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Sri Lanka: Ground View Jun 2008

Sri Lanka
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The Ally Of Today May Be The Enemy Of Tomorrow

Alliances formed on the basis of expediency will last only till one of the partners decides that he is the only competent partner while others are lulled in to the soothing illusion of control of the anticipated benefits of their joint enterprise. Therein lies a tale.

In a part of a forest lived a lion named Thunder-Fang, with three counselors, a wolf, a jackal,and a camel, whose names were Meat-Face, Smart, and Spike-Ear. One day he fought with a furious elephant whose sharp-pointed tusk so tore his body that he withdrew from hunting. Then, suffering from a seven-day fast, his body lean with hunger, he said to his famished advisers: "Round up some creature in the forest, so that, even in my present condition, I may provide needed nourishment for you." The moment he issued his orders, they roamed the wood, but found nothing.

Thereupon Smart reflected: "If Spike-Ear here were killed, then we should all be nourished for a few days. However, the master is kept from killing him by friendly feeling. In spite of that, my wit will put the master in a frame of mind to kill him.

After these reflections, he said to Spike-Ear: "Friend Spike Ear, the master lacks wholesome food, and is starving. If the master goes, our death is also a certain thing. So I have a suggestion for your benefit and the master's."

"My good fellow," said Spike-Ear, "make haste to inform me, so that I may unhesitatingly do as you say. Besides, one earns credit for a hundred good deeds by serving his master."
And Smart said: "My good fellow, give your own body at 100 per cent interest, so that you may receive a double body, and the master may prolong his life." On hearing: this proposal, Spike-Ear said: "If that is possible, my friend, my body shall be so devoted. Tell the master that this thing should be done. I stipulate only that the Death-God be requested to guarantee the bargain."

Having made their decision they all went to visit the lion, and Smart said: "0 King, we did not find a thing today, and the blessed sun is already near his setting." On hearing this, the lion fell into deep despondency. Then Smart continued: "0 King, our friend Spike-Ear makes this proposal: 'If you call upon the Death-God to guarantee the bargain, and if you render it back with 100 per cent of interest, then I will give my body.' " "My good fellow," answered the lion, "yours is a beautiful act. Let it be as you say." On the basis of this pact, Spike-Ear was struck down by the lion's paw, his body was torn by the wolf and the jackal, and he died.

Then Smart reflected: "How can I get him all to myself to eat?" With this thought in his mind, he noticed that the lion's body was smeared with blood, and he said: "Master, you must go to the river to bathe and worship the gods, while I stay here with Meat-Face to guard the food-supply." On hearing this, the lion went in to the river.

When the lion was gone, Smart said to Meat- Face: "Friend Meat-Face, you are starving. You might eat some of this camel before the old master returns. I will make your apologies to the master." So Meat-Face took the hint, but had only taken a taste when Smart cried: "Drop it, Meat-Face. The master is coming."
Presently the lion returned, saw that the camel was minus a heart, and wrathfully roared: "Look here! Who turned this camel into leavings? I wish to kill him, too." Then Meat-Face peered into Smart's visage, as much as to say: "Come now! Say something, so that he may calm down." But Smart laughed and said: "Come, come! You ate the camel's heart all by yourself. Why do you look at me?"

And Meat-Face, hearing this, fled for his life, making for another country. But when the lion had pursued him a short distance, he turned back, thinking: ''He, too, is despicable creature. I must not kill him."
At this moment, as fate would have it, there came that way a great camel caravan, heavily laden, making a remendous jingling with the bells tied to the camels' necks. And when the lion heard the jingle of the bells, loud even in the distance, he said to the jackal: "My good fellow, fmd out what this horrible noise may be."

On receiving this commission, Smart advanced a little in the forest, then darted back, and cried in great excitement: "Master! Run, if you can run!"

"My good fellow," said the lion, "why terrify me so? Tell me what it is." And Smart cried: "Master, the Death-God is coming, and he is in a rage against you because you brought untimely death upon his camel, and had him guarantee the bargain. He intends to make you pay a thousand fold for his camel. He has immense pride in his camels. He is near at hand."

When the lion heard this, he, too abandoned the dead camel and scampered for dear life. Whereupon Smart ate the camel bit by bit, so that the meat lasted a long time.

(From the Panchatantra)