The Intelligent Minister

Many hundreds of years ago in India, Birbal was the chief minister of the great Emperor Akbar's court. Although his wisdom and sense of humor made him popular, other members of the court were jealous of Birbal's position.

One day the Emperor overheard some of these criticisms. They claimed that they had to work very hard, while Birbal just seemed to sit around all day. They felt that any one of them could do a better job than him.

Akbar explained that it took special qualifications to be his chief adviser. However, he saw that his courtiers were not convinced. So, calling for his royal elephant, he announced to his court, "I have a test for you all. Whoever can give me the exact weight of this elephant will be my next chief minister."

Birbal's rivals did not know where to start. Scratching their heads, they looked at each other with puzzled expressions. Then they huddled together and discussed the problem. Finally, with shamed faces, they turned to the emperor, "It is not possible to do Emperor."

Akbar turned to Birbal. "Can you complete this task?" "Certainly, your Majesty," and led the elephant away.

When he was out of sight, one of his enemies boldly spoke out, "If between us we couldn't figure out a way to this, what can he do alone?" The others muttered words of agreement but the Emperor remained silent.

An hour later Birbal returned. "The elephant weighs 4,922 pounds". The mouths of the other ministers gaped open and their eyes widened in disbelief. They whispered among themselves, "He just made that number up." "He must be lying."

The Emperor then asked Birbal, "How do you know the weight?" Did you get a large set of scales?"

"No, your Majesty, the elephant is too heavy to be weighed like that. I took him to the river, put him on a boat and marked the waterline. Then, after taking him ashore, I filled the boat with sacks of grains. We already knew how much each sack weighed. Once the waterline was again reached, I counted the number of sacks. In this way I was able to calculate the elephant's weight."

Turning to his courtiers the Emperor cautioned them, "Now do you understand? One who is wise gets more done with little effort. Birbal deserves to be my chief minister." And they all had to agree.