By Delshad Karanjia
As she aged, Akbar became grumpier and cantankerous, occasionally passing hasty and imprudent judgements against anyone who upset him, including members of his family.
One day, it was his son-in-law’s turn to incur the emperor’s wrath. Akbar’s eldest daughter had been married for more than a year and moved from Fatehpur Sikri to Delhi. Missing her terribly, the doting father sent repeated requests to his son-in-law, inviting the couple to visit him, but his daughter’s lazy husband always made some excuse to avoid the long journey to his father-in-law’s palace.
Having received another negative response from his son-in-law that very morning, Akbar was in a rage. When Birbal asked him what the problem was, Akbar explained:’My wretched son-in-law is the problem. I haven’t seen my daughter for more than a year, and the arrogant scoundrel comes up with all kinds of excuses to prevent me from meeting her. He uses his business or health, or family issues as a pretext to avoid coming to Fatehpur Sikri, so I’ve sent him messages saying that if he cannot come, he could let my daughter visit. But he refuses.
Can you believe that he has the audacity to disregard my requests?’
Don’t worry, Your Majesty, Birbal said. ‘I will arrange for your daughter to be brought here?’
‘I’ve already tried to do that several times, Birbal.
What makes you think that you can succeed where I have failed? My son-in-law is stubborn and possessive and flatly refuses to let my daughter travel without him. His behaviour is inexcusable. I think there is only one way to resolve the situation, Birbal. I want you to arrange for gallows to be erected in all available open spaces across my realm because I am issuing an order for all sons-in-law in my kingdom to be hanged!’ Akbar announced, thumping his fist on the table in front of him.
Stunned by the emperor’s rash decision, Birbal tried to dissuade him from taking such a drastic and unwise step, but Akbar was adamant. When attempts to pacify him only made him angrier, Birbal gave up and issued instructions for gallows to be set up across the kingdom.
Meanwhile, word of the emperor’s command had spread throughout his empire, causing panic among the populace.Entire delegations approached Birbal in secret, pleading with him to persuade the emperor to change his mind.
Till try my best; Birbal promised, even as the building of the gallows continued swiftly.
A week later, Birbal invited the emperor to inspect
the gallows that had been erected all over the city and even on the palace grounds. Akbar was pleased that his instructions were being followed. Well done, Birbal, he said. ‘It will be a big relief when all the sons-in-law in my kingdom are eliminated.’
Turning a corner in the palace grounds, the emperor spotted two magnificent gallows, one made of gold and the other of silver. ‘Who has given orders to put up those gallows in gold and silver? Akbar asked angrily. ‘It is a senseless waste of money.’
‘It seemed the proper thing to do’, Birbal said softly.
‘Proper?’ Akbar thundered, flushed with rage. ‘We are hanging sons-in-law here, not heads of state. For whom have you had these wastefully lavish gallows made?’ The golden gallows is for you, Jahanpanah, and the silver one is for me.’, Birbal replied.
‘Golden gallows for me? Who has the audacity to send me to the gallows?’
‘It is by your own order, O Supreme Commander.
After all, you are also someone’s son-in-law, as am I. How could we exempt ourselves from your decree? Tomorrow, as the most distinguished of sons-in-law in the realm, you must be the first one to be hanged, followed by your son-in-law, and then the others.’
Akbar was silent for a few moments.
To know more read Akbar and Birbal: The Finest Stories of the Emperor and His Wise Minister written by Delshad Karanjia
- Excerpted from Akbar and Birbal: The Finest Stories of the Emperor and His Wise Minister by Delshad Karanjia (2023) published by Aleph Book Company
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