The Mice that ate Iron

There was once a rich merchant named Naduk who had lost all his wealth. He thought to himself that he should not live here as a poor man since people who respected him once, would now look down upon him. He decided to go abroad to seek his fortunes. To finance his travels, he pawned a 1000-pound iron balance that his ancestors had left behind, with a local merchant, Lakshman.

After several years he returned and asked merchant Lakshman, “Friend Lakshman, here take your money with interest and return my ancestral iron balance.” The merchant said, “Friend Naduk, your balance-beam has been eaten by mice.”

To this Naduk replied without emotion: “Lakshman, you are in no way to blame, if it has been eaten by mice. Such is life. Nothing in the universe has any permanence. However, I am going to the river for a bath. Please send your boy Dhanadeva with me, to look after my needs.”

Since Lakshman was conscience-stricken at his own theft, he called his son and told him, “Son, let me introduce Uncle Naduk, who is going to the river to bathe. You must accompany him taking with you all the things he needs to take his bath. Men offer help not only out of kindness but also out of fear, greed or a selfish need. If one offers help for reasons other than this, you have to be wary of such a person.”

So Lakshman’s son took the bathing things and delightedly accompanied Naduk to the river. After Naduk had taken his bath, he led the boy into a nearby cave and, pushing the boy inside, closed it with a huge boulder.  Thereafter Naduk returned to Lakshman’s house. And when Lakshman said: “Friend Naduk, didn’t you bring back my son? Where is he? Please tell me,” Naduk answered: “My good Lakshman, a hawk carried him off from the river-bank. There was nothing I could do.”

“Oh, Naduk!” cried Lakshman. “You liar! How could a hawk possibly carry off a big boy like Dhanadeva?” “But, Lakshman,” retorted Naduk, “the mice could eat a balance-beam made of iron. Give me my balance-beam, if you want your son.”

Both of them took the dispute to the king’s court. Lakshman complained to the judges that Naduk had kidnapped his child. The judges ordered him to return the boy to Lakshman. But Naduk pleaded: “What am I to do? Before my eyes a hawk carried him from the river-bank.”

“Come, Naduk!” said they, “you are not telling the truth. How can a hawk carry off a fifteen-year-old boy?” Then Naduk laughed and said: “Gentlemen, when mice can eat an iron balance weighing 1000 pounds, then hawks can even lift elephants whereas Dhanadeva was a mere boy.”

“How was that?” they asked, and Naduk told them the entire story. At this the judges laughed and ordered Naduk to return the boy and Lakshman to give back the balance to Naduk.

The Two Friends

Once upon a time there lived two friends named Dharmabuddhi and Papabuddhi. These two travelled to another country far away in order to earn money. When they had saved a thousand gold coins, they decided to return home, since their objective was attained.

When they drew near their native city, Dharmabuddhi said: “My good friend, half of our savings belong to you. Please take your share, so that, now that we are at home, we may enjoy our wealth.”

But Papabuddhi, with an evil intention, said to the other: “My good friend, so long as we two hold this treasure in common, our fruitful partnership will remain intact. Let us each take a hundred gold coins, and go to our homes after burying the remainder at a secret place. Whenever we need money, we can come here together and take whatever we need. Moreover it is not safe to take home all this wealth because relatives and friends in need will seek help if they know about our riches. You know that money tempts even saints.”

Now Dharmabuddhi, in the nobility of his nature, did not comprehend the hidden motives of his friend and agreed to the proposal. Both of them took a hundred gold coins each and carefully hid the remaining eight hundred coins under a Mimosa tree in the forest and moved to the city.

Before long, Papabuddhi exhausted his wealth in bad habits and unwise expenditure. He therefore made a second division with Dharmabuddhi, each taking a second hundred gold coins.

Within a year this, too, had been spent in the same way through Papabuddhi’s hands. As a result, he thought: “Time has come for me to steal all the remaining money”. After this decision, he went alone, removed the treasure of remaining eight hundred gold coins, and levelled the ground.

A month later, Papabuddhi went to Dharmabuddhi and said: “My good friend, let us divide the rest of the money equally.” So he and Dharmabuddhi visited the spot and began to dig. When the excavation failed to reveal any treasure, Papabuddhi shouted: “Dharmabuddhi, you have stolen our shared treasure. If you don’t give me my half then I will take you to court.” Naturally Dharamabuddhi denied having taken the money and together they approached the court of law.

In the court, the judge asked them to take oath in the name of God. But Papabuddhi quoted experts as saying that relevant documents should be produced first as proof, then witnesses should be summoned to give evidence and oath in the name of God is to be taken when neither documents nor witnesses are available.

“I can produce the Gods of the forest as witnesses. They will determine who is guilty and who is not,” said Papabuddhi. Impressed by this plan, the judges asked both the friends to be present next morning at the forest for a hearing. Then Papabuddhi went home and asked his father’s help. “Father, I have stolen Dharmabuddhi’s money. There is a case in the court that I can win only with your help.”

“How can I help you son? What do you want me to do?” asked his father.

“There is a big Mimosa tree near the spot where we had buried the treasure. I am going to hide you in the hollow of that tree. Tomorrow morning when the judges and others assemble there, I will ask you to tell the truth. Then it is your turn to declare that Dharmabuddhi is the thief,” said the son.

“Oh, my son,” said the father, “what are you doing? This is no kind of a scheme. There is wisdom in the old story of the foolish Cranes”

“What was that?” asked Papabuddhi. And his father told the story of The Foolish Crane and The Mongoose.

Then father said, “Wise men should not only be resourceful but also know the consequences of being resourceful. If you have a strategy, you must also know what the strategy would lead to.” But Papabuddhi didn’t pay any heed to his father’s warning. During the night he hid his father out of sight in the hollow of the tree. When morning came, Papabuddhi followed Dharmabuddhi and the judge to the Mimosa tree. Papabuddhi went near the tree and shouted, “O sun, moon, air, fire, earth, water, day and night, you are all witnesses to the history of humanity. O Gods of the Forest, declare who among us is guilty.”

Then Papabuddhi’s father spoke from inside the hollow of Mimosa: “Gentlemen, Dharmabuddhi took that money.” All judges and the king’s men were astonished to hear this statement and sat down to decide what punishment they should give to Dharmabuddhi.

Meanwhile, Dharmabuddhi filled the hollow with rags and hay and set it on fire. The fire forced the half-burnt father to come out of the tree. And they all asked: “Why, sir! What does this mean?”

“It is all Papabuddhi’s doing,” said the father and soon collapsed. The king’s men at once bound Papabuddhi’s hands and feet and hung him to a tree. The judge said, “Papabuddhi considered only the crooked plan but not what would follow. He reaped the consequences.”

The Foolish Crane and The Mongoose

A flock of cranes once had their nests on a fig tree in a part of a forest. In the hollow of the same tree lived a cobra that used to feed on the eggs and crane chicks before their wings sprouted.

At last mother crane, in utter woe at seeing her young ones eaten by the cobra, went to the shore of the pond, and began to weep. And a crab who noticed her in sorrow, said: “Madam, why are you so tearful today?” “My good friend,” said the mother crane, “what am I to do? Every day, the cobra living in fig tree is killing our children. I am not able to contain my grief. Tell me, is there any possible way to kill him?”

The crab then thought, “These cranes are our born enemies. I shall give her advice that is misleading and suicidal. That will see the end of all these cranes. Elders have always said that if you want to wipe out your enemy your words should be soft like butter and your heart like a stone.”

And he said aloud: “Madam, strew pieces of meat from the mongoose’s burrow to the hollow of the cobra. The mongoose will follow the trail of meat to the cobra’s home and will kill it.”

When this had been done, the mongoose followed the bits of fish, killed the villainous snake, and also ate at his leisure all the cranes who made their home in the tree.

The Lion and The Carpenter

In a faraway city, there lived a carpenter. He had a practice of carrying his lunch and go with his wife into the forest to cut great logs. In that forest lived a lion named Nirmal, accompanied by two carnivorous friends, a jackal and a crow.

One day the lion was roaming the woods alone and encountered the carpenter. The carpenter coming face to face with the lion was shocked. He thought that he is no match for the lion in strength nor can he outrun him. Perceiving that his only option was to face the powerful, he stepped forward to meet the lion, bowed low, and said: “Come, friend, come! Please share my dinner. My wife has specially cooked these dishes for you.”

“My good fellow,” said the lion, “being carnivorous, I do not live on rice. But in spite of that, I will have a taste, since I take a fancy to you. What kind of dainty have you got?”

When the lion had spoken, the carpenter stuffed him with all kinds of delicious buns, muffins and things, all flavoured with sugar, butter, grape juice, and spice. And to show his gratitude, the lion guaranteed his safety and granted unhindered passage through the forest.

The carpenter said: “Friend, you must come here every day, but please come alone. You must not bring anyone else to visit me.” In this manner they spent their days in friendship. And the lion, since every day he received such hospitality, such a variety of goodies, gave up the practice of hunting.

Meanwhile the jackal and the crow, who lived on lion’s kills, were starving, and they implored the lion. “Master,” they said, “where do you go every day? And tell us why you come back so happy.” “I don’t go anywhere,” said he. But when they persisted with the question, the lion said: “A friend of mine comes into this wood every day. His wife cooks the most delicious things, and I eat them every day, in order to show friendly feeling.”

Then the jackal and the crow said: “We two will go there, will kill the carpenter, and have enough meat and blood to keep us fat for a long time.” But the lion heard them and said: “Look here! I guaranteed his safety. How can I even imagine playing him such a scurvy trick? But I will get a delicious tidbit from him for you also.”

So the three started to find the carpenter. While they were still far off, the carpenter caught a glimpse of the lion and his seedy companions, and he thought: “This does not look prosperous to me.” So he and his wife quickly climbed a tree.

Then the lion came up and said: “My good fellow, why did you climb the tree when you saw me? Why, I am your friend, the lion. My name is Nirmal. Do not be alarmed.” But the carpenter stayed where he was and said: “Dear friend! I trust you since you are a person of honour. However I do not trust your friends.”

The Trusting Camel

Once a merchant was leading a caravan of a hundred camels loaded with valuable cloth. Not able to bear all the load, one of his camels, named Kradanaka, fell limp. Moved by his plight, the merchant divided his load and distributed it on other camels. But since he found himself in a wild forest region where delay was impossible, he proceeded, leaving Kradanaka behind.

When the caravan was gone, Kradanaka hobbled about and began to crop the lush grass of forest. Thus in a very few days the poor fellow regained his strength.

In that forest lived a lion named Madotkata, who had as hangers-on a leopard, a crow, and a jackal. As they roamed the forest, they encountered the abandoned camel. The lion said: “This is an exotic animal in our forest. Ask him what he is.” So the crow informed him: “This goes by the name of camel in the world. He is a herbivore and is fit to be killed for food”.  But the lion said: “I shall not kill someone who came seeking hospitality. According to our elders, you cannot kill even an enemy who came trusting you.” Thereupon the lion asked Kradanaka: “My good friend, where did you come from?” And the camel gave precise details of his separation from the caravan, so that the lion experienced compassion and guaranteed his personal security.

In the course of affairs, the lion fought an elephant one day and got seriously wounded by the elephant’s tusk. He had to restrict himself to his cave and could not hunt. After about a week had passed, the lion and his servants could not bear the hunger anymore. So the lion said to them: “I am crippled by this wound and cannot hunt as usual. Bring me a food-animal. I will kill him somehow and provide food for you all.”

The leopard, the jackal, the crow and the camel looked everywhere for an animal but could not find anyone. The crow and the jackal conferred together, and the jackal said: “Friend crow, why roam about? Here is Kradanaka, who trusts our king. Let us provide for our sustenance by killing him.”

“A very good suggestion,” said the crow. “But after all, the master guaranteed his personal security, and so cannot kill him.”

“Leave it to me. I shall convince Madotkata to kill the camel. Wait here. I will meet the lord and get his permission,” said the jackal and left to meet the lion.

When he found the lion, he said: “Master, we have roamed the entire forest, and are now too famished to stir a foot. Since my lord is also in the same condition, I humbly suggest that we make a meal of this camel.”

Highly annoyed with the ruthless proposal, the lion said, “Shame upon you, most degraded of sinners! If you repeat these words, I shall first kill you. I have given him my word. How can I kill him? Haven’t our elders said that no gift is greater than the gift of an assurance?”

“You are right my lord,” replied the jackal, “It would be a sin to kill him who has your word. But if the camel voluntarily offers himself as food to his lord and king, then it is no sin to accept the offer. If he does not volunteer, you can kill anyone of us. You are hungry and close to your end. If we are not of use to our gracious master at this time then our lives have no value.

After listening to this, Madotkata said: “Very well. This seems to be more reasonable.”

The jackal told the other three assistants: “Friends, our lord is very low. The life is oozing out of him. If he goes, there would be no one to protect us from others. So, let us go and voluntarily offer our own bodies to him. Thus we shall pay the debt we owe to our gracious master.”

So they all went, their eyes brimming with tears, bowed low before Madotkata, and sat down.

“What’s the matter? Did you find an animal?” asked the lion. And the crow replied: “Master, though we roamed everywhere, we still did not catch any creature. But I request my lord to have me for his meal. Thus the lord will survive while I shall go to heaven.”

On hearing this, the jackal said: “Your body is too small. If he ate you, the master would hardly prolong his life. You have shown your loyalty, now make way, while I address the master.” So the jackal bowed respectfully and said: “Lord, I request you to have me for your meal and ensure me a place in heaven. The lord has rights of life and death over his servants. Therefore, it is no sin in exercising his rights.”

Hearing this, the leopard said: “Very praiseworthy, indeed, my friend. However, your body is rather small, too. Well, you have shown yourself a loyal servant. Make way, then, so that I, too, may win the master’s grace.”

Thereupon the leopard bowed low and said: “Master, let me give away my life to save your life. Please allow me to earn a permanent berth in heaven.”

Hearing this, poor Kradanaka thought: “Well, they used the most elegant speech. Yet the master did not kill a single one of them. So I, too, will make a speech befitting the occasion. I have no doubt that all three will contradict me.”

Having come to this conclusion, he said: “Very admirable, friend leopard. But you too are carnivorous. How, then, can the master eat you? Make way, then, so that I, too, may address the master.” So poor Kradanaka stood in the presence, bowed low and requested the lion to have him for that day’s meal.

Hereupon the lion gave the word and at once, the jackal and the leopard pounced on him, tore him to pieces and all of them had a sumptuous feast.

The Fall & Rise of Merchant Dantila

In the city of Vardhaman, there lived a wealthy merchant named Dantila. He directed the whole administration for the king and artfully handled everything to the satisfaction of royalty as well as common populace. He once organized a lavish reception for his daughter’s wedding ceremony which was attended by the king, the queen, their ministers and all the rich and influential people in the city.

Gorambha, a lowly sweeper in the royal household, was also present in the reception. When Dantila saw him occupying a seat reserved for the nobles of the king, he was angered. He ordered Gorambha’s hands to be cuffed and that he be thrown out.

Thus humiliated, Gorambha spent sleepless nights trying to think of a way to extract revenge from Dantila. He thought to himself, “I am a poor man and so cannot directly take on such a wealthy and influential person as Dantila. The biggest source of Dantila’s power is king’s faith in him. I must somehow see that the king stops his favours to him.”

Then he hit upon a plan to take revenge on Dantila.   One early morning when the king was half awake, Gorambha pretending to sweep the king’s bedroom began loudly murmuring, “Oh, Look at Dantila’s audacity! He has the nerve to cuddle the queen.” Hearing this, the king demanded to know whether what Gorambha was muttering is true. Did Dantila embrace the queen?
“Oh, your majesty, I don’t remember nor do I know what I was saying because I was drowsy having spent the entire night in gambling,” the sweeper told the king.

The jealous king thought that it was possible that the sweeper had seen Dantila, who had equal access to the royal household as Gorambha, hugging the queen. He remembered wise men saying that men were likely to talk in their sleep (or when they are drunk) about what they did, saw and desired in the day. Furthermore he did not completely trust his queen and considered it likely that this must have happened. Convinced that Dantila had indeed embraced the queen, the king stripped Dantila of his administrative position and barred him from entering either the court or the royal household.

The merchant began grieving his fate though he had not done any harm to the king or his relatives even in his dreams. One day as Dantila was trying to enter the king’s palace he was barred by the king’s men. Seeing this Gorambha laughed aloud and told them, “You fools, you are barring the great Dantila whose temper has been spoilt by the king’s favours and he dispenses arrests and releases. If you stop him, you will get your hands cuffed, just like me.”

Hearing this, Dantila realised that it was all Gorambha’s doing. Wise men have said that though foolish, cowardly and mean a royal servant be, he should be kept in good humour for he can unduly influence the monarch. The merchant thought that it would do him good to make Gorambha happy and win his confidence. One evening he invited the sweeper for tea and presented him with expensive gifts and told him, “My good fellow, I had never meant to insult you. You had occupied a seat I had set apart for the king’s priest. Kindly pardon me.”

Pleased with the gifts, the sweeper forgave Dantila and promised to win the king’s favour for him again. The next day, Gorambha repeated the same drama of pretending to talk irrelevantly while the king was half awake, raving that the king was eating cucumber in the loo. “What nonsense are you talking? Did you ever see me doing such things?” the king demanded to know. “No, your majesty. I do not know nor do I remember what I was saying because I was drowsy having spent the entire night in gambling,” the sweeper said.

The king then realized that if what the sweeper had said about him was nonsense then what he had said about Dantila also could not be true. A noble person like Dantila could not have done what Gorambha had said earlier. The king also found that without Dantila the affairs of the state had suffered and civic administration had come to a standstill. The king immediately summoned the merchant to his palace and restored to him all the authority he had enjoyed earlier.