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The Old Tiger and the Merchant

The Old Tiger woke up from his sleep.  It was mid afternoon.  The day was hot.  He tried to get up but could not.  He was weak.  The tiger had not eaten in days.  The animals of the forest were too fast for him to catch.  He was growing old.  When he was younger, he could chase even the fastest deer and bring it down.  Almost every chase got him something.

He could feel the hunger inside him.  He had to do something.  Turning to the right, he saw an animal lying down.  He walked towards the animal.  If he was lucky, he would move close to the animal before he could take it by surprise.  He moved closely – cautiously.  He soon discovered that it was a half-eaten body of a deer.  He had to be content with this.  He ate fast as he had not eaten for a long time.

He then drank water from a pond nearby and lay down in the shade of a tree nearby.  He thought of his future and how he could survive.  Suddenly, he hit upon an idea.  He would not starve.
A river flowed through the forest.   In the middle of the river was a rock.   The tiger swam through the river and reached the rock.  He swam across the river and reached it.  The day was just beginning.  On one side of the river was a town and on the other side was a busy market.  People sometimes used to cross the forest to visit the market.

The tiger sat on the river with a large box of jewels.  He had found the box of jewels in the forest.  A careless traveller had dropped it as he rode his horse.  The jewels in the box glistened in the sun.
A merchant was crossing the forest.  He wanted to go to the market with some vegetables which he could sell.  As he was crossing the forest, he saw the river and the tiger sitting on the rock.  He walked faster on seeing the tiger.  But the tiger called out to him.  “Do not be afraid”, he said, “I am a harmless old tiger. I no longer kill animals and people”.

The merchant wanted to run away but his eyes caught the jewels in the box as they gleamed in the sun.  He stopped to investigate.   The tiger continued “I had committed many sins in my younger days.  I had killed animals and men without mercy.  Now I am growing old and may not live long.  I need to atone for my sins”, he said with a voice full of remorse.  “A holy man said that I can earn merit If I give away wealth to others.  Hence, I have decided to give away all my possessions to others and to help animals and people as much as I can."

The merchant was still doubtful.  The tiger showed the anklet to the merchant. “I had decided to give away the anklet to the first person I see this morning”, he said. “Now that I have seen you, you can have it yourself”.  The merchant was very happy.  There was not need to carry his vegetables to the market everyday.  He would be a rich man.  He would sell the anklet and get a lot of money.  He imagined what he could do with that.  He would buy a fine horse.  He would get his wife a beautiful gift.   But there was one problem.  How could he get the jewels from the tiger.  He could not go near the tiger to get the jewels.  Neither could he allow the tiger to come near him.   The tiger could pounce on him.  The tiger sensed his hesitation. “You don’t have to worry” he said. “I am old now.  My claws and teeth have fallen off.  I cannot hurt anyone”.

There merchant was in a dilemma.  Though he feared the tiger, the lure of the jewels was too much for him. The tiger said “Come halfway into the river.  I will through the box towards you.  You can catch it and go your way”.

The merchant felt a bit reassured.  He cautiously removed his shoes and waded into the river, cautiously taking each step.  However, as he moved further into the river, suddenly he caught in the deep mud.  He struggled but could not get out.  This was the opportunity the tiger was waiting for.  It quickly swam towards the merchant and pounced on him.  The merchant was dead.  The tiger put his box of jewels away and waited for his next victim.

Children, this story tells us the danger of greed.  Greed blinds us to danger.  Many people who are greedy for money get into danger.    No matter how tempting a thing may be, we must always check whether it is real.   You must never accept sweets or gifts from strangers.  If you are in doubt, always ask your parents whether something is true.

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