We have seen how Karataka poisoned King Pingalaka’s mind about his loyal minister Sanjeevaka. Damanaka showed solution to a non-existing problem.

King Pingalaka showed signs of falling into their trap. Karataka continues the ill-advice. “It is a twoedged sword. If we forgive anjeevaka, he may continue doing the mistakes. That may lead us into bigger trouble tomorrow. If we kill him as punishment, probably we may have acted in haste. We need to get to bottom of the facts before taking any action. Let us have a conversation with him. After hearing him out, let us decide the next course of action.”

This convinced Pingalaka further. He completely falls into Kartaka-Damanaka’s trap.

Sanjeevaka was absolutely unaware of the plot in the background. He was happy to see Damanaka. He welcomed his friend and asked him to take a seat.

Damanaka kept a worrying face. He took the seat and said in a tone of sadness, “I need to share something to you, in private.”

Sanjeevaka was puzzled. He requested his other friends around to leave. After they left, he turned to Damanaka and said, ‘Tell me what is troubling you.’

Damanaka started his narrative…

King Pingalaka is deeply convinced that you are plotting against him. Someone has noticed you moving around with his erstwhile betrayers. They have poisoned his mind against you. He has summoned me to arrest you and bring to him. I convinced him to be considerate.

I said, ‘Let us not take any steps in haste. Let us verify the facts before coming to any conclusion. It will be disgraceful, if Sanjeevaka is proved innocent. I will bring Sanjeevaka with all honour he rightfully deserves.

’ Fortunately he agreed to the suggestion.

Sanjeevaka was deeply worried. He lamented, “It is not true. Why will I betray a good friend and king? Someone is acting against me. It looks like, I will meet the same fate as the camel faced from the lion based on ill advice”

‘Who’s that camel? What’s that story?’ Damanaka got curious.

Sanjeevaka started his narration.

“Once, there lived a lion in the jungle. He had a crow, fox and tiger serving him. All three did not have good intentions. They stayed protected under the Lion. They became lazy and stopped hunting. They fed on the remains of Lion’s preys.”

Once these three followers spotted a camel in the forest. They surrounded the camel and questioned, “Who are you? You do not belong to the forest. How did you come here? What work do you have here? Are you sent by our enemies?”

The camel was taken aback. He said, “I came to the nearby village along with my master. We got separated and I lost my way into the jungle. I am waiting for my master to find and take me back with him. I intend no harm to anyone”.

The trio heaved a sigh of relief.

They said, “Then, you need to have our Lion’s permission to stay here till then. We will take you to him.”

The camel agreed and went along with them to meet the Lion. The lion heard the story and consented for the camel to stay with them.

As days passed, the trio longed to taste camel’s meat. They had never tasted one, and craved for that. They were waiting for an opportune time.

One day the Lion came back limping, from his usual hunt. He could not fetch any food for the day to his companions. He said, “I will not be able to hunt for some days. You have to fetch food for all of us.”

The trio agreed, to keep the Lion in good mood. But they were not ready for the task.

For a couple of days, they managed to get some meagre food.

On the third day, they hatched a plan and approached the lion empty handed at the end of the day.

The fox said, “Sorry! We could not find any food for you. We tried our best. Please have one of us as your food for the day.

” The lion said, “How can I kill someone who has taken refuge from me?”

The trio responded, “We have benefited a lot from you. It is time to reciprocate the gesture. It pains to let you starve.”

The camel was moved watching all this.

He said, “The crow and fox are small animals. Their flesh do not suffice your need. I am a stranger in the crowd. It looks like my master will not be able to find me. This jungle is not my home as well. You may please feed on me.”

After a token resistance, the trio also consented to the camel’s suggestion.

Left with no option, the lion killed the camel and fed on its meat till he recovered. The trio also joined the lion in its meal.

“Damanaka, thus will be the consequence if we are in bad company. Even a nice Lion took a wrong step based on the ill advice of bad company. We need to be careful about such company. We need to act with smartness”, concluded Sanjeevaka.

What happened there after? Let’s see in the future edition.

– By Balaji Gorantla, translated from Telugu BN