The Unlucky Face

The Unlucky Face

There lived in Delhi a merchant called Hirachand. It was said that anyone who saw his face would go without food for a day. When Akbar heard about Hirachand, he was asked to see him. He wanted to know whether the stories about him were true.

The next day, Akbar was on his way to the dining-room when Hirachand was brought to him. At the same time, a courtier came to say that the Queen was ill. After meeting him, Akbar left Hirachand and spent the whole morning with his sick wife. By the time he returned to the dining-room, his meal was cold. He ordered a fresh meal. It took so long to get the meal ready that Akbar began to feel ill.

The doctor was called. He told Akbar to rest and not to eat anything for a day. That way, he said, the cramps would go away.

“But I haven’t eaten anything yet,” said Akbar.

“Bad luck,” said the doctor. “Whose face did you see this morning?”

Akbar told the doctor about Hirachand. “I shall have him executed,” he said, “because he has made me suffer.”

Hirachand was shocked. He fell at the Emperor’s feet and begged for mercy. “What will my wife and children do without me?” he pleaded. But Akbar would not listen to a word he said. The guard was summoned and Hirachand was immediately dragged off to be executed.

Poor Hirachand wailed aloud and begged the guard to find a way to set him free. “I cannot think of anything I can do,” said the guard who felt very sorry for Hirachand. “If the Emperor finds out that I have disobeyed his, I shall be executed too.”

Suddenly he had an idea. “Let us call Birbal,” he said. “He is the only one who will know how to help you.”

When Hirachand told Birbal what had happened, Birbal consoled him saying, “Do what? I tell you and you will be saved.”

When it was time for Hirachand to go to the block, the executioner asked if he wanted anything.

“I would like to see the Emperor,” said Hirachand.

When Akbar came, Hirachand said, “Your Majesty, is it true that you saw my face and did not eat anything for a day?”

“Yes,” said Akbar.

“Your Majesty,” said Hirachand. “Consider my fate which is worse than yours. I saw your face and I have to be executed.”

“Someone has taught you to say this,” said Akbar guessing at once who it was.

“Impossible,” said Hirachand, “I do not know anyone here”.

“Perhaps not. But you did not think of this plan yourself,” replied Akbar. “You must have met Birbal.”

Hirachand confessed that he had.

“Birbal has saved me from executing an innocent man,” said Akbar and sent Hirachand away with gifts.