floodwaters came, and all the villagers ran, abandoning these two to their fate in the rushing waters.
"Help me!" shouted the lame woman, and the blind man lifted her up on his shoulders.
"Help me!" shouted the blind man, and the lame woman told him which way to go.
Thus they escaped the floodwaters, working for each other's safety.

~ 152. The Blind Men and the Elephant ~
A guide was leading four blind men through a jungle when they came upon an elephant.
One man felt the leg. "There's a pillar here!"
A second touched the trunk. "No, it's a mighty warrior's club!"
The third held the elephant's ear. "You're both wrong. This is a winnowing basket!"
The fourth rubbed the elephant's belly, laughing. "You fools! It's a big jar."
Then the guide explained to them, "This is an elephant: not a pillar or a club or a basket or a jar. You must explore all the parts, and then use your imagination to know the elephant."

~ 153. The Brahmin's Goat ~
A brahmin was carrying a goat to the temple.
Three bandits were hidden along his path; they wanted that goat.
"Why are you carrying a dog?" the first bandit shouted.
"No!" the brahmin retorted. "It's a goat." He kept on walking.
"Why are you carrying a calf?" the second bandit shouted.
"No!" the brahmin insisted. "It's a goat." He kept on walking.
"Why are you carrying a donkey?" the third bandit shouted.
The brahmin was now terrified. "It must be a shape-shifting demon!" he thought, dropping the goat and fleeing as fast as he could.
The bandits got the goat.

~ 154. The Farmer and the Merchant ~
A farmer left his plowshare with a merchant friend while he traveled.
"I'll keep it safe for you," the merchant promised.
When the farmer returned, the merchant explained that the farmer's plowshare had disappeared. “The mice must have eaten it," he said.
“Mice can’t eat iron!” retorted the farmer, but the merchant swore it was true.
The farmer then kidnapped the merchant’s son.
“Where’s my son?” the merchant asked.
“An eagle carried him off.”
“An eagle couldn’t do that!”
“No more than mice can eat iron.”
Thus the merchant returned the farmer’s plowshare, and the farmer returned the merchant's son.

~ 155. The Monk and the King ~
A monk came to the king. "I journey to heaven each night!" he boasted. Intrigued, the king invited the monk to stay in the royal guesthouse.
The next morning, the monk proclaimed, "I bring you greetings from the gods in heaven!"
The king's minister was not impressed, so that night he had wood heaped around the guesthouse.
"What are you doing?" asked the king.
"The monk's earthly body will burn," the minister said. "Then we'll see his heavenly body."
The guesthouse burned down, and no one saw the monk again.
"No doubt he stayed in heaven," thought the foolish king.

~ 156. The Potter and the King ~
A clumsy potter fell on some pots and cut his head, leaving a deep scar across his forehead.
When the king called for volunteer soldiers, the potter decided he'd prefer to be a soldier than a potter.
Seeing the scar, the king thought he must be a valiant warrior and made him a lieutenant.
Later, however, the army's general asked the potter how he got that scar.
"I fell down and cut my head," said the potter honestly.
The general laughed. "You better go home now," he said, "before you get hurt even more badly pretending to be a soldier."

~ 157. The Carpenter and his Son ~
There was once a foolish man, and he had a foolish son. The foolish man was a carpenter, and his son worked as his assistant.
One day the carpenter was working in his workshop when a mosquito landed on his head.
“Get rid of that mosquito for me, son,” he said.
The son picked up an ax and he hit the mosquito.
"I got him!" shouted the son.
Alas, the blow of the ax also cut his father’s head in two.
What is the moral of the carpenter's story?
The Buddha says: A foolish friend is worse than an enemy.

~ 158. The Man in the Tree ~
A foolish man was stuck in a tree.
An elephant-driver riding an elephant came by. "I'll help you!" he said.
But when the elephant-driver reached up with his elephant-hook to grab the man in the tree, the elephant bolted.
Now the elephant-driver was dangling from the man in the tree.
"Let's sing loudly!" said the foolish man. "Someone will hear and come help."
The elephant-driver began to sing.
"Bravo! You're a good singer!" said the foolish man, and when he applauded, they both fell out of the tree and were killed.
If you want to help a fool, be careful.

~ 159. The Merchant and his Servant ~
A silk-merchant was traveling to the market.
Along the way, the merchant's camel collapsed.
"I'll go buy a new camel," he told his servant. "You stay here, and make sure not to let my leather trunks get wet in the rain."
The merchant left.
Later, it rained.
The servant was desperate. "How will I keep the rain off the trunks?" he wondered.
Then he had an idea!
He took the bolts of silk out of the trunks and wrapped the silk around the trunks.
When the merchant returned, he was furious: the trunks were safe but the silk was ruined.

~ 160. The Two Brothers ~
There were once two foolish brothers.
Their father died, and his will said:
Divide everything equally.
First, they divided the farm. "You take the west half; I'll take the east," said the one brother.
Then the house. "You take the top half; I'll take the bottom," said the other.
Then they cut each piece of furniture in the house in half.
Then they began cutting the livestock in half: chickens, goats, cows, everything.
Finally, they cut the servants in half.
The police then came and arrested the two brothers.
They were hanged for murder, and they divided the gibbet equally.

~ 161. The Five Loaves of Bread ~
There was a very hungry man who bought five loaves of bread at the bakery.
First, he ate one loaf, but he was still hungry.
"That loaf didn't work," he thought. "Maybe the next one will!"
So he ate the second loaf, but he was still hungry.
Then he ate the third, and then the fourth.
None of them worked!
Finally, he ate the fifth loaf.
"Ah," he sighed, "at last my hunger is satisfied. I just wish I had known it was this particular loaf that I needed. I could have eaten this one first and saved the rest."

~ 162. The Man and his Neighbor ~
A man came knocking on his neighbor's door in the middle of the night.
"Help me, neighbor!" he shouted.
"What is it?" said his neighbor sleepily as he opened the door. "What's wrong?"
"I wanted to smoke my pipe," said the man, "so I came here to ask you for a light."
"You aren't even paying attention!" groaned the neighbor. "You have woken me up to give you a light, but you have a lighted lantern right there in your hand."
The moral: The solution to a problem might be in your own hands, but you fail to see it.

~ 163. The Judge and his Son ~
A farmer's wife was sleeping with the judge and with the judge's son.
One day, the son was there when his father arrived.
"Hide in the closet!" she said.
The judge came in.
Then she saw her husband coming too.
"Leave now, and look angry!" she told the judge.
"Why was the judge so angry?" her husband asked.
"He's angry at his son! I don't know why," she said. "The son needed to hide, so I put him in the closet. Come out now, boy! Your father's gone."
The judge's son thanked them both.
"You're welcome!" said the gullible husband.

~ 164. The Wife who Died ~
An unfaithful wife plotted with her maid.
"Tell my husband I'm dead!" she said.
The maid took the grieving husband to the burning-grounds and showed him someone else's remains.
Tearfully, he accepted the ashes and bones.
Then, he prepared his wife's funeral. The maid recommended the wife's lover as a worthy brahmin the husband could employ.
As the pretend-brahmin was conducting the ritual, the wife appeared and joined in the feast.
"How can this be?" exclaimed the husband, amazed that she could attend her own funeral.
"Your wife's great chastity," explained the maid, "allows her to enjoy the funeral feast."

~ 165. The Carpenter under the Bed ~
The carpenter suspected his wife was unfaithful, so he hid under the bed and waited.
The wife thought he was gone and invited her lover to come.
Then his wife heard him under the bed, so she screamed, "Hands off, villain!"
Her lover was confused.
"A goddess predicted my husband would die unless I brought a stranger into my bed," she said. "You're in; now get out!"
"Such devotion!" yelled the carpenter joyfully. "Thank you both!"
He then stood up under the bed, lifting the bed on his back, and carried the lovers on the bed all around the village.

~ 166. Tenalirama and Kali ~
Young Tenalirama prayed to Kali.
The goddess appeared to him, holding two bowls. "Choose!" she commanded. "The milk of learning or the curds of wealth."
"I'm not sure..." he replied.
The boy then snatched the two bowls and swallowed both milk and curds.
"O Kali Ma," he quickly explained, "there was no choosing; one without the other would be useless."
Kali frowned and then laughed. "You will pay a price for this disobedience! Though learned and prosperous, you will be laughed at: you'll be Tenalirama the jester."
Tenalirama bowed in reverence and gratitude.
When he looked up, she was gone.

~ 167. Tenalirama and the King ~
King Krishnadevaraya invited everyone in the city to a royal feast.
Young Tenalirama pushed his way to the front of the crowd to listen to the king's guru.
"What you see is only what you think you see," intoned the guru. "All differences are Maya, thought-illusion. Seeing, hearing, tasting: it is all in your mind."
Tenalirama laughed loudly.
"Why are you laughing, boy?" asked the king.
"I was just thinking that I'll gladly eat the guru's portion at the feast," Tenalirama replied. "I'll taste the food while he thinks about it."
The king laughed and made Tenalirama his royal jester.

~ 168. Tenalirama and the Gold Coins ~
Tenalirama was still new to the court, and he was surprised when King Krishnadevaraya unexpectedly gave him a gift of gold coins. Where to put the coins? He tried stuffing them into his pockets, but the fabric ripped and the coins spilled onto the floor.
As Tenalirama rushed to pick them up, the king's other courtiers all laughed.
"Don't be so miserly!" said the king. "That's undignified for a courtier."
"O Your Majesty, your likeness is on every coin, and you should not be lying on the dusty floor or trampled underfoot," Tenalirama explained. "That's undignified for a king."

~ 169. Tenalirama and the Peaches ~
The Emperor of China sent a gift of fruits no one had seen before: peaches. With the box was a note, which King Krishnadevaraya read aloud: "This food brings long life and happiness to whoever eats it."
Intrigued, Tenalirama reached out, took a peach and bit into it. "Delicious!" he said.
The king was outraged. "How dare you grab a peach without permission! To the dungeons! Off with his head!"
Tenalirama then shook the peach angrily. "It's a trap!" he shouted. "The peach doesn't grant long life; it has killed me!"
The king laughed, and then he shared the peaches.

~ 170. Tenalirama and the Twenty Lashes ~
King Krishnadevaraya was furious at Tenalirama. "Stay away! If I see you again, you'll get twenty lashes."
Tenalirama returned the next day.
"You're not allowed in!" said the outer guard.
"But the king promised me a present," said Tenalirama. "I'll give you half!"
Tenalirama then made the same deal with the inner guard.
When Tenalirama entered the court, the king yelled, "I warned you: twenty lashes!"
"Wait," said Tenalirama, and he summoned the guards.
"Ten lashes for him," said the jester, "and ten for him."
The king had to laugh at Tenalirama's ingenuity, and he even spared the greedy guards.

~ 171. Tenalirama and the Washerman ~
Enraged by Tenalirama's pranks, King Krishnadevaraya shouted, "Bury him up to his neck! Let an elephant trample his head!"
So the guards buried Tenalirama and went to fetch an elephant.
A washerman walked by, carrying a heavy laundry-basket. "Oh, my arthritis!" the washerman groaned.
"This cure works!' shouted Tenalirama. "I buried myself, and my arthritis is cured. Try it! I'll bury you, and I'll deliver the laundry!"
The washerman agreed.
Tenalirama buried him and ran off.
Then the washerman saw the elephant coming.
"HELP!" he yelled.
The guards stopped the elephant just in time.
Tenalirama had outwitted everyone once again.

~ 172. Tenalirama and the Executioner ~
Tenalirama's latest prank infuriated King Krishnadevaraya.
"Take him away!" he said to the executioner. "Cut off his head with one slice of your sword!"
The executioner grabbed Tenalirama.
"Let me pray in the holy river first," the jester begged.
They waded into the river. Tenalirama prayed quietly and then yelled, "CUT!" The executioner swung his sword, but Tenalirama had plunged into the water. The sword whooshed through the air.
The executioner chased Tenalirama onto the bank and prepared to swing again.
"Stop!" Tenalirama yelled. "The king said 'one slice of your sword' — one only!"
So Tenalirama escaped punishment again.

~ 173. Tenalirama and his Brother-in-Law ~
Tenalirama's greedy brother-in-law raided the royal orchard, so King Krishnadevaraya ordered him to be executed.
Tenalirama's sister begged Tenalirama to help them, and he agreed to intercede with the king.
As soon as the king saw Tenalirama he shouted, "I know why you're here: it's to save that wretched brother-in-law of yours! Well, I absolutely refuse to do whatever you ask on his behalf. I won't do it!"
Tenalirama smiled. "I was coming here to ask you to execute him, rascal that he is. But I understand: you will not execute him."
The king laughed.
Tenalirama had done it again!

~ 174. Tenalirama and the Queen ~
King Krishnadevaraya recited his poem for the queen, and she yawned.
"I'll never forgive you!" the king shouted.
The queen asked Tenalirama for help.
The next day, the king and his court discussed the drought afflicting the kingdom.
"I have a solution!" shouted Tenalirama, holding up a sack of seeds. "This wheat grows without any rain at all."
"Wonderful!" shouted the king happily.
"The only condition," Tenalirama said, "is that whoever plants the seed must have never yawned in his life. Not once. Ever."
The king was bewildered, but then he understood. "I will forgive the queen," he said, smiling.

~ 175. Tenalirama's Finger ~
King Krishnadevaraya was extremely fastidious.
"I see dirt under that fingernail," he shouted at Tenalirama. "Cut that finger off!"
"I'll clean it carefully," replied Tenalirama.
"No! Cut it off!"
Tenalirama disappeared for a few days. He made a pit filled with mud and covered with turf ... exactly where the king liked to walk.
When the king fell into the mud up to his neck, Tenalirama appeared with a sword. "I'll cut right at the neck!" he shouted.
The king understood and laughed.
"Just get me out of here!" he said. "And you can forget what I said about the finger."

~ 176. Tenalirama's Face ~
Tenalirama had done it again: King Krishnadevaraya was furious at his latest prank.
"Get out of here!" the king shouted at him. "And never show your face in court again!"
The next day, the king was shocked when the herald announced Tenalirama was coming. When the jester entered, the king saw he had a huge iron soup pot on his head.
"Greetings, Your Highness!" Tenalirama shouted, his words echoing weirdly inside the pot.
"But I told you..."
"You told me never to show my face in court again," said Tenalirama.
The king laughed and forgave Tenalirama, as he always did.

~ 177. Tenalirama and the Chessboard ~
Tenalirama's latest poem delighted King Krishnadevaraya.
"Name your reward!" the king proclaimed.
Tenalirama pointed to the king's chessboard. "Just put one sesame seed here," he said, "and then two seeds on this square; four seeds here; then eight, and so on. That will satisfy me!'
The king laughed. "That's too small a reward for such a great poem!"
"Not at all!" Tenalirama replied, smiling.
The king quickly discovered that Tenalirama was correct: it would bankrupt the whole treasury to cover the chessboard with sesame seeds that way. The whole world did not contain enough sesame!
Again, Tenalirama had delighted the king.

~ 178. Tenalirama and the Painter ~
"This is the best portrait I've ever seen!" King Krishnadevaraya said to the royal painter. "I must reward you. I'll make you prime minister."
The result was a complete disaster. The royal painter knew nothing of statecraft.
"Help me, Tenalirama!" he said.
Tenalirama organized a feast. The king started to eat, but spat the food out. "This is disgusting!" he shouted. "Summon the cook!"
The cook came in.
"But you're the royal carpenter!" said the king.
Tenalirama laughed. "And making a carpenter cook is about as bad as making a painter prime minister!"
The king laughed.
Tenalirama was right, again.

~ 179. Tenalirama and the Chinese Vases ~
The Chinese ambassador sent King Krishnadevaraya four beautiful vases.
"Death to anyone who breaks a vase!' proclaimed the king.
A servant accidentally broke a vase and was sentenced to death.
Tenalirama visited him in prison.
At the execution, the servant begged, "Please, Your Highness, let me see the three remaining vases."
The king agreed.
When he saw the vases, the servant burst free and smashed them all.
"They would get broken eventually," he said. "I didn't want anyone else to have to die for it."
The king understood: people matter more than vases.
"Free the prisoner!" he said.
Tenalirama smiled.

~ 180. Tenalirama and the King's Bad Luck ~
King Krishnadevaraya had a servant nicknamed "Bad-Luck."
The first person who saw Bad-Luck's face first each day had bad luck all day long.
One early morning the king visited the kitchen; there he saw Bad-Luck, and then he had a terrible day: bad news, bad headache, everything bad.
"I'm going to execute that servant!" the king shouted.
As Tenalirama led Bad-Luck to the gallows, he said, "O King, consider this: you saw Bad-Luck's face first today, and he saw yours first. Now he's facing death. Whose face is more unlucky?"
The king laughed. "Release the prisoner!"
Tenalirama had triumphed again.

~ 181. Tenalirama and the Magician ~
A magician arrived, boasting of powers greater than any member of King Krishnadevaraya's court.
"You must defeat him, Tenalirama!" begged the king.
Tenalirama confronted the magician. "You cannot do with your eyes open what I can do with my eyes shut!" the jester proclaimed.
"Of course I can!" countered the magician.
Tenalirama took a sack of chili-powder, shut his eyes, and put chili-powder on both eyelids. He then counted to one hundred, smiling.
Next, Tenalirama washed the powder off carefully and handed the sack to the magician.
The magician ran away without so much as a word.
Tenalirama had won!

~ 182. Tenalirama's Ramayana ~
A courtesan invited Tenalirama to recite the Ramayana, the epic story of Rama's adventures, just for her.
Tenalirama began with the story of King Dasharatha and Rama's birth, followed by the intrigue in King Dasharatha's court, then Rama's exile into the forest, accompanied by his devoted wife Sita and his loyal brother Lakshmana.
"So," he said, "Rama, accompanied by Sita and Lakshmana, went into the forest to begin their exile."
Then Tenalirama fell silent.
The courtesan waited, and finally she could wait no longer. "Then what happened?" she demanded.
"Be patient," said Tenalirama. "They are still walking through the forest."

~ 183. Tenalirama and the Ramayana Murals ~
The royal painter decorated the palace walls with Ramayana murals. Tenalirama scoffed. "Where's the rest of Lakshmana?" he asked, pointing to one figure.
"That's a profile!" replied the painter. "You have to imagine the rest."
"I will decorate the summer palace with my own Ramayana paintings!" boasted Tenalirama.
A month later, he was done. The king came to see ... and there were only noses. Everywhere! Noses painted all over the walls!
"What is this?" he shouted angrily.
"Well, this is Rama, of course. And Sita, Lakshmana..." Tenalirama pointed out each nose one by one. "You have to imagine the rest."

~ 184. Tenalirama and the Money-Bag ~
Tenalirama was traveling home after a long journey.
It began to rain, so he sought refuge at an inn, hoping to dry himself by the fire. Unfortunately, there were others there already, and he couldn't even get close to the fire.
"Alas!" he shouted. "I've lost the royal money-bag! I must have dropped it when my horse slipped in the mud about a mile down the road. The king will be very angry!"
Everyone in the inn rushed out the door, hoping to find the lost money-bag.
Which did not exist, of course.
Meanwhile, Tenalirama dried himself by the fire.

~ 185. Tenalirama and the Thief ~
Tenalirama was on a journey, and a sadhu he met along the way asked to travel with him.
Tenalirama agreed, although he knew the man was not a saint; he was a thief who wanted to steal Tenalirama's money.
Every night, the thief would rummage through Tenalirama's bags and clothing, looking for the money, but he could never find where Tenalirama had hidden it.
When they reached their destination, he said, "I confess: I'm a thief, and you baffled me. Where did you hide your money?"
"I put it under your pillow," replied Tenalirama. "I knew you'd never look there."

~ 186. Tenalirama and the Honest Beggar ~
A beggar and a merchant came to Tenalirama for judgment.
"I saw he dropped this purse containing a hundred gold coins," said the beggar, "so I returned it to him."
"My purse contained two hundred gold coins," protested the merchant. "That thieving beggar owes me a hundred more!"
"I'm sure you both speak the truth," Tenalirama said, though he knew the merchant was a notorious liar.
"Keep the purse and coins," he told the beggar. "Nobody has reported a lost purse containing a hundred coins."
Then, he said to the merchant, smiling, "I hope someone finds your lost purse soon!"

~ 187. Tenalirama and the Chicken ~
"I demand justice!" the farmer shouted. "That man's cart ran over my chicken! I demand a thousand coins!"
"A chicken's only worth four coins!" the driver insisted.
"But that chicken would have laid hundreds of eggs. You haven't killed one chicken: you've killed hundreds!"
"That also means hundreds of chickens you don't have to feed," said Tenalirama. "One chicken eats fifty pounds of grain yearly, so hundreds of chickens..." Tenalirama calculated silently. "This man owes you a thousand coins for lost chickens, and you owe him seven tons of saved grain."
"I'll take the four coins," said the farmer quickly.

~ 188. Tenalirama and the Sadhu ~
Tenalirama had heard of a new sadhu who was attracting crowds of worshipers. He went to see the would-be saint and was appalled. The man had no knowledge of sacred mantras; instead, he was reciting random gibberish.
"O Great Soul!" shouted Tenalirama as he approached the sadhu. "O Most Holy One!" He then reached out and plucked a hair from the sadhu's beard. "A single strand of hair from your beard will bless me forever!"
The crowd then rushed forward, everyone wanting to grab a hair from the sadhu's beard.
Terrified, the sadhu ran off, never to be seen again.

~ 189. Tenalirama and the Boys ~
Tenalirama couldn't concentrate; some boys playing ball outside his house were making too much noise.
"How delightful!" he said. "You bring back memories of childhood! I'll pay you three silver coins each week to play here."
He paid them, and the boys were thrilled.
The next week, he paid just two coins. "I'm short on cash!"
The week after, he paid only one coin. "My own master hasn't paid me."
The third week, he paid nothing. "But I'll do my best to pay you next week if I can."
The angry boys deserted his street and never came back.
Success!

~ 190. Tenalirama and his Friend ~
"My house is too small!" complained Tenalirama's friend.
"I can help you," Tenalirama promised. "But you must do exactly what I tell you."
"Agreed!" said his friend.
Tenalirama then told him to bring the cow, the pig, the goat, and all the chickens into the house, and to come back in a week.
A week later, his friend returned. "That made things worse, not better!" he moaned.
"Of course it did," said Tenalirama. "Now, put all the animals back out where they belong."
The friend came back smiling.
"Thank you, Tenalirama!" he said. "My house is so much bigger now!"

~ 191. Tenalirama's Magical Water ~
A friend of Tenalirama's wife came to him for help.
"I keep quarreling with my mother-in-law!" she said. "The things she says make me so angry."
Tenalirama smiled. "I will give you some magical water," he said, handing her a small bottle. "Before you reply to your mother-in-law, take a mouthful, close your eyes, count to three, then swallow. The magical water will help you!"
The woman returned a week later. "It's wonderful!" she said. "But I need more magical water."
Tenalirama laughed. "It's just regular water," he said. "The magic is in stopping yourself before you reply in anger."

~ 192. Birbal's House ~
A man rushing down the street ran right into Birbal.
"Excuse me!" he said. "Which is Birbal's house?"
"That one," Birbal replied, pointing to a house at the end of the street.
The man went running toward the house.
When Birbal arrived, the man was still banging on the door.
"Can I help you?" Birbal asked.
The man turned, surprised to see him again. "I have an urgent message for Birbal, but he isn't home."
"I'm Birbal!"
"Why didn't you say so?"
"You didn't ask," Birbal replied. "You need to ask the question for which you really want the answer!"

~ 193. Birbal and the Eggplants ~
"These eggplants are exquisite!" Emperor Akbar proclaimed one night at dinner.
"I agree, Your Highness," said Birbal.
"Perhaps you can compose an 'Ode to Eggplants' and sing their praises."
Birbal improvised the ode on the spot, and the emperor was delighted.
The imperial chef heard about this and served eggplant every evening with dinner.
A week later, Akbar groaned. "I'm sick of eggplants. Eggplants are disgusting."
"I agree, Your Highness," said Birbal.
"But you were singing their praises last week!" said the emperor.
"That's true, Your Highness," replied Birbal. "I am the servant of the emperor, not of the eggplants."

~ 194. Birbal and the Two Mothers ~
Two women brought a dispute to Akbar's court, and Akbar told Birbal to decide the case.
"This baby's mine!" shouted one woman.
"No, he's mine!" shouted the other.
"Bring a glass of poisoned milk," commanded Birbal.
He then gave the milk to the woman holding the baby. "Have the baby drink this, or drink it yourself."
She hesitated, but then tilted the milk into the baby's mouth.
The other woman screamed, grabbed the glass of milk, and drank the poison herself.
Birbal smiled. "The milk is not poisoned," he said gently. "And now I know the baby is indeed yours."

~ 195. Birbal and the Beggar ~
A beggar inhaled the smell wafting from a kebab-shop.
"You must pay me for the smell!" shouted the shop owner.
"I have no money," protested the beggar, so the owner took him to Akbar's court, where Birbal was judge.
Birbal listened to both men's stories. Then he drew forth several coins from his own purse.
"Are you listening?" he said to the shop owner.
The man nodded eagerly, thinking Birbal was going to pay him.
Birbal then shook the coins in his cupped hands. "The sound of the coins is your payment for the smell of the food. Case dismissed!"

~ 196. Birbal's Magical Sticks ~
Someone was robbing the imperial kitchen, but the steward didn't know who. "Help me, Birbal!" he pleaded.
Birbal gathered some sticks and then addressed the kitchen staff. "These are my magical detecting sticks; each is the same length." He gave each person a stick. "Put this under your pillow tonight. The thief's greedy thoughts will make his stick grow longer."
The next morning, the staff presented their sticks.
One stick was much shorter than the rest!
"Behold the thief, who cut his stick to make it shorter," proclaimed Birbal. "By trying to prove his innocence, he has revealed his guilt."

~ 197. Birbal and the Crows ~
"Birbal has the answer to every question!" boasted Emperor Akbar.
This made the other courtiers jealous.
One courtier decided to challenge Birbal. "Dear Birbal," he said, "please tell us how many crows live here in Agra."
Birbal answered instantly. "Eighty-nine thousand three hundred and twelve."
The courtier scoffed. "Suppose I count and find out that's too high?"
Birbal smiled. "It just means some crows are visiting their relatives in other cities. Of course, if you find more, some of those crows are visiting here from other cities; they don't actually live here."
The emperor laughed, delighted with Birbal as always.

~ 198. The Emperor's Caravansary ~
Strolling through the garden, Emperor Akbar and Birbal met a sadhu.
"How did you get here?" the emperor asked.
"How did you?" replied the sadhu.
"This is my palace!" exclaimed the emperor.
"I see no palace," replied the sadhu, "only a caravansary."
The emperor was speechless with rage.
"Tell me," said the sadhu, "who lived here before you?"
"My father."
"And before him?"
"His father."
"Guests come; guests go. You see: only a caravansary."
The emperor smiled. "A good lesson. What may I give you in return?"
"Just move along," said the sadhu. "You're blocking the sun that warms me."

~ 199. Birbal Sees Both Good and Bad ~
A fellow courtier complained, "My prize Arabian mare ran away!"
"That could be good," said Birbal, angering the courtier.
Then the mare returned, followed by a wild stallion.
"What wonderful good luck!" exclaimed the courtier.
"Though it could be bad," said Birbal, angering the courtier again.
The stallion then threw the courtier's son, breaking his leg.
"My poor boy!" sobbed the courtier.
"That could be very good," said Birbal.
"You're heartless!" the courtier replied, angrier than ever.
The next day, soldiers came to recruit able-bodied young men for the war; they did not take the courtier's son.
Birbal just smiled.

~ 200. Birbal the Philosopher ~
The emperor was feeling philosophical one evening.
"Why doesn't God just put a stop to evil?" he asked Birbal. "When I want something to top, I make it stop. God could use his powers to put a stop to all evil."
"That isn't how God created us," replied Birbal. "We are each a mix of good and evil, every one of us."
The emperor nodded thoughtfully.
"So," Birbal concluded, "if God were to rid the world of evil, he'd have to get rid of me and get rid of you too."
The emperor smiled, delighted as always by Birbal's wisdom.

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