The emperor, Akbar, was on a journey surrounded by advisors and servants. As it was a hot day and the road was long, he grew impatient and annoyed.
“This road is so long,” he complained, as petulant and cranky as only an emperor can be. “Can’t anybody shorten it?”
By his side, wise Birbal said, “I can.”
Everyone who heard him rolled their eyes. “This is the only road – there is no other way,” one man said in a know-it-all tone.
“If he can do it, let him do it,” said the emperor.
Birbal lowered his voice so only the emperor could hear. “I can do it, but first I want to tell you a story – it’s important.”
“Fine, fine, go ahead, but be sure to shorten the road as soon as you can.”
With that, Birbal started a long and complicated story with many twists and turns and dramatic surprises, keeping the emperor as focused and attentive as a cat watching a mouse hole. In no time at all, it seemed, they reached their destination.
“What? So soon?” the emperor marveled. “I can’t believe we are here already.”
Birbal smiled. “I told you I could shorten the road.”