Children are always asking questions, like ‘Why is the sky blue’, or ‘Why do we have only one nose’. And sometimes they also open up things like clocks to understand how they work. Emperor Akbar was also like that — always wanting to know this or that. He continued to ask such questions even after becoming the emperor.

Once he asked a very interesting question. How do babies learn to speak? Was it by listening to people talk? What if a child grew up in a place where there was no one to talk to? Would the baby learn to speak then? It was Akbar’s view that children learnt to speak by hearing people’s conversations. He decided to check it out.

The King Who Tested Babies [Illustration: Nitin Vishwakarma]
The King Who Tested Babies [Illustration: Nitin Vishwakarma]

He built a hostel in a place where nobody lived. And then some new born babies were kept in that hostel. The hostel was guarded round the clock. Sometimes wet nurses were allowed to go in and be with the babies. Only those who were dumb, were chosen. The hostel got the name of ‘Gung Mahal’ (the palace of the dumb). Some years went by.

One day, Akbar visited the hostel. The children were grown up now. They were about four years old. And all they could do was to speak with their hands, not their mouth. They behaved like dumb children. Akbar had finished his experiment.

236 words | 2 minutes
Readability: Grade 4 (9-10 year old children)
Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

Filed under: features
Tags: #emperor, #akbar

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