The Indian Fable

 from Forty Fables by Adam Acidophilus

A rich man — hoping to break the monotony of his luxurious lifestyle — decided to spend a few days tiger hunting. And so he engaged a poor man to be his guide.

They set off one morning and walked into the jungle — the rich man carrying his heavy shotgun, the poor man carrying the rich man’s tent, seven suitcases and a picnic basket. And they walked for many hours, but they saw no tigers.

Eventually, the poor man insisted they should stop — for he had cut his bare foot on a stone.

“Well, I think you rather brought that on yourself, didn’t you?” said the rich man. “If you want my advice, you should invest in a pair of sturdy tiger hunting boots, like mine. Then you would be free to walk across any terrain in safety and comfort.”

“Yes, but Master – ” said the poor man, “I could never afford such fine boots. I did once save up for a pair of sandals — but it took a very long time, and they were later stolen as I slept by an open fire.”

The rich man was sorry to hear this. “You should never have slept in a public place,” he told the poor man, “it is asking for trouble, it attracts thieves. If I were you, I would sleep in a house — if you had slept in a house, then you would still have your sandals.”

“Yes, but Master – ” said the poor man, “I could never sleep in a house — for I am a guide and I am always on the move. My work demands that I must sleep wherever I find myself at dusk and that is usually somewhere in the jungle.”

“Then you should get a better job!” the rich man told him. “If I were in your situation, I would look for something with regular hours and a predictable workload — something in an office, perhaps — if you worked in an office, then you would be able to live in a house where you could remove your footwear with complete confidence.”

“Yes, but Master – ” said the poor man, “I could never work in an office, for I have had no education. My parents abandoned me at birth and I was raised by a pack of wolves. I escaped from them at the age of six, and though I have since taught myself to speak a number of languages, I have never learned to read or write in any of them.

“Luckily, my encyclopaedic knowledge of this region has enabled me to find work as a guide. But, living as I do in a subsistence rather than market economy, I am obliged to accept whatever payment I am offered by visiting explorers and tiger hunters — and that is never very much.”

The rich man was astonished to hear this. “This is quite tragic!” he exclaimed. “Have you no initiative?

“Without parents, you were free of costly overheads! And by starting work at six and avoiding school, you had a vital head start on your competitors! If only I had been in your position; if only you had known what I know! For you were ideally placed to found a business empire that might by now have circled the globe. Is it not ironic that you are my guide? For, in the jungle of life, it is I alone who knows the way.”

But at that very moment a tiger leapt out of the jungle, pinned the rich man to the ground and started to eat him.

“Oh Master – ” said the poor man — who had had the initiative to jump into the nearest tree — “I think you rather brought that on yourself, didn’t you? If I were you, I would talk less, it is asking for trouble, it attracts tigers. And if you want my advice, I would have eaten less, so as to appear less appetizing to any tiger that I did attract — especially when I was standing next to thin people!

“This is quite tragic! If only you had been in my position, if only you had known what I knew — then you would have seen that tiger creeping up behind you for the last half an hour.”

 Moral: Never make fun of another man’s past — or he may make fun of your future.

© Adam Acidophilus 2011