Book Review: Akbar and Birbal – Tales of Humor, by Monisha Mukundan

The love for reading has been there since childhood. From fairy tales to crime fiction, my school days got me into reading more often than not. Comics were one genre I consumed happily back then. I remember reading the witty tales of Akbar & Birbal as a series of comics. It was a delightful travel back in time as I re-read some of the tales that I loved back then in this book by Monisha Mukundan.

Mahesh Das, known as Raja Birbal, was an advisor in the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar. The tales of his wit are legendary and possibly told to every child as a folk tale. This book starts with how Akbar met Birbal. The emperor was once lost in a forest and came to an intersection with three roads. Not knowing which road led back to his city, and facing a dilemma, he saw a young man coming down one of the roads. The manner of the young man’s reply endeared him to the Emperor who offered him a place in his court.

I was glad to read this particular snippet, as I didn’t know of the way they met. Most books I’ve read on this subject would cover particular stories of Birbal’s wit, but not this first meeting with Akbar. Going further, I happily returned to the world that these tales created for me when I was young. As I read every word, the pictures from old comics started to slowly form again in my imagination. Like the tale of counting the number of crows in Agra; or how Birbal showed the folly in Akbar’s sudden belief in the superstition about the first face one saw in the day. One of my favorite stories narrated the way Birbal helped catch a thief with pieces of bamboo. Another favorite story is about how Birbal finds the mother tongue of a linguist. These are, to me, timeless tales that I can read over and over and over again.

Any author who would narrate these tales would do so in their own way. I don’t know if one can really comment on language or the magic of narration in these tales, as part of the experience would be how we relive the memory. It was an experience I enjoyed. Yes, there were some typos, but not enough to make me break the flow of reading. It’s a book I’ll return to when I want to remember my childhood, and for that reason, I feel this book is a gem.


A score of 9 out of 10
A score of 9 out of 10
Book Details
Title: Akbar & Birbal – Tales of Humor
Author(s): Monisha Mukundan Genre: Short Stories
ISBN/ASIN: B015A9ZUR8 Publisher: Rupa India

No payment was taken for this review. The views expressed here are mine, and they remain uninfluenced and unbiased.


(© Vinay Leo R. @ A Bookworm’s Musing
31st December 2016)

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