“O serpent heart hid with a flowering face! Did ever a dragon keep so fair a cave?”
– William Shakespeare in his play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (16th century playwright, often regarded as the greatest writer and dramatist in the English language)
The assembly sat stunned.
“Who is he?” wondered the learned ministers as Akbar realized his reputation was at stake.
The charismatic young man had challenged the famed emperor.
“Is there anyone in this kingdom who can correctly guess my mother tongue?” he asked haughtily, “you’ll have to explain how you arrived at the answer as I can speak twenty-five languages fluently.”
Different courtiers tested the man– they asked questions in various languages but he replied fluently; he neither stammered nor hesitated. How would they possibly figure out his mother tongue?
Meanwhile, the intelligent Birbal didn’t say a word while his king repeatedly looked at him. Sensing Akbar’s discomfort and expectations, the bright minister loudly proclaimed he knows the man’s family roots, and he’d announce it the next morning.
As the royal court retired for the day, Birbal called upon a trusted assistant and gave him an extraordinary job.
The minister’s aide followed the man quietly to his place of residence. Stealthily, he entered the house and at an unsuspecting moment, threw a bucket of cold water upon him. The sudden attack on a freezing night agitated the man; he hurled back the choicest expletives and furiously demanded an explanation. Meanwhile, the assistant feigned as a crazy bum and quickly took to his heels.
The next morning Birbal confidently declared to the assembly the man’s mother tongue was Gujarati.
“I am shocked,” declared the man, “you haven’t asked me a single question, I wonder how you say so?”
“Simple,” replied Birbal, “When the cold water fell on you, you instantly exclaimed in Gujarati. When someone is provoked without notice, what’s inside comes out spontaneously. What you prepare, you perform, but when you are caught unawares, your innate nature speaks.”
To be continued…