Pankaj and Ravi were two friends who lived in a small village near the town of Vikramgarh. They had known each other since they were little children. They played along the same dusty roads of the village and attended the same school.
Their fathers were weavers who lived in the village and they lived in adjacent houses. The two boys grew up and went to school together. The school did not have a proper building. In fact, it did not have a building at all! The lessons were taught under the shade of a banyan tree. The tree was so large that the branches spread over a wide area, providing shade and shelter.
Every morning, Pankaj and Ravi would go there along with the other children in the village. The classes were conducted by an elderly schoolmaster. They would return home in the evening when the classes were over.
This was their daily routine. The years passed and the boys grew older. When they were about 15 years old, their parents decided to put them in a bigger school. The school at their village only taught them up to the 10th standard. They had to go to a higher school for further education.
Their parents had planned to put them in a school at Vikramgarh. It was a big school and the boys were excited about going there. It didn’t take them long to get accustomed to the new school and their new surroundings. They made new friends as well.
Every day, they would have to walk across a forested area which lay between their village and the town to get to their school. The forest was thickly wooded with tall trees. Then, they had to cross a river. The river, though, was not deep. All they needed to do was to roll up their trousers and wade across the water.
One day, Pankaj and Ravi were returning from school as usual. It was evening and the sky was starting to get dark. They crossed the river and entered the forest. Suddenly, they saw a dark figure looming in the distance. Their hearts pounded faster as they realised what it was. They froze in fear. It was a bear! The bear stared at them. It too, was surprised!
He fell down as if he was dead. The bear jumped over him and began to sniff him. But Ravi lay absolutely still. He did not even dare to breathe. He had remembered that bears do not eat prey that had already been killed. The bear was confused to see Ravi not moving at all. It went round him in circles and then flipped him over with its powerful paws.
While his eyes were almost completely closed, Ravi could still see the terrifying nails in the paws of the bear. It would just take one move to slash him into two. The bear sniffed him for some more time. It then let out another terrible roar.
From his perch in the tree, Pankaj could only watch. He was helpless. He felt guilty that he had abandoned his friend. He could not see clearly as it was dark. But he could see the bear sniffing his friend.
Luckily for Pankaj, the bear did not bother to look at him in the tree. It stood there for a while and then left.
Ravi remained motionless for a few more minutes. He then opened his eyes slightly to see if the bear had really left. In the distance, he could hear its angry growls. He slowly got up. Pankaj came down from the tree too. He was very ashamed to see his friend. In the moment of danger, he had abandoned him.
He said sorry to Ravi for abandoning him out of fear. Ravi accepted his apology. Pankaj and Ravi continued their journey and returned home safely.
Children, this story tells us about the need for presence of mind. Ravi was quick to remember something he probably heard a long time back. That bears always eat only freshly killed prey. He pretended to be dead and that saved his life.