1. Winning Friends
The second part of the Panchatantra begins with ‘The Winning of Friends.’
Vishnu Sharma told the young Princes -
“In the same way as the crow, the mouse, the deer, and the tortoise gained their end through good sense and resourcefulness, so will a wise man, even though he be short of money and proper means, find a way through the difficulties in his path.”
The Princes asked -
“Can you tell us how?”
And so Vishnu Sharma began his story -
On the outskirts of the great city of Mahilaropya, there was a mighty banyan tree with a wide-spreading evergreen canopy that was home to many flocks of birds, droves of insects, and scores of monkeys. Herds of golden-eyed deer sought shelter under its shadowy spread and buzzing bees sipped nectar from its many flowers. It was, in short, a very worthy tree.
A crow named Laghupatanak lived on this banyan tree and he often went to the city to look for food. One day, when he was headed that way, he saw an evil-looking bird-catcher, with a large net, walking in the direction of the banyan tree, and he immediately realized that the man’s arrival did not bode well for his friends and neighbors.
“He is going to catch the birds!” he thought in alarm. “I must go back and warn them at once!”
And so he turned about and flew back as fast as he was able to the banyan tree and called out a warning to the other birds.
“The wicked bird-catcher is coming here with his net!” he told them. “He will spread it on the ground and scatter grain over it to entice you down to the snare. Do not under any circumstances be tempted by the grain, otherwise you will be caught in the net and then you will die. Think of that grain as poison and remain where you are.”
The bird-catcher came along and, just as the crow had said, he spread out his net, scattered the grain over it, and then hid in the bushes, waiting for the birds to come down to feed on the grain.
But the birds, having been forewarned, resisted temptation and did not come down to eat the grain.
At that moment, a dove named Chitragreev came along with his large flock and they saw the grain and swooped down towards it before Laghupatanak the crow could warn them about the danger.
Perhaps, even if they had heard his warning, they might not have heeded it. When an evil fate is at play, even the most intelligent of us can can fall short in good sense.
And so the doves were all caught in the net and, finding it impossible to free themselves from the mesh, they began fluttering their wings in terror.
Seeing them trapped thus, the delighted bird-catcher came rushing from his hiding place with his stick upraised.
The doves fluttered in further terror when they saw him coming, but Chitragreev remained calm.
He told them, “Don’t be afraid. Stay calm. The individual who retains his self-control in moments of danger is better able to overcome them. One must not lose one’s composure in face of either good fortune or ill-fortune. Now listen to me. We must all fly up together at the same time. With our collective strength, we shall be able to lift the net with us, and the bird-catcher won’t be able to catch us. If you hesitate or do not show unity of purpose now, we shall suffer the same fate as that of the Bharund bird.”
“What do you mean?” asked the other doves.
“I’ll tell you,” said Chitragreev and began his tale.