By Tejaswini Uma Sudhir
(Published in Children’s World, February 2010 issue)
Victor the tiger was very happy. It was his 6th birthday and his parents had just gifted him a beautiful finger ring, made of gold. It shone wonderfully and had a `V’ inscribed on it. Victor kissed his parents, thanked them and ran out of home to show off his ring to his friends in the jungle.
He met the panther, the lion, the baboon, the rhino and to everyone he boasted, “Does anyone here have a finger ring? And that too, so beautiful.”
“Hey, you can just see it. I will not let you touch it lest you leave your fingerprint on my ring,” Victor scolded the overenthusiastic monkey who wanted to take a closer look at the ring.
“Hey, don’t keep removing the ring from your finger. It could fall off somewhere,” advised the elephant.
“Even if it does, we can search and find it. After all, everyone knows it is mine and so it cannot get stolen,” replied a vain Victor. His friends exchanged glances and sighed.
It was one week since Victor’s birthday. The tiger was still on cloud nine because of his prized possession. He continued to keep fiddling with his ring and his mom kept reiterating what the elephant had told him. “It is bound to fall off somewhere one day and then you will repent taking it out of your finger all the time,” the tigress said.
Her worst fears came true very soon. On his way to school one day, Victor stopped at the well to indulge in his favourite pastime, fishing. Victor would drop his fishing line into the freshwater well and catch a fish and eat it on his way to school. The fish in the well were very angry and every day, they would dread when it would be 8 o’ clock in the morning. Because that’s it when Victor’s fishing line would lay the bait for an unsuspecting fish among them.
It was the same this morning. Victor peeped in, smiled with an evil glint in his eye, seeing the fish scampering for cover. “I am here and I want the most delicious fish for breakfast today,” he growled and let down his fishing line.
As was his habit, he started playing with his ring also at the same time. And, before he realised it, the ring slipped from his finger and even as he tried his best to catch it in the air to prevent it from falling into the well, the ring had gone inside the well. Whoooosh !
Victor was shocked and speechless. He did not know what to do. His frame sunk and his hand let go of the fishing line as well. Splash ! It went inside the well too.
He saw his classmates pass by. “What happened, Victor? Why are you looking so lost?” asked the camel.
Victor kept gazing into thin air, without replying. His friends walked on, thinking the tiger was being so proud, he won’t even answer.
“If I tell these animals, they will only poke fun, so better to try and get the ring myself from the well,” thought Victor to himself.
He came up with an idea. I will pour out all the water from the well and then the ring will be at the bottom. He could then ask one of the birds to fly in and get it, he thought.
He put the bucket inside the water and started to pour out the water. One, Two, Three, four, five, six, seven … He started feeling tired but he kept on with the job.
“What on earth are you doing, Victor? Why are you wasting precious water like this?” asked the Elephant who was passing by.
“My ring fell into the well and now I have to remove the water to get the ring back,” replied Victor.
“No, you cannot empty the only well in the jungle just because you were foolish to lose your ring,” scolded the Elephant. “Stop this and move out of here.”
In the meantime, panic-stricken fish had called up `100′ to complain to the police that Victor was ruining their home.
In no time, a huge crowd had gathered at the well. There was commotion, with everyone trying to speak at the same time.
“Listen, listen, listen,” said Leopard, the police officer. “Victor, you cannot be allowed to waste water like this. So the only solution is to ask the fish to search for the ring and get it out of the well.”
“No, we will not do it. This tiger has eaten so many of us in the last so many years. Now why should we help him when he has a problem?” asked Whitney, the leader of the fish family.
“But if both sides remain adamant, everyone else in the jungle is the loser because we will have to then walk five km away to the river for water,” said the cow.
“Why should we lose the sweet water from the well? If it becomes empty, all the fish will die and it will take many months and years for it to fill up again, ” agreed the giraffe.”
Everyone thought for a moment and finally the tigress spoke. “Victor, you have to apologise to the fish for eating one of them everyday. You also have to promise you will never fish in the well again. In return, can I request you, Whitney, if you can search for the ring and return it to Victor?”
Victor was shame-faced. “I am sorry,” he mumbled with his head down. The hundreds of fish in the well immediately sprung into action. They looked under the pebbles, between the plants inside the well. The fish’s eyes could pierce through the darkness of the water. `Operation Ring’ took two hours and finally, Skimpy the fish found the ring. A loud cheer went up. As much for finding the ring as much for the fact that the well water and the fish family had been saved.
Victor was a changed tiger since that day. A small fish had tamed the mighty tiger.