A Three-in-One Story
Once upon a time, there was a popular king called Nanda. His people respected him for his learning and valour. He had a prime minister called Vararuchi who was well versed in diplomacy and statecraft. Vararuchi’s wife was one day annoyed with her husband and kept away from him. Extremely fond of his wife, the prime minister tried to please her. It was no use. He did not know what to do to regain her affection.
He pleaded with her, “Tell me what can I do to make you happy.”
The wife at last opened her mouth and said, “Shave your head cleanly and prostrate before me if you want to regain my love.”
The prime minister complied with her wish and succeeded in winning back her favour.
The king’s wife also played the same drama of shunning his company. Nanda tried every trick he knew to win her affection without success.
When everything failed, the king fell on her feet and prayed her, “My darling, I cannot live without you even for a while. Tell me what should I do to win back your love?”
The queen said, “I will be happy if you pretend to be a horse, agree to be bridled and to let me ride you. While racing you must neigh like a horse. Is this acceptable to you?”
“Yes,” said the king and did, as his wife demanded.
Next day, the king saw his prime minister with a shaven head and asked him, “Vararuchi, why did you have your head shaved on a day when tonsure is forbidden.”
Vararuchi replied, “O king, is there anything that a woman does not demand and a man does not readily concede? He would do anything, shave his head or neigh like a horse.”
Raktamukha, the monkey, then told Karalamukha, the croc, “You wicked croc, you are a slave of your wife like Nanda and Vararuchi. You tried to kill me but your chatter gave away your plans.”
That’s why the learned have said,
“Parrots sing and betray
Their presence to the hunter.
The crane eludes the hunter
By keeping his beak tightly shut.”
"See how a donkey despite his disguise in a tiger skin betrayed his origin by braying and got killed. Here is the story if you want to know,” said Raktamukha and began telling the story of the donkey.
In a small village lived a washer man named Suddhapata. He had a donkey that was very weak because he did not feed the animal regularly. One day, the washer man found the dead body of a tiger while he was collecting wood from the forest. Suddhapata was very happy and thought, “I am lucky. I can skin the animal and cover my donkey with that skin and drive it into wheat farms where he will have plenty to graze. Thinking that he is a tiger, people will keep away from him. This way, my donkey will have plenty of food.”
He acted on his plan and the donkey would go to the wheat farm every evening, have his day’s fill and return to his master’s house in the morning. This went on for sometime. The donkey became so strong and sturdy that it became difficult for the washer man to pull him to the peg and tie him to it.
One day, when he was happily grazing at the wheat farm, the donkey heard the voice of a female donkey and began to respond to it in ecstasy. Then the watchman and others at the farm at once recognised him as a donkey in a tiger skin and killed him.
Raktamukha then addressed the croc and told him, “You have seen how the donkey met his end because he opened his mouth where he should not. Now, will you leave me or do you want to meet with the same fate as Syamalaka?”
“No, please. I want to know the story of Syamalaka,” said Karalamukha, the croc. Raktamukha told him the following story.
A very wealthy merchant named Eswara lived in a city called Vikantakapuram. One day, his four sons-in-law arrived from Ujjain with their families to enjoy the hospitality of their father-in-law. Eswara did everything to make them happy and contented. Six months passed but the sons-in-law did not show any sign of leaving for Ujjain. Eswara was angry but could not directly tell his sons-in-law that they had overstayed.
One day, the father-in-law told his wife, “These guys are enjoying their stay here and are reluctant to leave. I am sure they will not leave unless we offend them in some way. Tomorrow, when they come for dinner, don’t offer them water to wash their feet. They will regard this as an insult and will certainly leave.”
Eswara’s wife did, as her husband wanted her to do.
The first son-in-law was offended because water was not ready for him to wash his feet and left in a huff.
The second son-in-law was not happy with the place assigned to him at the table and left ranting.
The third complained about the quality of food and packed his bags.
Syamalaka, the fourth son-in-law, however, did not mind these insults and stayed on. The father-in-law had, therefore, to throw him out of his house by force.
“I have seen how wicked you are and I am not a fool to still trust you like the carpenter,” said Raktamukha. At once Karalamukha insisted on hearing that story.