59. The three questions

The Three Questions King Akbar was very fond of Birbal. This made many courtiers very jealous. One day one of those courtiers who always wanted to be the chief minister of the Emperor, got an idea. Since it was not possible as long as Birbal filled that position. One day Akbar praised Birbal in front of the courtier. This made this courtier very angry and he said that the Emperor praised Birbal unjustly and if Birbal could answer his three questions, he would accept the fact that Birbal was intelligent. Akbar knew that Birbal will win so he immediately agreed. His three questions were 1. How many stars were there in the sky 2. Where was the center of the Earth and 3. How many men and how many women were there in the world. Immediately Akbar asked Birbal these three questions and instructed him that if he could not answer them, he would have to resign from the chief minister’s position. To answer the first question, Birbal brought a sheep and said “There are as many stars in the sky as there is hair on this sheep’s body. My friend, the courtier, is welcome to count them if he likes.” To answer the second question, Birbal drew a couple of lines on the floor and bore an iron rod in it and said “this is the center of the Earth, the courtier may measure it himself if he doubts.” In answer to the third question, Birbal said “Counting the exact number of men and women in the world would be a problem as there are some specimens like our courtier friend here who cannot easily be classified as either. Therefore if all people like him are killed, then and only then can one count the exact number of men and women.” Akbar became very happy as always, and that courtier went away without saying a word.
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