HOW TO MAKE BOOKS DIGESTIBLE
Once Tamerlane had been informed that his tax collector was oppressing the people and using his powers for personal benefit. Tamerlane sent for the man and ordered him to present himself with his books of accounts.
Examining the books, the great man found them extremely dirty and noted that they had been kept in a slovenly way. Tamerlane became convinced that this man was indeed an embezzler.
"You have betrayed my trust!" he roared. "I am confiscating all your property, all the wealth you amassed by taking unfair advantage of the privileges of your office. And ..., yes! This may help you get rid of your avarice: Start eating those books down to the last page, including the covers!"
In no time at all the whole country had heard of how at last the avaricious tax collector had been punished, and the people were jubilant. One man, however, did not find it in his heart to rejoice, and that was Nasreddin Hodja, not because he felt any affection for the culprit, but because he himself was appointed tax collector in his place.
He would have very much liked to decline the honor, because he knew that no matter how hard a tax collector tried to be just and equitable, he was bound to make a lot of enemies. But, the decision having been made by Tamerlane himself, there was no way of getting out of it. Accordingly, the Hodja decided to make the best of a bad job and to be ready for any eventuality.
Some time later, he was sent for by Tamerlane for the periodic examination of the books and accounts. The Hodja was conducted into the Emperor's presence with a basket in his hand. In the basket was a pile of wafers of dough, upon which the Hodja had recorded all accounts.
"Where are your books, Nasreddin?" asked Tamerlane.
When the Hodja presented him one of the wafers, he became impatient.
"What kind of tomfoolery is this? I asked for your accounting books!"
"But these are my accounting books, your Majesty. You see, Sire, I am not a healthy man any longer, and on top of that I've been having stomach troubles lately. Therefore I took the precaution of keeping all my records on wafers of dough. They are more digestible than paper."
Tamerlane could not suppress his laughter and excused the Hodja from the post of the Chief Tax Collector.