The art of deception…

Read the previous part here

A single person should not fight a group. People who are united cannot be conquered. Even the fearful and powerful snake was eaten by a group of mere ants.

“How did that happen”, asked MeghaVarna.

Sthirajeevin replied…


The story of the ants and the serpent

“This is a short story. At the base of a fig tree not very far away from here, lived a huge black serpent named AtiDarpa (the arrogant one). He was huge in size, and so he bullied all the creatures who lived near the fig tree. No one had the strength to fight with him, and so he lived his days as the uncrowned king of the area near that tree.

His burrow had many entrances; some had not been used for many years. One day, as he was thinking of which rat to eat, he crawled towards a smaller hole, instead of the regular one. Lost in thought, he continued to push through, until he got stuck midway. The rough sand tore his skin a little, and he bled.

This attracted a small group of ants that were passing by, and soon a large number of ants assembled at the base of the burrow. AtiDarpa tried to scare them off, but how many could he handle at a time? Surely not hundreds and thousands. they bit him all over, and the mighty AtiDarpa, terror of the fig tree, bled to death at the hands of small ants.”

“That is why I said – A single person should not fight a group. People who are united cannot be conquered. Even the fearful and powerful snake was eaten by a group of mere ants.

“So I have thought of a strategy that takes into account all these factors. Listen to me, and do as I say.”

“Your wish is my command, oh Sthirajeevin”, said MeghaVarna with folded hands.

“Here is the plan – leaving aside the four strategies of Sama, Dama, Danda and Bheda, we will employ Chala – or deceit. You will declare me a traitor, and publicly humiliate me, making accusations and speaking harshly to me. We have spies of the enemy in our ranks – we have to make sure that they hear and see you accusing me of treason. You will also attack me physically – I have some blood that can be applied to me in a way that it looks like I was hit so hard that I bled…

Once done, throw me at the base of the fig tree, and fly off with the other crows to Mount RishyaMooka, and wait there for my signal.

In the meantime, I will get to the enemy, make them trust me, and convince them that I am on their side. I will explore their fort thoroughly and find it’s weaknesses, and kill them at day-time when they are blind. And if they do not have any secret route to escape, then that will only help me to destroy them. For it is said…

अपसार-समायुक्तं न यज्ञैर् दुर्गम् उच्यते ।
अपसार-परित्यक्तं दुर्ग-व्याजेन बन्धनम् ॥ १२२ ॥

apasāra-samāyuktaṃ na yajñair durgam ucyate |
apasāra-parityaktaṃ durga-vyājena bandhanam || 122 ||

Those adept in the political sciences have advocated that forts should have secret passages through which one can escape. A fort that has no such routes for escape, is actually a prison that looks like a fort.

“And do not worry about me, oh king”, said Sthirajeevin.

बहवो न विरोद्धव्या दुर्जया हि महाजनाः ।
स्फुरन्तम् अपि नागेन्द्रं भक्षयन्ति पिपीलिकाः ॥ १२१ ॥

api prāṇa-samān iṣṭān pālitān lālitān api |
bhṛtyān yuddhe samutpanne paśyec chuṣkam ivendhanam || 123 ||

When there is a battle to be fought, a king should look upon all those who serve him, and who are dear to him, as dry grass (to be used as fuel). Just like one would throw dry grass into the fire, without any attachment, so should a king be ready to push those who serve him, into the fire of war.

“So, you should not stop me. Instead, pray for our victory!”

And so it happened. Sthirajeevin started to argue loudly, and Meghavarna too shouted back at him. Shocked subjects crowded around the two, as they went on screaming at each other. Some of Meghavarna’s personal guard rushed in to seize Sthirajeevin, but Meghavarna stopped them and said”No, move away! I will punish him myself. Such a traitor does not deserve to live, nor does he deserve a fast death!”

Saying this, he attacked Sthirajeevin, pecking him in a way that it seemed harsh, but in reality was very soft. Sthirajeevin managed to apply some blood on him and in a short time, the latter was left ‘bloodied’ at the base of the fig tree.

MeghaVarna gathered his flock and flew away to Mount RishyaMooka, abandoning the fortress.

Krikālika had seen this whole scene closely. He was a spy of the owls, and these developments had to be conveyed to AriMardana, the king of the owls. And so he flew fast, and reached the owl’s fortress, sought audience with AriMardana, and narrated the whole incident to him.

“They have abandoned the fort, frightened at your repeated attacks on them”, said Krikālika.

“Splendid!” cried out AriMardana. “But we should not stop now. Let’s all go to their fort, and chase them down and kill them. An enemy on the run has two weaknesses – कुर्वाणो जायते वश्यो व्यग्रत्वे राज-सेविनाम् – one- they leave a familiar place and run away, and two – they have to settle at an unfamiliar place. If we attack them at this moment, they can be crushed easily.”

When they reached the tree, they didn’t find any more crows in the fortress. A triumphant AriMardana climbed on top of the tallest branch, waved at his people, and said” We have won the battle, but we still have to win the war. Find out what route those crows took, so that we can track them down to their new hideout and kill them all. We have to get them before they settle down, else it will be difficult to finish them.”

Meanwhile, Sthirajeevin, who was hidden at the base of the fig tree, thought to himself “If these owls do not find anything, and return to their fort, it would not serve any purpose. I would not achieve my goal. It is said…”

अनारम्भो हि कार्याणां प्रथमं बुद्धि-लक्षणम् ।
आरब्धस्यान्त-गमनं द्वितीयं बुद्धि-लक्षणम् ॥ १२७ ॥

anārambho hi kāryāṇāṃ prathamaṃ buddhi-lakṣaṇam |
ārabdhasyānta-gamanaṃ dvitīyaṃ buddhi-lakṣaṇam || 127 ||

The first sign of intelligence is to not begin any task. The second sign of intelligence is to always finish a task that has been started.

“It is better not to begin anything, rather to begin and then leave it midway when a problem arises. And so…”

to be continued…