Hitopadesha- Pingalaka’s Fear

Pingalaka's fear

Dhamanaka, the jackal, argues with his brother that they have a duty to serve their king, and for that they must learn what caused Pigalaka’s fear. Having convinced the other jackal, Dhamanaka approaches the king and promises to ease Pingalaka’s fear by solving the problem.

Pingalaka’s Fear

“Shhh… that’s just your guesswork. You don’t know for sure….” Karataka shook his head.

“He doesn’t have to tell me, Karataka! I can make out what someone’s thinking from how they walk, their expressions, whether they scowl, frown, or smile, from their words. Watch me! I will become his friend by saying all the right things.”

Karataka sprang up and looked at his brother. “You’re going to what? Are you crazy? You can’t just walk up to the king and talk to him. There are rules about serving the king, and you know nothing about those! You’ll be lucky if he thinks you are a fool and lets you go.”

Dhamanaka was sure he knew what to do. “Phewy! Of course, I know what to do and say! The trick to please people is to say what they want to hear. The king will be pleased if I agree to do whatever he asks. It’s as simple as that!”

“And WHAT if the king gets annoyed with you for walking in without being called?”

“Stop being such a scaredy cat! I’ll take that chance! My goodness, Karataka! You can’t always avoid doing things because you fear what might happen! There’s always a risk in everything. If we eat, there is a risk of getting an upset stomach. Does that stop you from eating? No! If there is a chance of failure, it means there is also a chance of success, doesn’t it?

Powerful people need others who will do as they ask. They don’t care who we are, where we come from, or whether we are rich or poor. As long as I do what the king asks me to do, I will be fine.”

Karataka was taken aback at his brother’s words. He felt nothing good will come out of this. So he tried to convince him not to go by asking more questions.

“Okay, so you’ll approach the king. But what are you going to say to him?”

Dhamanaka had a plan. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to blurt out things to him like a fool. Before I say anything, I’ll check to see if he likes me.”

“Oh! And HOW do you plan to find that out?” Karataka didn’t realize his brother had planned all this.

“That’s easy. If an important person looks at you in a friendly manner, smiles encouragingly, asks how you are doing, says nice things about you to others even when you are not there, and forgives you when you make a mistake…, their actions tell you that they like you.

On the other hand, when a master promises to do things for you but delays or forgets because they don’t care enough, you know you’re not important to that person.

I will be careful in how I speak to the king. See, you can fail not only by making mistakes but also by ignoring opportunities.”

Karataka knew he could not stop Dhamanaka. So he wished him all the best with one last warning.

“Still, be careful what you say. Even the wisest person like Brihaspati can get into trouble by saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.”

“Yes, my friend. I will watch out for what I say, but you understand I must do this, don’t you? There are situations when it is wrong to be silent. Even if you are a lowly servant, you must speak out when there is danger, or if the master does something wrong, or when you miss an opportunity. If I want to get a better job and become a minister, I have to learn to give good advice, don’t you think? Come on! Wish me luck! I will solve Pingala’s fear!”

Karataka knew there was nothing he could say to convince his brother otherwise. “Good luck. I wish you all the best!”

Dhamanaka looked dazed as he walked into the king’s presence, and bowed low. The lion straightened his neck. “I… haven’t seen you in a while, have I?”

“Yes, master, you have never really needed me all this time. But something tells me there may be something I can do now. That’s why I’m here. I know you have other ministers, but something as ordinary as straw can clean teeth or scratch behind the ears. I could do some such small favour for you. And if you are wondering if I’ve become dull and useless, let me tell you, I’m still sharp as ever. “

“Are you, really?” The lion growled.

“Of course, master. If the pearl jewellery looks dull, it’s not because of the pearl. It’s the metal around it that makes it look faded. Some people may boast that the glass ornament looks better than the ruby. They may even set it in a crown and wear it. But which one brings a fortune when you try to sell it? The glass is just a piece of glass, but a ruby’s worth is much more.

I hope you don’t mind my saying, your highness, When you treat everyone the same, it is discouraging for those of us who are intelligent. Master, you must know that three kinds of people serve you: The smart, the not-at-all-smart, and the average. Each must have a job suited to their ability. Everything has its rightful place. We don’t wear a crown fit for the king’s head on the feet. Nor do we wear the anklet, which looks graceful on the feet, on our forehead.

If a diamond is set not in gold but in a cheap metal like tin, the gem’s beauty can’t be seen. Whose fault is that? Not the diamond’s! It is the jeweller who didn’t understand the gem’s worth and placed it in the tin.

In the same way, a king must know and understand who he must listen to, who he must keep near him, and who he must watch. How will you benefit from a loyal servant who is not allowed to come near you? And what if you permit someone who is a danger to you into your inner circle?

Look at me! I’m both devoted to you and capable of serving you with good advice. Why don’t you allow me to serve you? Do you realise what happens when the master ignores someone with ability? Even capable people become bored and dull when they are not given challenging tasks. Other intelligent people see this person being sidelined and decide to avoid the king because they are afraid the same fate will befall them. How well will a king rule without wise people to guide him? Won’t the whole kingdom fall apart?

The person who is favoured by the king is favoured by all. But one who is insulted by the king is mocked by everyone else. Besides, oh, king! A smart person knows to accept good advice even if it comes from a child. It’s like how we use a lamp to shed light when the sun is not around. You must consider allowing me to help you even if I’m not your topmost adviser.”

You know there is some truth to what Dhamanaka says. To work with powerful people, you must learn to be diplomatic—that means being tactful. You can’t say the first thing that comes to your mind. Instead, you must choose your words carefully to point out negative things. And Dhamanka does that quite well, doesn’t he? Otherwise, he would have been the lion’s dinner! Yes, doing work that is not challenging makes us bored and disinterested. And People do treat you differently if those at the top prefer you. How does Pingalaka, the lion respond to this sweetly worded criticism?

Pingalaka’s eyes widened. “Dhamanaka! What on earth are you on about? Why would I not want to hear your advice? After all, you are my prime minister’s son! When have I ever stopped you from coming forward? It must be some rogue who is trying to create trouble! Come, ask me what you want to know!” the lion ordered.

“Sir, I have only one question for you. Why did you come back from the river without drinking water? Instead, you stand here, looking startled!”

Pingalaka sat up bolt upright. “That’s it! Dhamanaka! That’s exactly it! I didn’t know whom to speak to about this. And you’ve brought it up yourself!” The lion looked around and continued. “No one else is here to overhear us. Listen. I think there’s a new animal in the forest that we’ve never encountered. That means we may have to leave this place and find a different stretch of the forest to make our home. I’ve been thinking about how to go about it. Surely, you, too, have heard that unusual deafening sound? What a humungous animal it must be to make that thunderous sound!”

Dhamanaka replied, “OH, YEEESSS! I did indeed hear the loud sound. But I won’t be doing my job correctly if I advised you to quit here without fighting back. You know the true value of the people in your life only when things are tough.”

Pingalaka spilled his true feelings. “That may be so. But Dhamanaka, I am frozen with fear!”

The jackal had sensed that already. He muttered to himself, “Yes, yes! Of course, I can see that. Why on earth would you want to give up all this and start afresh somewhere else?” Do you think he said it out loud? Of course not! He was smart enough to calm Pingalaka’s fears with sweet words. “Your Highness! You have nothing to fear as long as I’m here to serve you. I do have a suggestion, though. Please include Karataka and others so that we can work as a team to handle this new creature that’s come into our borders.”

The lion felt some of the tension ease at Dhamanaka’s words. By now, he trusted the jackal and was ready to follow the clever animal’s advice. That meant Karataka, and other jackals were also invited to serve the king. He gave them special powers and rich gifts. I bet that pleased the cousins! The two jackals hurried away, promising to find a way to free the forest from this new danger.

When he was sure they were alone, Karataka turned to his companion. “Don’t you think you were a bit hasty to accept all these gifts and food? Was it wise to take up such a challenge? We’ve no idea what kind of monster awaits us in the forest! We can’t accept payment before we complete a job, that too from a king! Have you ever thought of what will happen if we don’t solve the problem for him?

Rulers like him do things differently from us. How he treats us depends on how he feels and acts. If he is happy, we will get gifts. If he wins in a battle, we will celebrate the victory. But have you thought about what happens when he gets angry? It’s certain to be death for us! You can’t let your guard down, even if the king is just a boy. Kings have  absolute power on earth, like the Gods.”

But Dhamanaka just grinned wickedly. “Oh, don’t you worry! I didn’t act without thinking. I already know what we’re going to find. I know what caused Pingalaka’s fear! Guess what made the sound? A bull! The lion was afraid of a bull’s bellow!”

“What???”

“Aaah!”

“So, why didn’t you tell the king then and there? He wouldn’t be afraid anymore!” Karataka said in astonishment.

“Ha! And miss all the gifts and special attention? Not a chance! Anyway, we must ensure that he finds having us around useful. If a master doesn’t need his servant, he’ll have no use for us. Then we’ll end up like that cat, Dadhikarna!

A CAT? Serving a lion? How did that happen?” Karataka scratched his ear in confusion.

To be continued…

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Episode 9: The Monkey and the Wedge

Hitopadesha- Pingalaka’s Fear

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