Many, many years ago, the great forests of Africa were filled with many different kinds of wild animals. Among them was Paka the cat. At that time, he had not yet started living with human beings and was very much a wild animal.
Now, Paka was small and cute and oh, so sweet-looking! But in reality, he was anything but sweet. He was shrewd and ambitious and wished to come up in life. But this was very difficult in the forest, which had so many terrible wild animals that were all much larger and stronger than him.
One day, Paka thought to himself, “The law of the forest is ‘Might is right’. But I’m small and weak. So, to become powerful, I must make friends with a strong animal! But it should not be just any animal, but the strongest one possible! So I must first find out who is the mightiest animal in the forest?”
It did not take Paka long to find the answer. It was Simba, the lion, who ruled supreme over the forest. There was no animal who did not fear him. When he gave out one of his mighty roars, the entire forest shook in terror. Birds and animals alike scattered in panic at the very sound of his footsteps!
Paka decided to befriend Simba. He followed him secretly and kept track of his movements. At last, he found an opportune moment when Simba was lying contentedly on a rock, relaxing after a good meal. Gathering courage, Paka slowly walked up to him and greeted him with a “Hello, cousin!”
“Cousin?” growled Simba. (Fortunately for Paka, he was in a good mood and so did not tear him to pieces!) He burst into a great roar of laughter. “Have you ever taken a look at yourself? How can a puny fellow like you claim kinship with me- the king of the beasts? What a joke!”
Humbly Paka said, “I’m nowhere near Your Majesty in size or power, I know. But aren’t we both members of the same cat family? May I have the privilege of serving you as a humble companion?”
Simba considered the request and boomed, “Hmmmm…. A king needs an attendant. All right, you can be mine!”
From then on, Paka was constantly in Simba’s company. He would accompany Simba on his hunts and eat his leavings. He would do odd jobs for him and flatter him. In this manner, many months rolled by.
One day, Simba was stretched majestically on a huge rock, sunning himself. Paka sat on his back, brushing his fur for him. All of a sudden, there was a loud commotion. Looking down, they perceived nearly all the animals of the forest fleeing in great terror.
Surprised, Simba boomed from the rock “Hey, you there, stop! Why are you running?”
However, no one had the time to stop and explain: all the animals, big and small, continued their mad dash. At this, Simba furiously jumped down to block their path and roared “I’m the king of the forest! Now tell me what you are running away from! Who dares pursue you?”
A monkey paused just long enough to gasp, “King or not, you are better run too if you value your life! Tembo the elephant is on the rampage!” He then fled away.
Simba’s face paled. Without another word he turned and ran into the undergrowth, calling over his shoulder, “Don’t stand there gaping Paka escape!”
Paka was shocked at the ‘king’s’ cowardly flight, and thought, “Oh! So the powerful lion is afraid of the elephant! That means the elephant is mightier than him. In that case, he’s the one I should cultivate-he make a better friend than a silly lion!”
Soon, Tembo calmed down and the forest returned to normal. Biding his time, Paka approached him and said, “Oh, Tembo! You are the most magnificent, graceful animal I have ever seen! I would be honored if you’d only let me be your friend!”
No one had ever praised Tembo so much before. So he was greatly flattered and accepted the offer.
Thus, Paka left Simba and became Tembo’s companion. He would go about in great style; riding on Tembo’s back and would keep him happy by praising him. Many days passed thus.
Then, one day, Paka found Tembo in great panic. “What’s the matter, friend?” He asked. Tembo cried, “Paka, run for your life! There’s a hunter in the forest!”
Paka had never seen a hunter before. So he lingered to see the terrible creature who had scared the great elephant so much.
Soon the hunter came into view. Much to Paka’s surprise, he was a puny, insignificant-looking creature, nowhere near Tembo in height or majesty!
“Well, well!” thought Paka. “This hunter seems much more powerful than Tembo, for all size and bulk! I should befriend him instead of that fat fool!”
Slowly he came down from his perch on the tree. Going close to the hunter, he rubbed himself against his leg.
The hunter stooped, picked him up and said, “I’ve had no luck with my hunting today. But I think you’ll make a nice, cuddly pet!” He carried the cat home to his cave outside the forest.
“At last I’ve found the most powerful friend,” thought Paka happily, sitting on the hunter’s shoulder as he marched majestically ahead.
But as he entered his doorway, Paka saw a smaller figure- a woman- sitting inside the cave. It was the hunter’s wife. She shouted at him “At last you’re back- and that too empty-handed! You are good for nothing fellow! Instead of food, you bring home a useless cat!”
Much to paka’s astonishment, the mighty, powerful hunter did not say a word in reply but merely stood there, hanging his head. His wife commanded, “Now go and chop the firewood! Hurry up don’t just stand and gape!” “Yes, dear!” said the hunter meekly, and rushed to obey.
Paka thought “Hmm….At last, I have found the mightiest creature of all mightier than the hunter, the elephant, and the lion! I shall become her friend!”
When the hunter’s wife found that Paka could make himself useful by catching mice, she accepted him into the household. Paka had at last found his true master!
That is why, to this day, the cat still prefers to sit at the feet of the woman of the house!
Moral of the story: ‘A clever person makes the best use of the opportunity.’