The Rescue of a Deer
Mandharaka ended the story of Somilaka telling Hiranyaka and Laghupatanaka that a rich person who does not spend money is as poor as any poor person can be. Not being able to enjoy is common to both the poor and the miserly rich. Nothing on this earth is greater than charity and there is no greater enemy than miserliness.
The crow then advised Hiranyaka, “Listen to what the turtle is saying. Elders have said that it is easier to get friends who talk sweetly but difficult to find friends who venture to tell you the truth however bitter it is. The latter alone deserve to be called friends.
The crow and the mouse put a brake to their conversation when they saw a frightened deer darting towards the lake. The crow flew to the top of a tree. The mouse scampered into his hole and the turtle sank into the water. From the treetop, the crow could see the deer now clearly and told his other friends, “Friends, he is only a deer who is thirsty. These footfalls are not those of a man.”
The turtle replied, “The deer is panting. It seems someone is chasing him. He has not come to quench his thirst. Surely, some hunter might be after him. Please go to the top of the tree and look if you can find any hunter.”
Assured that these are friends only, the deer named Chitranga, now said, “Friend, you have guessed correctly. I have escaped the arrow of the hunter and reached here with difficulty. I am in search of a shelter the hunter cannot reach. Please show me a place safe from the hunter.”
Mandharaka, the turtle, said, “the scriptures have mentioned two ways of escaping danger. One is to use your muscle power and another is to run as fast as you can. Now, run into the forest before the hunter could come.”
“That is not necessary,” said Laghupatanaka, the crow.
“I have seen the hunters taking a good catch of food and going the way they came. O Mandharaka, you can now come out of the water.”
With Chitranga, the deer, they became now four friends, happily spending time in each other’s company. The learned have said that when you have plenty of cordial conversation, to be happy you do not need a woman. The man who has no store of good words is not capable of uttering them.
One day, Chitranga had not come when the other three had gathered at the lakeside for their daily discourse. They thought, “Poor Chitranga has not come so far. Is it possible that a lion or a hunter has killed him? Or, is it possible that he has fallen into a pit?” Well-wishers naturally suspect the worst when their near and dear ones are not seen for a while.
Mandharaka told the crow, “Friend, you know neither Hiranyaka nor I can move fast. You alone can fly and see more things than we can. Please go immediately and find out what is happening to our friend.”
The crow did not fly too long before he saw Chitranga trapped in a hunter’s net near a small pond. Moved by his plight, the crow said, “Friend, what happened to you?” Trying to check tears in his eyes, the deer said, “Death is chasing me. It is good that you came to see me.”
The crow said, “Friend, don’t lose courage when we are here. I will rush back and bring Hiranyaka here.” Laghupatanaka flew fast to where the mouse and the turtle were anxiously waiting for him to come and tell them what happened to the deer. On hearing his account, Hiranyaka immediately decided that he should go and bite off the strings of the hunter’s net.
He got on to the back of the crow and together they flew to the spot where the deer lay helplessly in the hunter’s net. When the deer saw his friends rushing to his aid, he realised how necessary it was to collect good friends and how nobody could overcome troubles without the help of good friends.
Hiranyaka asked the deer, “How did you, such a learned being, get into this hole?” The deer replied, “Friend, this is not a time for a debate. The hunter may come any time. First, get me out of this net.” The mouse laughed and said, “Why are you scared of the hunter when I am here? But tell me how did you let yourself trapped in this way?”
The deer replied, “Friend, when luck is not with you, you will lose discretion. As the elders say when death is lurking for you and when wickedness overtakes you, your thoughts too take a crooked path. Nobody can save you from what God has in store for you.”
As they were discussing their plan to escape, Laghupatanaka and Hiranyaka saw that the turtle also was coming. The crow said, “Look, this slow-footed guy is coming. Neither can we save the deer or ourselves. See this fellow’s foolishness. If the hunter comes, I can fly away and you can beat a fast retreat. But how can this turtle escape?”
The hunter came when they were debating this point. The mouse did a fast job of biting off the strings of the net and the deer rushed into the thick forest. The mouse too disappeared into the nearest hole. But the poor turtle was slowly plodding its way to safety. But the hunter saw him and bound him to his bow and slung it across his shoulder and began going home.
Hiranyaka saw this from a distance and began reflecting, “Troubles do not come in singles. I have already lost everything I have. I have lost my relatives and my retinue. Now, this loss of a great friend! We come close to each other only to part. Everything in this world is temporary. Yet, I am grateful to God, for, he has created this sweet relationship we call friendship.”
Meanwhile, the deer and the crow came, disturbing the mouse’s reverie. Recovering, Hiranyaka said, “Let’s not brood over the past. Let us first look for a way to rescue the turtle.” The crow said, “Listen, and do as I tell you. Chitranga will go to a small lake on the hunter’s way taking him home. He should pretend he is dead and I will sit on his head and pretend pecking his eyes. Seeing the motionless deer, the hunter will then rest the turtle on the ground and reach for the deer. Hiranyaka should at once reach the turtle and bite off the strings binding him to the bow.”
“All right, we will do as you say,” said the mouse and the deer. Meanwhile, the hunter, seeing the motionless deer, thought it was dead. Leaving the turtle on the ground, he came to the deer. The deer at once ran away and the crow flew away. At the other end, the mouse bit off the strings binding the turtle to the bow. The turtle entered water and the mouse ran to his hole.
Disappointed, the hunter returned to where he had rested the turtle. When he found that the turtle had escaped, he cried bitterly and went home. After making sure that they were far away from the hunter’s reach, the four friends gathered and celebrated their reunion.
Concluding his discourse, Hiranyaka said, “It is a lesson to mankind on the value of friendship. One should not try to cheat friends. The elders have said that he who is faithful to his friends shall never taste defeat”. Thus we come to the end of the second part of Panchatantra called Gaining Friends.