Emperor Akbar was narrating a dream.
The dream began with Akbar and Birbal walking towards each other on a moonless night. It was so dark that they could not see each other – and they collided, and fell.
“Fortunately for me,” said the Emperor. “I fell into a pool of payasam. But guess what Birbal fell into?”
“What, your Majesty?” asked the courtiers.
The court resounded with laughter.
The emperor was thrilled that for once he had been able to score over Birbal. But Birbal was unperturbed.
“Your Majesty,” he said when the laughter had died down.
“Strangely, I too had the same dream.
But unlike you I slept on till the end.
When you climbed out of that pool of delicious payasam and I, out of that stinking gutter we found that there was no water with which to clean ourselves and so guess what we did?
“What?” asked the emperor, warily.
“We licked each other clean!”
The emperor became red with embarrassment and resolved never to try to get the better of Birbal again.