The Peerless Idler

One evening, Akbar and Birbal were taking a stroll in the garden. While they were talking, Akbar said, “Birbal, I am sure there are many idlers in this city. If you can find me the one who has no match, I will give you a handsome reward.” The following morning, Birbal got a pandal put up on the banks of the river Yamuna. He invited all the idlers in the city to a feast there.

A large crowd of idlers came for the feast. Some of them were yawning as they walked towards the pandal. The others had to be pulled right up to the pandal. Some idlers were pushed by others. But there were also a few idlers who were walking slowly, at a snail’s pace, without pushing anybody, to the pandal. The idlers, who had set out for the feast in the morning, reached the pandal in the afternoon. At last, all of them sat down to eat.

The dishes were served. But who would take the trouble to eat? Those who had taken a morsel, would hardly lift their hand for the second one. A few had put a morsel in their mouths, but they did not take the trouble to chew it. This went on for hours together. The feast of the idlers was far from over. Soon it began to grow dark. Birbal ordered one of his men to set fire to the pandal. The whole pandal was ablaze. One by one, the idlers ambled out of the pandal.

Nobody appeared to be in a hurry to save his own life. Finally, only two idlers remained in the pandal. One of them took the support of the other to get up. He said, “Friend, let’s go now. Everything is ablaze here.”

The other idler did not get up. He said, “Carry on, friend. I am not leaving this pandal. My son carried me on his shoulders and brought me here. Why should I walk out of the pandal on my own feet?”

The first idler walked out of the pandal slowly. The second one seemed to be ready to burn himself to death, but was not ready to get up and walk out of the burning pandal. At last, Birbal asked his servant to lift him and bring him out of the pandal. The following day, Birbal produced the matchless idler before the Emperor. Narrating the previous day’s incident, Birbal said, “Your Majesty, here is the peerless idler of the city. He continued to sit and eat in the pandal which was on fire.

He was ready to burn himself to death, but certainly not ready to make an effort to get up and walk out of the pandal on his own feet. Your Majesty, I request you to honour him with a medal for being ‘The Peerless Idler’.” Akbar was pleased with Birbal’s wisdom. Akbar praised Birbal for finding out the ‘peerless idler’ of the city and gave him a handsome reward.

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