Long, long ago, in a forest near Varanasi, there lived a handsome young antelope. He was very fond of the fruits of a particular tree. Every fruit that dropped from it.
In a village bordering the jungle, there lived a hunter who captured and killed antelopes and deer. He used to set traps for animals under the fruit-bearing trees. When the animal came to eat the fruit of the tree, it would be caught in the trap. He would then take it away and kill it for its meat. One day, while visiting the forest in search of a game, the hunter happened to see the antelope standing under its favorite tree, eating fruit. He was delighted. “What a big, healthy antelope!” he thought. “I must catch him. I will get a lot of money by selling his meat.”
Thereafter, for many days, the hunter kept track of the antelope’s movements. He realized that the antelope was remarkably vigilant and fleet-footed animal and that it would be virtually impossible for him to track him down. However, he had a weakness for that particular tree. The crafty hunter swiftly concluded that he could use this weakness to capture him.
Early one morning, the hunter entered the forest with some logs of wood. He climbed the tree and put up a machan (a platform used by hunters) on one of its branches by tying the logs together. Having set his trap at the foot of the tree, he then took up position on the machan and waited for the antelope. He strewed a lot of fruits on the ground beneath the tree to conceal the trap and lure the antelope.
He did not have to wait long. Soon enough, the antelope came strolling along. He was very hungry and was eagerly looking forward to his usual breakfast of delicious ripe fruits. On the tree-top, the hunter, having sighted him, sat with bated breath, willing him to come closer and step into his trap.
However, the antelope was no fool. Even in his hunger, he did not give up his vigilance. As he neared the tree, he stopped short. The number of fruits lying under the tree seemed considerably more than usual.
It would have taken a whirlwind to bring down so many fruits, but the previous night had not been particularly windy! What is more, the other trees in the vicinity appeared normal; there were not so many fruits scattered below them! Surely, something was amiss, decided the antelope.
He paused just out of reach of the tree and carefully began examining the ground. Now, he saw what distinctly looked like a human footprint. Without going closer, he looked suspiciously at the tree. The hunter was well hidden in its thick foliage; nevertheless, the antelope, on close scrutiny, was now sure that his suspicions had not been unfounded. He could see a corner of the machan peeping out of the leaves.
Meanwhile, the hunter was getting desperate. Why wasn’t the antelope coming nearer to eat his favorite fruit? Suddenly, he had a brainwave. “Let me try throwing some fruit to him,” he thought. “Maybe that will lure him to the tree.”
So the hunter plucked some choice fruits and hurled them in the direction of the antelope. Alas, instead of luring him closer, it only confirmed his fears!
The antelope said to himself, “The fruits are coming flying towards me, instead of dropping on the ground as usual. Since when did trees start throwing their fruits? Now I’m certain that there is a hunter up the tree, and it is he who is throwing them at me to bring me closer so that he can trap me!”
Raising his voice, he spoke in the direction of the tree “Listen, my dear tree, until now you have always dropped your fruits on the earth. Today you have started throwing them at me! This is the most un-treelike action of yours, and I’m not sure I like the change! Since you have changed your habits, I too will change mine. I will get my fruits from a different tree from now on-one that still acts like a tree!”
The hunter realized that the antelope had outsmarted him with its cleverness. He was so furious that he did not bother to continue the face of hiding. Parting the leaves to reveal himself, he grabbed his javelin and flung it wildly at the antelope.
But the clever antelope was well prepared for any such action on his part. Giving a saucy chuckle, he leaped nimbly out of harm’s way. The javelin missed him by a wide margin and got embedded in the ground.
The antelope laughingly called out, “Better luck next time, O hunter!” The frustrated hunter was left shouting furious curses, as he bounded away into the deep forest, never to be seen again!
Moral of the story: ‘Forewarned is forearmed.’