“One day, Akbar challenged this dude to sit in a cold puddle all night, and he bet him he couldn’t do it. I don’t really know why, it’s just one of those dumb things that you bet with other people. The dude ended up completing the challenge, but Akbar wouldn’t give him the reward he promised him because he said that there was a lamp nearby that gave the guy heat. The guy said that the lamp was too far to give him any heat, and plus, it was out of his control, but Akbar refuses the excuses. The next day, his servant/advisor Birbal invited him to dinner. They sit and talk in the living room, and Akbar starts getting hungry and asks if the food is ready. Birbal assures him that it’ll be ready soon. Four hours pass and Akbar is getting really hungry, so he goes into the kitchen himself to see what’s going on. He find that Birbal placed the pot of Kichri (a type of lentil soup) on a very high cabinet, close to the ceiling, very far away from the stove. He gets angry and says, ‘Birbal! How do you expect this soup to cook?’ and Birbal replies, ‘the same way the lamp heated the guy you challenged.'”
My informant told me that Akbar was a real Muslim King, and Birbal was actually one of his wise servants who was Hindu. He said that Indians love Akbar because he was a progressive person, and didn’t kill Hindus even though the two groups don’t normally get along. Instead, he appointed a lot of Hindus to be a part of his cabinet, and even married a Hindu woman. He said that there are a lot of stories that revolve around these two characters and they are commonly told to kids. He thinks that the moral of this story is to be reasonable and fair.
These stories are normally told by parents to their kids.
It was very interesting because my informant didn’t remember the details of the story so he actually called his parents to ask them what the story was. I got to hear both his mom and dad retell him this story of Akbar and Birbal. I hear that there are a lot of Muslim/Hindu jokes that revolve around these two characters too, but they are never mean-spirited. I think this was a way for the two cultures to try to negotiate peace, and break the negative stigmas against the other culture by telling their kids these stories starting at a young age.