The Vulture and the Cat

The vulture and the cat

Last week, Hiranyaka told the story of the Jackal, the deer and the crow to make his point that a predator and prey cannot be friends. In the tale within the tale, the crow narrated the story of the vulture and the cat to the others. In this episode, the deer learns the truth behind the crow’s advice.

The Vulture and the Cat

The crow continued, “Not long after that, the baby birds started disappearing. Yes, it was all the cat’s doing. Every day he grabbed a bird or two and brought them to the hollow. After he dined on the babies, he hid the bones in right there. But then the mother birds were on the lookout for clues to their babies’ whereabouts. Where did their babies go to? They hadn’t yet learned to fly. The raucous bird cries sent out a missing alert to all the other birds in that part of the forest.

The noise reached the cat’s ears, and he knew it was time to leave. So without a goodbye to the vulture, he bolted from there.

Of course, the poor vulture sat on the branch, clueless. He was unable to join the other birds thanks to his poor sight. Eventually, the birds came to his hollow. YOU know what they found there, don’t you? The parents turned on the Vulture, attacking him and killing him. That is why I warn you not to make friends without knowing anything about the other person. You must learn from the story of the vulture and the cat.”

Naturally, the jackal was offended by the crow’s story. It was so close to the truth, wasn’t it? And he was being called out for it! But he blustered and went on the attack.

“Hey! Don’t forget, the day you met the deer, you, too, were a stranger. Neither of you knew what the other was like. But see, how close are you two now? Why can’t the same thing happen to me? That’s just double standards! Or maybe you are afraid your friend will be close to me? Anyway, only narrow-minded people think like you, suspicious of others. Those who are generous accept everybody into their fold because they don’t discriminate.” The jackal grumbled.

Have you and your friends ever been in an argument like this? Two of you are good friends, and then a new person comes along. Sometimes, both friends welcome the other into their group, but other times, kid one doesn’t want to be friends, but kid two does. That’s what was happening here. Except, of course, the jackal was looking for a meal and not true friendship.

The deer was stuck between these two. Their arguments made him feel uncomfortable. He was more the “Can’t we all be friends?” type. So, he told the others, “Can we stop arguing, please? What makes us friends or enemies? Our actions! Let’s all be friends by being kind to one another.”

“Oh, all right!” the crow gave in.

Every morning the three friends went their way to gather food. When they returned at sunset, it was time to chitchat about their day. One morning, just as they were leaving, the jackal waited until the crow was some distance away. Then he spoke in hushed tones to the deer. “Listen, I stumbled upon a wheat field yesterday while looking for food, and you popped up in my mind. Why don’t you come with me? You’ll enjoy eating it.”

The unsuspecting deer accompanied the jackal, who led him to a lush field. From then on, that’s where the deer went every day. Now wheat fields don’t just grow on their own, do they? Nope! They are cultivated. That means there were people nearby! Not long before, the farmer noticed the damage to his crops and laid a trap.

The very next day, the deer was trapped in the snare. “Oh, if only my friends came by! They can help me escape,” he hoped. The jackal had been behind, keeping an eye on the deer. He had been waiting for something like this, and his glee knew no bounds. The deer saw the jackal and felt so relieved! “Quick! Quick! Rip the net with your sharp teeth and set me free. Thank goodness you came by! How wonderful you became my friend, for a friend is someone who stays by your side in good times AND bad.”

The jackal poked around the rope silently. Satisfied that the deer couldn’t free himself, the sly animal said, “Oh, I’m sorry, my friend, but I’m fasting today. These threads are made of flesh, and I cannot rip them up today. But don’t lose heart. I’ll be back tomorrow and set you free.” Then he did an about-turn and left the field, leaving the deer stunned. But he didn’t go too far. As soon as he was out of sight of the deer, he found himself hiding behind a couple of large rocks.

“Oh! So, this was the jackal’s plan all along.” The deer’s knees trembled and buckled when the truth hit him. “He lured me to the fields, and now, he plans to return tomorrow.”

Back near their home, the crow waited and waited and waited. Neither the deer nor the jackal was anywhere around. Where were they? He spread his wings and wove his way through the skies, looking for the others. It didn’t take long for him to spot the deer sitting miserably. “What happened to you?” he asked his friend.

You could say it is the consequence of not listening to your good advice.”

“Aaaah! Where’s the jackal?” The crow knew instantly that the other had a hand in this.

Hiding somewhere, I guess. Waiting to feast on me!”

“Aaaargh! I know this is not the time to say I told you so, but it’s very frustrating when you are so naïve. This is what happens when you look at the world with rose-coloured glasses. Just because you think the world is a wonderful place and feel kindly towards others doesn’t mean that they’ll be the same as you. Don’t you know the world is made up of good and bad people? Some will try to take advantage of you.”

The crow then vented his anger on the jackal. “Oh, you better not show your face to me. You scoundrel! How could you have the heart to lie and cheat like this? Bah! Sweet talkers mix poison in their words. You never know when they’ll strike.”

Streaks of light spread across the sky like orange fingers. The two friends heard the farmer’s footsteps on the trail. Another sound, like a clap, rang loud. The crow saw the farmer tap his hands with a thick club.

Oh-oh! He’s coming,”  he whispered to the deer. “Lay still! Lay still! Play dead, Okay? No matter what! Push your stomach out to look like it is bloated. I will pretend to peck at your eyes. But when I caw, that’s the signal for you to get up and charge out of here. He’s almost here.”

The deer’s belly blew up like a balloon. He held his breath and stared unblinking while the crow poked around gently.

“Oh! The culprit is dead!” the farmer exclaimed, bending down to remove the enmeshed net. He pulled the net with him and, as he did so, stepped away from the deer. The crow uttered a loud caw, and the deer sprang up and fled.

“What!” The farmer’s jaw moved up and down like one half of a see-saw. Then he grabbed the club and swung it after the fleeing animal. Who should jump in just then? The jackal! When he saw his carefully laid plans go awry, he raced out of his hiding place and walked smack into the club! He dropped down dead!

There’s no escaping the consequences of your actions, whether you do good or bad.

And that is why you and I can never be friends. It is not done between a predator and prey,” Hiranyaka the king of mice, repeated to the crow.

But Laghupatnaka was still not discouraged. “You know what? You are too small to satisfy my hunger. What’s the point in killing you for one teensy weensy bite?

If someone is steady and of a good heart, then it is natural for even beasts and birds to trust that person.

Besides, my heart is set on winning your friendship after seeing you help your friend, the king of pigeons. Because the bond between good people stays strong, no matter how difficult the times are. On the other hand, the bond between weak and evil people breaks easily at the first sign of trouble. Yes, sometimes, even those who are good friends can have a falling out. But when they do, they don’t go about making lives difficult for the other. They still respect and carry affection for the other.”

That is true, don’t you agree? Friends do break up. But if the two friends had affection and respect for one another, they wouldn’t backbite or say mean things about each other.

The king of mice was pleased at the crow’s argument. “You know what? You are a sweet talker too. But I think you are sincere. Okay, let us be friends.” The two exchanged special treats and went home happy. They’d meet every now and then and hang out.

Until one day, Laghupatnaka told his friend about his new plans. “I’m planning to move out of here. Food is scarce, and it’s getting harder and harder for me.”

“What? Where will you go?” Hiranyaka was shocked.

Click here to listen to other episodes of the Hitopadesha:

Episode 4: The Jackal, the Deer and the Crow.

The Vulture and the Cat

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