The Plover Who Fought the Ocean

A plover and his wife once lived by the shore of the ocean, the mighty ocean that swarms with all types of fish, amphibians and other teeming life. In due time the wife became pregnant and was ready to lay her eggs. So she said to her husband: “Please find a spot where I may lay my eggs.” “Why,” said he, “this ancestral home of ours promises progress. Lay your eggs here.” “Oh,” said she, “don’t mention this dreadful place. Here is the ocean near at hand. His tide might someday make a long reach and lick away my babies.”

But the plover answered: “Sweetheart, he knows me. Surely the great ocean cannot show such enmity to me. He would not be rash enough to disturb the fearless plover.”

But even as he spoke, his wife laughed outright, since she knew the full measure of his capacity, and she said: “Very fine, indeed. Your boasting is making you a laughing stock. How can you fail to appreciate your own strength and weakness? To know oneself is hard but wise self-critics are always safe in toughest of times. So please listen to my advice and think before deciding, else we may end up losing like the turtle hanging from stick.”

“How was that?” asked the husband and his wife told the story of The Turtle and Geese.

The lesson is that those who do not heed the advice of their well-wishers meet their end like the turtle. Any day, the survivors are those who foresee a danger in time and those who deal with it when it comes. Those who leave things to fate and believe in luck will destroy themselves like Yadbhavishya,” said the wife.

“How was that?” asked the husband and his wife told the story of The Three Fishes.

The wife resumed, “That is why I told you that those who foresee the problem and those who deal with the problem when it arises are always victors and those who trust their luck are the losers.”

“My dear,” said the plover, “why do you think of me like Yadbhavishya? Every person is different. Feel no anxiety. Who can bring humiliation upon you while my arms protect you?”

So his wife laid her eggs, but the ocean, who had listened to the previous conversation, thought: “Well, well! How vain is this plover that is so small yet thinks too highly of himself. I will just put his power to test.”

So the next day, when the two plovers had gone foraging, he made a long reach with his wave-hands and eagerly seized the eggs. Then when the hen-plover returned and found the nursery empty, she said to her husband: “See what has happened to poor me. I told you more than once that we should move, but you were stupid as Yadbhavishya and would not go. Now the ocean has seized my eggs today.”

“My dear,” said the plover, “wait until you witness my power, until I dry up that rascally ocean with my bill.” But she replied: “My dear husband, how can you fight the ocean? Anyone who picks up a fight with an unknown foe without first estimating its power, perishes like moth in a flame.”

“My dear,” said the plover, “you should not say such things. Those who have confidence can confront stronger men. Doesn’t the lion who is small in size slash the mighty elephant? He who has courage is the stronger person. With this bill I shall dry up the water to the last drop, and turn the ocean into dry land.”

“Darling,” said his wife, “with a bill that holds only one drop at a time, how will you dry up the ocean, into which pour mighty rivers like the Ganges and the Sindhu? Why talk nonsense?” But the plover said: “Not to despair is to win the Goddess of Wealth. I have an iron beak. I will toil day and night to siphon off all the water.”

“Well,” said his wife, “if you feel that you must make war on the ocean, at least call other birds to your aid before you begin. When they are united, it is difficult to defeat even a band of weak men. Even blades of slender grass can bind an elephant if they are woven into a rope. Haven’t you heard the story of how a sparrow, a woodpecker, a fly and a frog killed an elephant?”

“How was that?” asked the husband and his wife told the story of The Duel between Elephant and Sparrow.

“Very well,” said the plover. “I will assemble my friends and dry up the ocean.” With this in mind, he summoned all the birds and related his grief at the abduction of his eggs. And they started to beat the ocean with their wings, as a means of bringing relief to his sorrow.

But one bird said: “We cannot do this job. Let us rather fill up the ocean with clods and dust.” So they all brought what clods and dust they could carry in the hollow of their bills and started to fill up the ocean.

Then another bird said: “It is plain that we are not equal to a contest with mighty ocean. We should seek counsel from someone wise and experienced just as the flock of geese was saved by their grandfather’s advice.”

“How was that?” asked the birds. And the speaker told the story of The Shrewd old Goose.

After the story, he said: “There is an old goose who lives beside a banyan tree, who will give us sound and practical advice. Let us go and ask him.”

All the birds visited the old goose and related their grief at the abduction of the eggs. Then the old goose said: “The king of us all is Garuda, Lord Vishnu’s vehicle. Therefore, the timely course of action is that we must all stir his feelings by a chorus of grief. He will surely take revenge on the ocean.” With this purpose they sought Garuda.

Now Garuda had just been summoned by Lord Vishnu to take part in an impending battle between gods and demons. At just this moment the birds reported to their king the entire story of ocean stealing plovers’ eggs. “O bird divine,” they said, “while you gleam in royal radiance, we must live on what little is won by the labour of our bills. The ocean is acting arrogantly for he has a true estimate of our strength, just like the lion found out about the ram.”

“How was that?” asked Garuda. And an old bird told the story of The Lion and the Ram.

Moved by their story of grief, Garuda thought to himself, “These birds have a legitimate grievance. I will go and punish the ocean.” Meanwhile, an envoy from Lord Vishnu came and told Garuda that the Lord had sent for him as He wanted to travel to Amaravathi on a divine mission. The envoy asked Garuda to accompany him at once.

Garuda told the envoy, “No, I cannot come. I am not a useful servant. Let Him take someone else. Please convey my regards to the Lord.” Surprised at Garuda’s words, the envoy said, “O Garuda, you have never uttered such words about the Lord. Did the Lord slight you in any manner? Let me know.”

“See, this ocean, the Lord’s resting-place, has swallowed the eggs of my servant, the plover. If the Lord does not punish the ocean for this, I shall not serve Him.” said Garuda.

Informed of Garuda’s anger, Lord Vishnu told Himself, “Ah! Garuda is dreadfully angry. I shall go myself and receive him with respect. If the king is satisfied he can give only money. But when the master honors his servant, the servant is ready to sacrifice his life for the sake of the master. Therefore, it is wise that I should visit and appease him.”

Having reached this conclusion, he hastened to Garuda, who, beholding his Master a visitor in his own house, felt guilty that he had said harsh words about the Lord and said, “O Lord, the ocean who enjoys your protection has stolen the eggs of my servant and thus insulted me. Because of respect for you, I have delayed taking action against him. But if nothing is done, I myself will this day reduce him to dry land.”

To this Lord Vishnu replied: “True, learned men say that a master is responsible for the misdeeds of his servants. Such misdeeds hurt the master more than the servant. Come with me. I shall recover those eggs from the ocean and make the plover pair happy again. Later we will go to Amaravathi”.

To this Garuda agreed, and Lord Vishnu reproached the ocean, then fitted the fire-arrow to his bow and said: “Villain, give the plover his eggs. Else, I will reduce you to dry land.”

On hearing this, the frightened ocean, tremblingly took the eggs and restored them to the plover, as Lord Vishnu directed.