Story Club # 9: Flash Back

Hello friends! As you perhaps may be knowing I have taken it upon myself to host (preferably co-host) a Story Club each month where we can pick up a short story and discuss it or simply enjoy it. March just whooshed by just as spring did. The sun is out all guns blazing and to make matters worse – no Story Club 😉

But don’t worry here we are with this month’s offering – with a little twist. No advance notice (there didn’t seem to be any takers as it is) plus we have a couple of really short but fun stories. I say ‘we’ because this time I managed to rope in a partner – Rekha. Multi-talented, she is a writer, artist, paints shoots and can leave you in splits. 😀 She suggested the idea of Akbar-Birbal stories and I for one, can’t get enough of their (or at least Birbal’s) antics.

Akbar, as you may know, was the Mughal ruler of India between 1560 -1605 AD. Akbar was illiterate – unhampered and unencumbered by education he was a visionary and tried to integrate and unite with the Hindu community. He patronized and promoted artists and men of exceptional talent in his court regardless of their religious affiliations – they are popularly known as the nine gems of Akbar’s court.

One of these nine gems was Birbal, the son of a poor Brahman of Trivikrampur. Though Birbal was initially inducted for his administrative skill, his wit and wisdom won Akbar’s heart and he became a close confidante and advisor of Akbar. There are countless stories of Birbal’s wit and he didn’t even spare the Emperor.

I have always found Akbar-Birbal stories entertaining and jumped at the idea of revisiting them and hopefully unearthing an unread story or two. And sure enough I found a couple which I hadn’t read before much to my delight (and secret chagrin – how could I have missed these stories!)

Anyhow before you vanish to Rekha’s blog here’s a couple of short stories.

Birbal’s Justice

Once a man sold his well to a farmer. But when the farmer went to draw the water from that well, the man blocked his path. He said, “As per the sale deed, the well is yours, not the water. So you have no right to draw water from the well.”

The farmer was naturally outraged and took the matter to Emperor Akbar.

Akbar promptly handed the case to Birbal.

Birbal called the man who sold the well to the farmer and asked him to justify his actions.

The man replied rather self-righteously, “But I sold the well to the farmer, not the water. He has no right on the water of the well.”

Birbal nodded and smiled. “I agree!” He turned to the farmer who was wringing his hands and asked, “By the way what is the rent of the well?”

“Rent?” they chorused.

“Yes. Rent for the well. Since the well is the farmer’s, you have to either pay rent to keep your water or take out your water from the well and keep it elsewhere.”

Outwitted, the man had no choice but to give in.

Didn’t this story have overtones of The Merchant of Venice? I wonder who inspired whom or perhaps they had their own ideas. Here’s another tiny one – this can be of help to us too 😉

Birbal escapes

One day a man accosted Birbal on the street and unburdened his myriad woes and ills.

“I’ve walked twenty miles to see you,” he ended his tragic story, “and everywhere people kept saying you were the most generous man in the country.”

It was not difficult for Birbal to guess that the man was going to ask him for money.

“Are you going back the same way?” Birbal asked.

“Yes,” said the man.

“Will you do me a favor?”

“Sure!” said the man. “What do you want me to do?”

“Please deny the rumor of my generosity.” Birbal walked away.
As I re-visited these stories, I couldn’t help but think these were probably the earliest version of flash fiction stories. I thought I had just chanced upon flash fiction when actually I have been reading them all my life! How interesting is that? A huge thank you to Rekha for being such a sport and coming through at such a short notice.

I hope you enjoyed these little stories. If you have any favorite Birbal story do share it! Let’s move to Rekha’s blog where she has created a lovely post complete with pictures – looks just like my comic book of yesteryears! And even better, she promises to post more such stories in the coming days.

But before you leave just a quick recap of the Story Club:

Rules are simple (and breakable) :

  1. Advance announcement of name of short story, one that is freely available on the net.
  1. Story maybe a folktale or in the local language. But an English translation should be freely available on the net. Or participant could post the translated version along with his or her review.
  1. Bloggers should post on their blog.
  1. The basic idea is to gain from each others rich heritage of literature and be able to understand a little bit more than before and of course have fun! 

    Anyone interested in hosting the next month’s Story Club? Please feel free to may email me at

    Look forward to reading from you – have a great day.