It was a bright day at Fatehpur Sikri and emperor Akbar was in a jolly mood. Victory news from battles in Mewar and Jodhpur had reached him last night.
So as the court assembled, the courtiers hailed kings victory over the enemy. There was lot of self patting and King fawning happening in the court but amidst it all, Birbal stood silent. One glance at him and King taunted ‘Birbal it seems you are not happy with the victory of Royal Forces’.
‘I am happy my King however I think that enemy should also be given a respectful mention.’
Maulla Do Pyaza, ever the Birbal baiter jumped into the fray ‘ Alampanah so Birbal would have us stop praising you and start singing peans for our enemies’
‘Enemies are friends who are caught on the wrong side of perception or on inverse side of an incentive structure. As people, there is not much difference between them and us’ Birbal retorted.
Court experienced a pin drop silence.
‘ So you are saying that the difference between enemy and friend is not personal but only circumstantial’ emperor inquired.
“Yes sire. The certified other is an enemy only till the time we can kill this enemy by making him a friend”
“Birbal this is quite a big cliam. Can you prove it” Akbar’s instinct of testing his coterie was never remiss.
“Give me 3 weeks Maharaj and I will prove it to you that this is so”
Three weeks passed and nothing much changed. The only difference was Mulana Nasrullah a local chieftain was found hobnobbing with Birbal on the sides of the court and in sundry courtyards.
This was a surprising development as Mulana was known to have been a Birbal basher as he considered Birbal a low birth upstart.
Almost about a month after that conversation had taken place, the court was in full session and Birbal came in along with Nasrullah both of them laughing and joking. The import of this camaraderie was not lost on the King and other courtiers. Birbal had proved his point.
Later at night, in emperors private chambers Birbal explained his magic trick of converting an enemy into a friend.
“Maharaj we are predisposed to view people in categories. As we slot people in them, appropriate emotions of love, kindness, dislike, hate sustain those categorizations. However if one starts to view other as a rounded off actual person and not merely as a category subject; then friendship and emotions of empathy are also automatic. Though a fact to remember is that it is an act of moral courage to see the other as an actual person without slotting him into a category.
So in case of Mulana Nasrullah I made an effort to view him as the person that he is and treat him as one. I listened to him, talked with him and generally spent time with him. One of the toughest thing to do, Sire is to dislike a person who likes us. So reciprocally he was also forced to see me as a live person and the rancor that had accumulated between us, simply melted away.”
“If it was that simple to dissolve enmity, why did you not do it before Birbal.” King inquired.
“Jahapanah one also needs some enemies to keep you on your toes”, explained the clever Birbal.