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Tag: night

Crows and Owls

This is a story from the Panchatantra about the Crows and Owls.

Long long ago in the forests of Central India there was a huge banyan tree in a place called Mahilaropya, on which a whole colony of crows lived. Their king’s name was Meghavarna. The crows had only one grievance that a pack of owls that lived in a cave on a mountain nearby had made it their habit to come in the nights and attack any crow that was sighted outside the tree. The king of the owls was Arimardana and he with his cunning army derived sadistic pleasure in simply attacking the crows which were sighted out of the tree every night.

Meghavarna was sad at losing his flock slowly like this. As a wise saying goes, anyone who neglects an enemy or disease perishes and knowing this, Meghavarna called a meeting of his senior counsel of six crows one day and asked them what should be done. “This menace is growing day by day” said he. “Tell me O wise ministers of mine, what should I do?”

The first minister suggested that compromise with the enemy was the best policy. It would allow them time to build up their resources and thereafter attack the enemy. “Bend to the enemy when he is strong; attack him when he is vulnerable. Don’t wage a war if it doesn’t bring Power, or wealth or friendship,” said he.

The second minister completely disagreed with the first and suggested that trickery would be the wisest thing to do.“Never accept peace with an enemy who is not just, for, he will break his word and stab you in the back” said he. He went on to quote the story of How Bheema killed Keechaka through trickery in the Mahabharata. He went on to say that enemies like the owls who were blinded by anger would refuse to see peace.

Meghavarna looked at his third minister who said, “My Lord, both compromise and trickery will not work out with the owls, our enemies as they are strong and wicked. The best way I feel is to go away from here on exile and wait for a long time and strike back.” He went on, “Neither peace nor bravado can subdue a strong enemy, where these two do not work flight is the best alternative.”

The fourth minister opposed all these ideas and said they should all stay in their own place and mobilize support and then attack the enemy.“A king who flees is like a cobra without fangs. A crocodile in water can haul an elephant.” He quoted this advice and said that when a crocodile goes to the land it loses all its strength and can be even chased by a dog whereas if it stayed in water it could pull in even an elephant. “So it is best to stay where we are and mobilize support instead of going on exile”.

The fifth minister agreed fully with the fourth minister and said that this was the best strategy.

Meghavarna looked at his sixth minister Sthirajeevi by name and Sthirajeevi said, “You have to practice duplicity my Lord!” Meghavarna looked puzzled as Sthirajeevi continued, “The best thing would be to gather information about our enemies, somehow befriend them and divide their clan and gradually finish them off!”

“But who will do this?” asked a startled Meghavarna. “I Will” said Sthirajeevi, and as he suddenly caught sight of a lone owl on a distant tree, whispered, “Now, in front of everyone, abuse me and peck me as if pecking me to death. The friend sitting on a tree far away will tell his king that we have fallen out with each other and I will remain here till they come in the night. I will earn their sympathy and find out about them. All of you exile to the Rishyamuka Hills and I shall meet you there later on. Come on, pounce on me, quick”

Meghavarna pounced at Sthirajeevi hurling abuses at him and started pecking him hard. All the other crows thought it was a real fight and they also started to attack Sthirajeevi when Meghavarna said aloud, “Enough my friends, Let him learn a lesson, I shall come in the morning and finish him” and they all flew away.

It was already late evening and the owls had started to come out when the lone owl went and reported what he saw, to Arimardana. Arimardana was delighted that there was a divide amongst the crows and he gave a blood curling hoot “Whoooooooa”   and flew with his ministers hoping to attack all the crows. But to their utter surprise there were no crows on the banyan tree. All they could hear was a moaning “Caw.. Caw…” from somewhere on the ground. They looked around and found Sthirajeevi. “Attack him,” cried one of the ministers of Arimardana. He was Rakthaksha, the most shrewd and cunning minister of Arimardana.

“I want to convey something to your king before you kill me,” moaned Sthirajeevi in a feeble voice. “Take me to your king.”

Arimardana came in front. “I am the king,” said he. “Who are you?”

“I am Sthirajeevi, Meghavarna’s minister. I am reduced to this state as I fought for your sake with my king.” Arimardana looked at Sthirajeevi puzzled as he continued, “I advised my king to surrender to you as I know that you owls are very powerful. But my king not only ignored my advice but attacked me left and right, leaving me here to die. Please give succour and I shall show you where the crows are once I recover.”

“Finish him my lord, with no second thought,” said Rakthaksha, “There can be nothing more foolish than pampering your enemy. Kill him in one stroke.” Arimardana looked at his second minister, Deepaksha. “I don’t agree with what Rakthaksha said. If anybody seeks a truce, he should be honoured.” said Deepaksha.

The third minister Kruraksha also agreed with Deepaksha. “Anybody seeking asylum, even if an enemy should be given succour.”

Arimardana looked at his two other ministers, Vakranasa and Prakarakarna.

Both of them said in unison, “It is indeed wise to grant asylum to this enemy of ours as he will help us in finishing their clan. We agree with Kruraksha and Deepaksha.

“So be it” said Arimardana, “take him to our fortress”, and he flew leading the group. Rakthaksha was fuming with anger at his king’s foolishness and Sthirajeevi was very happy that his plan was working well, but he pretended to be writhing in pain due to the injuries ‘inflicted’ by his flock. He also flew behind the owls. When they reached the mountain where the cave was, Arimardana said to Sthirajeevi, “ Respected Sir, Please honour me by accepting this as your home. Please stay with us inside the cave and make yourself comfortable.” Sthirajeevi replied, “O King! Thank you for your grace. I shall stay outside the cave as I am a humble servant of yours from today and I shall discharge my duties faithfully.” Seeing this fake act of Sthirajeevi, Rakthaksha was seething with anger.

True to his words, Sthirajeevi stayed outside the cave, moaning and groaning as if in great pain. Arimardana believed that Sthirajeevi was recovering very slowly and arranged to feed him with whatever they hunted at night. Sthirajeevi happily ate the food while Rakthaksha was more and more incensed day by day at this drama being enacted by Sthirajeevi.

Finally Rakthaksha could take it no more and one day, he with some of his faithful friends, told the king Arimardana that he was not willing to stay at a place where his advice was not heeded. He told him the story of the Talking Cave wherein one survives if he anticipates and averts danger. He also told the king that encouraging Sthirajeevi, would lead to the end of the owl clan and quoted the saying, “Vinaasha kale vipareetha buddhi” which meant that as one’s destruction time comes, one thinks unintelligently or the thinking becomes warped. Saying thus, Rakthaksha and his friends flew away without looking back.

Sthirajeevi was extremely happy as the one impediment in his plan had also been removed without much effort. After a few days, Sthirajeevi started bringing twigs of all sizes and putting it near the narrow entrance of the cave. To the puzzled look of the owls he gave a reply that he was building a nest for himself. The collection of twigs grew by the day and the owls were so foolish not to even notice or think that a crow would need so many twigs for a small nest.

When there were enough twigs to make a fire, Sthirajeevi, at dawn one day, flew to the Rishyamuka hills where his friends were and told them, “Come on friends, each of you pick a burning twig and fly fast with me” Accordingly, each of them picked a burning twig from the brick kilns which were being fired in the country side and flew fast with Sthirajeevi.

The owls had just returned from their night hunt and were in deep slumber. Sthirajeevi flew near the cave and dropped the burning twig on the mound of twigs collected by him. “All of you do the same,” he ordered. All the crows dropped the burning twigs as Sthirajeevi said and the mound of twigs caught fire rapidly and before the owls could realise it, they were done to death by the choking smoke.

Sthirajeevi and his friends with King Meghavarna, returned to their old Banyan tree where Meghavarna praised Sthirajeevi for being persistent in his efforts of decimating the enemy, even in the face of difficulties. He quoted the scriptures which said “It is dangerous to leave a fire unextinguished, a debt unredeemed, an enemy uncrushed and a disease untreated.”

Sthirajeevi blessed Meghavarna to rule for a long time with all virtue and gain the blessings of God. And then, the crows started living peacefully.

Power of the Mind

Long long ago, in a village in North India, there lived a well-to-do farmer named Balbir. He was a hard worker and was very sincere and so naturally, he earned a good amount of money. His wife was also a sweet-natured lady.
Unfortunately, his wife died during childbirth of their first child, a son, who was named Ganesh. Balbir married again, but the second wife Seetha was equally a good natured and kind woman. She treated Ganesh as her own child and Ganesh never got to know that his mother had died. In due course Balbir had two more sons, Umesh and Naresh and the couple brought up all the three sons equally well and even Naresh and Umesh did not know that Ganesh was their step brother.

The boys were also hard working and toiled with their father and Balbir had acquired considerable wealth in the form of lands. Balbir was also good in managing the lands productively. Balbir grew old and died one day. Ganesh took up his father’s place and showed that he was equally capable in managing the lands. Their wealth continued to grow.
There were a couple of jealous neighbours who were always looking for an opportunity to pull down Balbir’s growth and now that he was not around anymore, they got a chance. They casually mentioned to Naresh and Umesh that Ganesh was actually their step brother and it was he who was wielding the baton now and if left unchecked, he could any day drive away Naresh and Umesh.

The brothers were shocked. They went to their mother and demanded to know the truth. The mother admitted that as for his being their step brother, what the neighbours told was true. “But sons,” said she, “Ganesh Bhaiyya is so affectionate to you. Why on the earth do you imagine that he would drive you away?” The brothers were unwilling to relent. Naresh said, “I am so angry that I want to murder him” Umesh added, “My blood boils to think that we have been sharing our wealth with a step brother. Hmmph..I want to get rid of him forever!” Seetha, a kind soul as she was felt very distressed to see their anger and wanted to teach them a lesson. “Okay sons,” she said, “You do not show your anger thus. I will get rid of him”. The sons were pacified.

A few days later, Naresh and Umesh had gone to see their cousin in the next village. That night, Ganesh and his mother were asleep. Suddenly Ganesh heard his mother scream loud “Snake! Snake!” Ganesh woke up with a start and took up the stick near his bed. “Where mother? Where is it?”, he asked looking around everywhere. Seetha, with a frightened look on her face said, “I… I saw it.. entering your mouth and it vanished…” Saying thus, she fainted.
Ganesh was shell-shocked as he had this habit of sleeping with his mouth open. He immediately sprinkled some water on his mother and she woke up. He comforted her saying that it must be a dream and she went back to sleep. But that night changed Ganesh totally. He became very worried and kept on thinking of the snake. He could not rest his mind.
Slowly over the days, he was not talking much and was always seen with a worried and depressed look. He did not eat much and did not do any physical work. He did not seem to be interested in any material thing. This took a toll on his health and within two weeks he became bed-ridden.

His younger brothers were feeling gleeful for without physically getting rid of him, he was now out of active life and now they had all the wealth to themselves to manage and they totally ignored Ganesh and started to take their own decisions. The jealous neighbours were waiting for this day. Slowly, they started interfering in the brothers’ decisions and imposing their will. One of them even occupied a chunk of land belonging to the brothers, by putting up a small house, on the pretext that it was to supervise the rice planting in his field which was nearby. The other neighbour also was planning a similar exercise on another portion of the land. Umesh and Naresh could physically work very hard no doubt, but they did not possess the assertiveness or shrewdness that their elder brother Ganesh had.

Slowly, Umesh and Naresh started to realise that they were being taken for a ride by the neighbours and in no time, the neighbours would usurp the whole of their wealth. For the first time, they felt very sore about their own attitude towards Ganesh. They felt that if Ganesh had been around, all this could have been averted. That night they spoke out their mind to their mother and told her that they realised how mean they were. “We thought of killing Bhaiyya,” said Naresh. “We are ashamed, mother, of how bad we have been” echoed Umesh. “Poor Bhaiyya, we have not been even talking to him for the past two months. After how well he has protected father’s property, we realise how good he is, and….mother, as you said, we feel Ganesh Bhaiyya would not have even dreamt of chasing us away”. He continued, “But, what is the use now, Bhaiyya is bed-ridden and looks miserable. I do not know whether we can save him even. I shall go to the town tomorrow and find out if the Vaid (doctor) can come home and see Bhaiyya”.

Seetha saw that the brothers had realised their folly. She told them, “ Naresh and Umesh, before you go to the doctor, go to the temple of the Goddess in the hills and stay a night there and offer prayers. Then you can come home and go to the doctor”. “As you say, mother said the brothers and started for the temple the very next morning.

That night, again, Ganesh heard his mother shriek in the middle of the night. “Snake” she cried, “Ganesh, a snake!!!” Ganesh was not able to get up. But Seetha got up and lit a lamp and happily said, Ganesh, I saw the same snake which entered your mouth, go out of your mouth. There… there, it slid out through the window.” Ganesh who was so weak and could not even sit up, slowly got up. His face had a relieved look. “Are you sure mother? “ he asked. “Yes” said Seetha. It was the same snake. It got out of your mouth and slid away”. That was enough. Ganesh was up early in the morning and was feeling hungry. Seetha gladly gave him breakfast. He ate well that day and chatted with his mother on the goings on in their lands. When he heard about the antics of the neighbours, he was furious and vowed to shoo them away from their land.

The next day when Naresh and Umesh returned, they were pleasantly surprised to see Ganesh sitting up in his bed and eating. They fell at his feet and asked for forgiveness for their rude behaviour. Ganesh had not a wee bit of hatred and he embraced them and told them, he would be up soon and would start working. Both the brothers were relieved and so was Seetha.

For, she knew the Power of the Mind!!

Birbal Cooks Khichdi!

Once Emperor Akbar had gone on a hunting expedition. It was the peak winter season and late in the evening, Akbar wanted to have a wash, after a tiring day. He went to the nearby river and when he tried to take the water, it was ice cold. Akbar was very surprised that the water should be so chill that he could not bear it even for the few seconds when he put his hand in. He made a casual remark, saying, “I bet nobody would have a dip in this cold water even if I give them one thousand gold coins!!” Birbal, who was present there immediately retorted, “No Jahanpanah, I can bring you a person who will even stay chest deep in this cold water through the night for getting thousand gold coins. Money is very powerful!” Akbar looked at him amused, and asked him to bring the person, the next day to court.

Birbal, obeyed the order and the very next day, brought a young , but poor man, to the court and the Emperor asked him whether he would stand in the river bare bodied in chest deep water through the night, if he was given a thousand gold coins. The man nodded his head vigorously and said that he will do it the same night. Akbar ordered the man to be taken to the river along with two bodyguards and told the guards to keep a watch over him while he stood through the night bare bodied in chest deep water. The man was taken accordingly and he stood in the river shivering through the night but did not give up. As the sun came up in the morning, the man went home.

Later, in the day, eager to claim his award, the man came to the court to meet the Emperor. “Hmmm…. So.. you stayed in the cold water throughout the night huh?” thundered Akbar. “Yes, Jahanpanah” replied the man meekly, “I stood throughout the night in the water.”

“Did you not feel cold at all?”

“I did… Jahanpanah.”

“How did you spend the night without sleeping?”

“Jahanpanah, there was a street light two hundred metres away and I kept staring at it to keep myself awake…”

“Well, you have earned your reward” said Akbar and called his minister to get the bag of gold coins as promised.

Just then, a voice was heard, “Salaam Jahanpanah! ” The voice belonged to one of the courtiers who was always jealous of people who got rewards from the king. “Excuse me” he continued. “Your Highness is an epitome of justice and your judgement is always impeccable, but now….”

Akbar looked at him questioningly. The man continued “ This man has already admitted that he was staring at the street light throughout the night and is it not possible that he grasped the warmth of the light ? Then how could he claim that he spent the entire night freezing in the cold water?”

Akbar considered this view point and shrugged his shoulders. “ It seems what my courtier says may be true. I don’t think I can give this reward to you.” The poor man face fell as he heard the words of the Emperor . He stood sadly for a moment and left the palace, without a word, his face really downcast. Birbal, was watching the entire proceedings and was shocked by this behaviour of Akbar and he also knew about the attitude of the courtier. He mentally made up his mind to see that justice was done to the poor man, but left the court silently.

A few days later, Birbal was absent in the court. He had assiduously sent word to the King that he would come to the court after he finished cooking Khichdi which he had started that morning. The next two days also, he was absent and word came that the “Khichdi was not cooked yet.” Akbar was curious and knew that this was not an ordinary matter.

So, the next day, accompanied by the courtiers, he paid a surprise visit to Birbal’s house. He was told that Birbal was cooking Khichdi in the garden behind the house. “Strange” thought Akbar as he walked to the garden. The sight he saw there was even more strange. Birbal has planted two long poles which were connected with a rope and in the middle of the rope hung a pot and Birbal was stirring its contents standing on a high stool, with a look of impatience on his face. There was a small oil lamp on the ground beneath the pot and the distance between the lamp and the pot was approximately two metres.

Akbar and his courtiers were genuinely amused, and Akbar asked “ Birbal, What is this I hear? I was told you were cooking Khichdi and…” Before the King could complete, pat came the reply, “Yes Jahanpanah, I am cooking Khichdi for the past four days and this stupid thing is not getting cooked yet!” Akbar asked, “But Birbal, how can the food get cooked at such a height with such a small flame?” “It is not that much of a distance Jahanpanah”, said Birbal, “When a man can get warmth from a lamp two hundred metres away, there should be no problem for the heat to reach this small pot from a small distance of two metres.”

Akbar immediately saw Birbal’s point and said “Well done Birbal, I see your logic and I shall summon the poor man today itself and give him the reward he earned.”

The poor man was very thankful to Birbal and once again, Birbal proved himself to be witty as well as just.

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