Meeting a New Friend
Hiranyaka, the mouse, and Laghupatanaka, the crow, became great friends. One day, the crow came calling on the mouse with eyes full of tears. Worried, the mouse asked,
“What’s the matter? Why are you so sad?”
“I am thoroughly fed up with this country. I want to go elsewhere,” replied the crow.
“But what is the reason for this sudden change of mind,” asked the mouse.
“There is a famine here. People are dying like locusts. No one is offering cooked rice for the peace of the dead. So, I don’t have food. Hunters are busy trapping birds in their nets. I have escaped narrowly. I don’t know when my turn will come. I want to leave this country before it comes,” said the crow.
“What are your travel plans then,” asked the mouse.
“There is a big lake in the middle of a vast forest in the south. I have a friend there, a turtle whose name is Mandharaka. He is a great host who will feed me with fish, pieces of meat etc. I will spend my time happily with him daily discussing small and big things in the world. I don’t want to die miserably in a hunter’s net.”
Laghupatanaka continued, “Elders have always said that they are happy who are fortunate not to witness the destruction of crops and the decline of the people. Nothing is impossible for a competent person. There is no land that does not respond to effort. For a scholar every country is his own country and there is no enemy for a sweet-tongued person. Learning and power are not the same. Remember that the king is respected only in his country but a scholar is honored everywhere.”
Hiranyaka said, “If that is so, I will also follow you. I am also very sad.”
“Why are you sad?” asked the crow.
“It is a long story. I shall tell you when I reach your friend’s place,” said the mouse.
“But how can you come with me,” asked the crow. “I am a bird and can fly. You cannot do that,” said the crow.
“That is no problem. I will sit on your back and we can fly off,” suggested the mouse.
“That’s an idea. I will be doubly happy there because I have the company of the turtle and also yours. Come, get on to my back. We will fly together,” said the crow.
On a fine day, the crow with the mouse on his back flew to the great lake in the middle of the forest. His friend Mandharaka, the turtle, saw him with the mouse on his back and thought, “This crow is not an ordinary crow. It is better I hide from him.” The turtle immediately ducked under water. But the crow saw the turtle going down and understood that his friend did not recognise him. The crow then left the mouse at the bottom of a tree and flying to the top of it loudly addressed the turtle, “O Mandharaka, I am your friend Laghupatanaka. Come out and welcome me who has come to see an old friend after a long time.”
Recognising his friend’s voice, Mandharaka came out of the water and with tears of joy in his eyes, said, “O Laghupatanaka, I am so happy you have come. Come and hug me. We are meeting after a long time and that’s why I could not immediately recognise you. You know the saying that you should not make friends with him whose power and pedigree are not known to you.”
The crow then came down from the tree and the two of them embraced each other in joy. They began telling each other about what happened in the long interval of their separation. The mouse, Hiranyaka, too came out of the hole he was hiding in, greeted the turtle and sat by the crow’s side. The turtle asked the crow, “O Laghupatanaka, who is this little friend of yours? Why did you bring him here on your back though he is your food.”
“He is my friend Hiranyaka. I can’t live without him. Just as you can’t count the stars in the sky and the sands on the seashore, I can’t recount his great qualities. He is fed up with this world. That is why he has followed me on my visit to you,” said the crow.
“But there should be some reason for his despair,” said the turtle. The crow replied, “I have asked him to tell me the reasons. He said he would tell us after meeting you.” Turning to the mouse, the crow asked him, “Now it is your turn to tell us why you are so fed up with the world.
Hiranyaka began telling his story.
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