Once upon a time a certain ignorant Brahmin came to see Birbal, and asked him for his help. “People do not give me enough respect,” the Brahmin complained. “It is a wound to my pride. I want to be called a Pandit!”
Hearing this, Birbal thought, ‘This wish is impossible! One is born a Brahmin, but to be a Pandit, a learned scholar, one must study and have knowledge. This man knows nothing! He is not only unlettered but dim-witted as a stone as well. Who would ever call him a pandit? It would make people laugh!’
But with that thought, in a flash Birbal found the solution. “I will tell you what to do,” he said to the Brahmin. “If you will follow my advice, soon everyone in the city will be calling you Pandit.”
“Yes? Tell me, what do I do?” the man asked.
“To be recognized as a Pandit, you must only show some modesty,” Birbal told him. “That is all. So, whenever anyone actually calls you a Pandit, you must pretend to be angry.”
“Angry?” said the Brahmin, puzzled.
“Yes, angry – but pretend. Do you understand? Shout at them, wave your fist. Threaten to throw something. Come, I will show you.”
Birbal led the Brahmin into the courtyard, called some of his servants, and instructed them that henceforward they must address this Brahmin as ‘Pandit.’
The servants, who knew the measure of the Brahmin, had difficulty suppressing smiles as they bowed respectfully and said with solemnity, “Good day to you, Pandit-ji”
“How dare you call me that?” the Brahmin shouted. “Stop it at once.”
The servants smiled more, bowed again, and said, “Just as you say, Pandit-ji. Would you like some tea, Pandit-ji?”
“Stop!” shouted the Brahmin again, also enjoying the game. “I said you are not to call me that!”
Before long, a large crowd had gathered, and everyone was laughing and calling the Brahmin ‘Pandit,’ while he shouted back at them with more and more energy.
Soon word spread through the whole city – and from that day, wherever the Brahmin went, he found that people would call him ‘Pandit-ji.’
And, because he did not realize that they were laughing at him, the Brahmin’s pride was satisfied.