In the city of Delhi there lived a masquer. He used to entertain people with his shows in various disguises. One day, Emperor Akbar went to see his show. As usual, he was accompanied by his ministers and a retinue of servants. Everybody was engrossed in watching the show.
In the end, the masquer disguised himself as a bullock. Everybody cheered and applauded his art.
Among the crowd of spectators was a young boy who was watching the show with great interest. Suddenly, he picked up a small pebble and threw it at the bullock. He was so delighted that, as a reward, he also threw his cap at the bullock. Emperor Akbar noticed the boy’s act. He called the young boy to him.
“Young fellow, why did you throw your cap at the bullock?” asked the Emperor. The boy replied, “Your Majesty, I gave the cap as a reward.”
The Emperor thought that the young boy was a little mischievous. He said, “Reward? What reward? A dirty cap as a reward?” The young boy politely said, “Your Majesty, I appreciated the wonderful and perfect disguise of the masquer. I tested him by throwing a small pebble at the bullock. The skin of cattle is so sensitive that cattle shudder when it is touched by something. When the pebble hit the bullock’s back, the masquer immediately shuddered. The masquer has passed my test.”
The Emperor said, “But why did you give such a dirty and tattered cap as a reward?”
The boy said, “Your Majesty, it is more important to pass a true test. Whether the reward is a cap or a gold coin-it makes no difference at all. A gold coin given as a reward, without real appreciation, is not worth a penny.”
Emperor Akbar realized that the boy was very clever. He took the boy along with him to his palace and employed him in his service. This boy, after some years, became well known as Birbal.