By Manju Gupta
The king of the Avantipura has a son who was a philanderer and spent his time in the company of his friends. He was not at all interested in the affairs of the state.
The prince as his two friends ? one, a merchant'sson spent their time over idle pursuits. The king was visibly disturbed but he had no way of controlling his son. One day, he decided to give him a dressing down. After rebuking him for his idle lifestyle, the king entrusted specific duties and responsibilities for fulfillment within a specific period of time.
The prince, humiliated at the king'sbehavior, approached his friends to tell them about it all. He said, ?My father wants me to look after the kingdom. But I am not willing to do so. Hence I have decided to leave the county and go abroad. I will return only when I have made a name for myself.?
The minister'sson liked the idea and offered to accompany the prince. Even the merchant'sson decided to be part of this group. He even suggested, ?I know there are many precious stones to be found on the Crystal Mountain. Let us go there and try our luck.?
So without informing anybody, they quietly slipped out of the kingdom to go to Crystal Mountain. On reaching the site, they found precious stones in abundance, but not being greedy, each of them decided to take the biggest gem with them. They then turned towards their home. It was agreed that on reaching home, they would sell their gemstones at a good price and would thus become rich.
The minister'sson however warned, ?We have to be very careful when carrying such expensive stones on our bodies. Suppose we were to be waylaid by robbers or dacoits, then what will we do? Come, let each of us swallow our gemstones and then nobody will be able to take these from us.?
The other two agreed and they gulped down the gemstones. Little did they realized that the thief who was hiding nearby, overheard all that they had said and done. The thief hatched a very smart plan to rob them of their jewels without arousing any suspicion. He approached them and said, ?Friends, can I accompany you out of this place? I am afraid that thieves may be lurking here and they may attack me. With you all there, no one will dare to waylay us.?
As they had to pass through the forest and night had fallen, they decided to stop under tree and sleep. In the meantime, the thief was feeling thrilled that when the three would be fast asleep, he would slit open their stomachs and remove the gemstones from inside.
All of sudden they found themselves surrounded by dacoits armed to the teeth. The chief of the bandits demanded, ?Are you coming down from the Crystal Mountain??
The captives were struck dumb and all they could do was to shake their heads in affirmative.
The chief enquired, ?Did you find any gemstone??
The denied emphatically that they could not. The chief ordered his men to search them. They were searched but nothing worthwhile was found on them.
The chief commanded, ?Tie them up for the night. Next morning we shall see what is to be done with them. Better still, tomorrow we shall cut open their stomachs to check if they have hidden anything inside them.?
All the three friends and the thief were tied to a tree each, while the bandits went off to sleep. The thief thought to himself, ?Tomorrow even my stomach will be slit open. I have to die in any case. Why should I not do a good deed for once? I will offer myself first of all to be cut open as this way, on not finding anything inside me, they will presume that the other too do not carry any thing on themselves and their lives would be spared.?
Next morning the thief offered himself to be hacked first. The bandits willingly did so and found nothing inside his stomach must to their disappointment. The chief of the bandits said, ?Oh God, what a crime we have committed. I think we have killed an innocent man. Let us not kill any of three because they all look very simple.?
All the three ? the prince, the merchant'sson and the minister'sson were spared their lives while the innocent thief had to sacrifice his life.
The moral of the story is that it is better to have sensible enemy than to have foolish friend.