King Khusro of Persia was very fond of fish. One morning he was sitting on a terrace with his wife, Shirin, when a fisherman brought a fish and presented it to him. It was a big and rare fish. The King was so pleased with this gift that he ordered his servants to pay the fisherman four thousand silver pieces as rewards.
Shirin was annoyed whenever the King give away huge amounts of money out of joy. As soon as the fisherman was out of hearing she said to her lord. “What is the sense in giving so much money for one fish? Call him back and return him the fish on some pretext. Otherwise you will have to pay for things on this scale in future.”
“Is it not too mean for a King to take back what he has given? Let it pass,” said Khusro
“It shall not pass,” said the queen. “There is a way to manage the thing without appearing to be mean. Call back the fisherman and ask him whether this fish is male or female. If it is male ask for a female, if it is female ask for a male. Then you can return the fish and cancel the payment”.
Khusro decided to act up to her advice because he was very fond of her and did not wish to displease her. With a paining heart he called the fisherman back and asked him, “Is this fish male or female?”
The fisherman bowed very low before the king and replied, “My lord, this variety of fish has no sex. It is both male and female. It lays eggs by itself.”
King Khusro burst out laughing on hearing this and ordered that the fisherman should be paid eight thousand silver pieces instead of four. All this money was counted out to him and put in his basket.
As the fisherman was crossing the court-yard one of the silver pieces slipped out of the basket, fell on the paved floor and rolled away. At once the fisherman bang hunting for it. After searching for a long time he found it, picked it up and put it back in the basket with very great satisfaction.
Khusro and Shirin were watching this from terrace. “What a mean fellow!” said Shirin. “See how he hunts for one miserable coin instead of giving some poor man a chance of finding it and picking it up.”
To please his queen Khusro once again called the fisherman back and began to rate him.
“You miserable skunk! You had a basketful of silver and yet did not want to lose one small piece. You were not generous enough to let someone else pick it up,’’ Khusro said.
The fisherman bowed to the ground and replied, “ May Allah preserve the king! I was not at all anxious to be richer by one silver piece. Because it carries the image of my king on one side and his sacred name on the other. I considered it as sacred. If it was lying about on the ground, I was worried, someone might step on it. When my king picks up out of the dust a fisherman who is not worth a silver piece, is it any wonder that I pick up a silver piece from the ground?”
Khusro was so pleased with the wit and cleverness of the fisherman that he ordered that he should be paid four thousand more silver pieces.
After this experience King Khusro came to the conclusion that woman’s counsel was quite dangerous. He proclaimed throughout the city. “Let no one be guided by a woman. If any one does so, he will have to commit two more mistakes in attempting to rectify one.