The Foolish Crane and the Mongoose (Panchatantra - Part I)
A big banyan tree was home to a number of cranes in a forest. In the hollow of that tree lived a cobra, which used to feed on the young cranes which did not yet learn to fly. When the mother crane saw the cobra killing her offspring, she began crying. Seeing the sorrowing crane, a crab asked her what made her cry. The crane told the crab, “Every day, the cobra living in this tree is killing my children. I am not able to contain my grief. Please show me some way to get rid of this cobra.”
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. Then the crab told the crane, “Uncle, 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 burrow and will kill it.”
The crane did as the crab advised her. The mongoose came following the meat trail and killed not only the cobra but also all the cranes on the tree. “That is why,” the king's men said, “if you have a strategy, you must also know what the strategy would lead to. Papabuddhi considered only the crooked plan but not what would follow. He reaped the consequences.” Karataka told Damanaka, “That's why like Papabuddhi you haven't foreseen what will happen if you went ahead with your plans. You have an evil mind. I knew it from your plans to endanger the life of our lord. Your place is not with us. If a rat had a 1000-pound scale for its lunch, is it any wonder that a kite carried away a child?”
“What about it,” asked Damanaka. Karataka told him the following story. Jeernadhana was the son of a rich merchant. But he had lost all his wealth. He thought he should go abroad, for, he told himself that he who had once prospered should not live in the same place as a poor man. People who respected him once would now look down upon him and shun him. Deciding to go abroad to seek his fortune, he mortgaged with a local merchant the 1000-pound balance his ancestors had left behind.
He went abroad with the money the merchant gave him and after several years came home and asked the merchant to return him the balance. The merchant said, “O my, where is the balance? The rats have gnawed at it for food.” Jeernadhana replied without emotion, “I cannot blame you for what the rats have done. The world is like that. Nothing really is permanent. Any way, I am going to the river to take the purification bath. Please send with me your son Dhanadeva to look after my needs.”
Afraid that Jeernadeva would accuse him of theft, the merchant called his son and told him, “Son, your uncle is going to the river for a bath. You 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 etc. If one offers help for reasons other than this, you have to be wary of such a person.” The merchant's son followed Jeernadeva to the river. After taking bath, he led the boy into a nearby cave and, pushing the boy inside, closed it with a huge boulder. When Jeernadeva returned from the river, the merchant asked him, “O honoured guest, didn't you bring back my son? Where is he? Please tell me.”
Jeernadeva told him, “A kite has carried away your boy. There was nothing I could do.” “You cheat, is this possible? How can a kite carry away a boy? Bring my boy back. Otherwise, I will go to the king and complain.” “Yes, just as a kite cannot carry away a boy, rats also cannot eat away heavy iron balance. If you want your boy, give me back my balance,” said Jeernadeva.
Both of them took the dispute to the king's court. The merchant complained to the judges that Jeernadeva had kidnapped his child. The judges ordered him to return the boy to the merchant. Jeernadeva told the judges the entire story. Thereupon, the judges ordered Jeernadeva to return the boy and the merchant to give back the balance to Jeernadeva.
Karataka then told Damanaka, “You have done this foul deed because you were jealous of the king's friendship with Sanjeevaka. It is not without reason that our elders have said: “Fools hate the learned The poor blame the rich The miser riles the giver The wicked abhor the virtuous” “You have tried to help us. But you have hurt us. It is like the well-meaning monkey killing the king,” said Karataka. “What did the monkey do?” asked Damanaka.