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Previous: Fetch Him At Once

Palace complex"The chamber guard was thoroughly confused now," Rosh continued.

"You were sending me to fetch someone," the guard accused the attendant, "without knowing whom to fetch? Sending me on a wild goose chase?"

"No," wailed the attendant. "I thought you had heard him clearly."

"Now you're accusing I don't hear clearly!" the guard was beginning to turn black and blue.

He would have punched the attendant's nose, had not another attendant come along fortuitously. The first attendant turned around and asked her if she could go in Akbar's chamber immediately to clarify whom the Emperor wanted summoned.

But when the new arrival heard his story and learned of the Emperor's foul mood this morning, she was too frightened to go in and ask the Emperor to repeat his order. She sought the help of another guard instead. But when he learnt more of the task required, he refused too.

Guards spoke to other guards. Attendants mentioned it to other attendants. News spread in the palace like wildfire. Within minutes, everybody inside the palace knew of the Emperor's order. With him in such a mood, nobody was safe.

They racked their collective brains, lest they rouse his wrath further by getting the wrong person or making him wait too long. There was utter confusion, as nobody knew whom the Emperor had called for. And nobody wanted to go in, and ask him.

While all this was going on, Birbal arrived at Akbar's Palace to meet with the Emperor. One of the guards spotted him and breathed a sigh of relief. He rushed to Birbal and asked for his help, blabbering away at top speed to fill Birbal in.

"Slow down, my man," Birbal said to the incoherent guard, "and tell me everything slowly. From the beginning."

The guard narrated what he knew. Birbal summoned the chamber guard. He could add nothing further of value, but kept fuming that the attendant had been trying to set him up for a fall.

Birbal summoned the attendant, who had been the only one inside the chamber with Akbar, when the order had been given. The attendant narrated the same story.

"His Majesty didn't mention anyone in particular, I think," he concluded. "Whom should I call? Nobody wants to go in and ask him again as he is in such a nasty mood. If I do not get anyone, I'm done for. If I get the wrong person, I'm done for. If I keep him waiting, I'm done for. We know not what to do. What shall we do?"

"Hmmm!" said Birbal. "You didn't say anything that would have made him grumpy?"

"Not a word Sir," said the attendant. "I didn't speak to him at all. I swear on my mother's head."

"What was the Emperor doing when he gave the order?" Birbal asked.

"Nothing," he whimpered. "He had just awoken. Got up in bed. Stretched. Blinked his eyes. Rubbed his chin. Then suddenly, for no reason at all, got grumpy."

"Rubbed his chin?" Birbal raised an eyebrow. "Did he have a stubble?"

The attendant nodded.

"Run!" Birbal said to a guard. "Get the barber to the Emperor. Now!"

The guard took off immediately. All others waited.

Presently, the guard rushed back with the barber. The fearful attendant took the barber inside the chamber. Everyone outside waited with bated breath. If Birbal had been wrong, the explosion would come any moment now. But nothing happened.

Akbar grunted nonchalantly at the barber, then settled back in his chair to have his shave. Everyone outside heaved a collective sigh of relief.

"How did Birbal know", asked Josh, "that Akbar wanted a barber?"


"Things become clearer when one looks at them in context," said Rosh. "When one sees the big picture. The ultimate synthesizer of course, is an analytical, sharp and logical mind. But mind can get clouded by stress. So, it is good to seek independent help when you need it."

"A detached pair of eyes can see what a stressed mind cannot. You can miss the obvious even if it is staring in your face, if you are too stressed. You can also miss clues, if you don't know where to look."

"Presence of mind, looking at the big picture, being stress-free and a keen observation can go a long way in getting you out of tricky situations."

"The attendant had seen the Emperor rub his chin as well as his stubble, but didn't make the connection. He got too distracted by Akbar's mood and its consequences for him."

"Others who tried to help, didn't ask the vital question, because they didn't know where to look. They also got worried and distracted by Akbar's mood."

"Birbal's logical mind joined the dots because he focused on analyzing the context, rather than fretting about consequences. That's why he figured that what Akbar wanted could be connected to what he was doing at the time when he gave that order."

"Having said that, you need some luck too. To hit the nail on the head. But fortune favors the brave. Risk is ever present in life. In business. You can only reduce it by making logical choices. You can never eliminate it."

"Should have just asked," Josh shook his head gravely, "and saved all the drama!"

Next: Fair Share of Tax Cuts

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