Vikram Betal Stories in English - The Demon's Dilemma

 The Demon's Dilemma

The vampire went on: Ratnakar was a young man who had his education in the holy city of Kashi. At the completion of his study, he was returning to his home state that was far away when he strayed into a forest. The forest was infested by deadly beasts. But Ratnakar was lucky. He was seen by a hermit who took him to his hut and gave him shelter there. Soon Ratnakar realized that the hermit had the power to perform miracles. Ratnakar decided to please the hermit so that the hermit would be pleased to pass on some of his secrets to him. He stayed on in the forest and served the hermit sincerely. A month passed. One day Ratnakar told the hermit, "O holy man, you can perform strange deeds. You get food from nowhere. Tigers and lions behave towards you like your pets. Won't you kindly pass on some secrets to me so that I too could do such miracles?" The hermit smiled and kept quiet. Ratnakar did not lose hope. He waited for two more months and repeated his appeal to the hermit. But the hermit said nothing. That disappointed the young man thoroughly. While the hermit sat in meditation, Ratnakar began to hurl abuses at him. His nasty scream woke up the hermit who looked angrily at him. Next moment Ratnakar felt an uneasy change coming over him. He was growing bigger and uglier. He ran to the brink of a lake and saw his reflection on the water. He realized that he had become a demon. He returned to the hermit and fell at his feet, crying, "How could this become of me?" "My son, you behaved like a demon while I was in deep meditation. That is why you became a demon. What can I do?" said the hermit. "O holy man, it is true that my own misconduct reduced me to this condition. I had no true love or dedication for you. I was here simply for satisfying my desire. But, please tell me, how am I to come out of this curse?" Ratnakar asked with deep anguish.

"You'll recover your human self the moment you do something noble," said the hermit. Ratnakar went away and lived in a cave. He found it very difficult to get food for himself. Whatever fruit he could find was not enough to satisfy his hunger. He was not able to eat raw animals. He almost starved for days. One morning he told himself, "I will go out presently and eat up any creature I find!" On coming out of his cave he saw a young man passing through the forest. "Excellent! You'll be my food!" he shouted. The young man who was very brave at once unsheathed his sword and was ready to defend himself. In fact, he looked quite happy at meeting a demon. "You seem to be quite courageous!" commented the demon. "Why should I enter the forest in search of adventure if I had no courage?" "Pity!" said the demon. "What's the matter?" asked the young man. "The pity is, I'm extremely hungry. But I won't like to eat a brave lad like you. Besides, I may not prove strong enough to vanquish you," confessed the demon. "What do you mean? Are you not a demon?" queried the surprised young man. Ratnakar narrated the incident that led him to become a demon. Then he asked, "Can you tell me where to find a coward?" The young man laughed and said, "Luckily for you, the world abounds in cowards. You won't meet them here, because those who enter the forest are brave. But go to the town or the villages, you'll see cowards everywhere."

They parted. The demon reached the nearest village. It was evening. He saw a lean and thin man outside the village and got ready to pounce on him. But, to his great surprise, the young man did not look scared at all. "Who are you that you are not afraid of a demon?" asked Ratnakar. "I am Harihar, the poorest man in the village. I was desiring that a tiger or a demon should emerge from the forest and put an end to my life. I am without food for the last two days!" "Pity! This means you're not afraid of death. Well, I can't possibly kill the one who is not afraid of death. Don't you have anyone in this village who fears death?" "There is a guy who shivers at the very mention of death. That is why he is spending all he can to be cured of his illness," said Harihar. Ratnakar reached that guy in few bounds. The guy reclining in his bed, at once said, "Come, my friend, come. I'm fed up with life. No quantity of medicine seems to be effective on me. I was just praying for the God of Death to send his messenger and you are here!" "Pity! You are ready to die. I've nothing to do with you. Is there nobody in your village who is afraid of death?" asked Ratnakar who was hungry beyond toleration. "The answer to your question is Mahindra, the physician. He is giving me mild or fake medicines so that I'll suffer longer and continue to pay him his fees. Is he not doing so because of his lust for life?"

"Right. He will be my food," said the demon and he reached Mahindra's house. Mahindra was in a very bad state of mind. He had changed his life's saving into gold and had buried it. His gold had been stolen. He looked at the demon vacantly and said, "If all my life's saving is gone, what is the use of my life itself? I'm ready to die. Please eat me as soon as you can." Said the demon, "I cannot eat a man who has no desire to live. I wonder if there is someone who is blindly attached to his life." "The moneylender of our village is such a man. He is a miser beyond description. He goes on hoarding money. Is it not because he is extremely attached to life?" The demon thought that at last, he had someone to serve him as his food. He appeared before the moneylender and said, "Get ready for death. Pray to your deity." "Demon, Sir! Please give me a day's time. A client is to return me my ten thousand coins tomorrow, with interest. If I am not there, he would never return the amount," said the moneylender pleadingly. "What's the benefit in your recovering the money if you know that you'll die tomorrow?" The moneylender had no answer to this question. Suddenly Ratnakar remembered the condition that he will get back to his human form if he did something noble. He told the moneylender, "Well, I won't eat you if you give money to make a charitable hospital and a temple." "No, no, no, no. I won't waste my money," said the moneylender shaking his head vehemently. 

"Then I'll eat you!" "You may, but I must safeguard my money." "Don't you have any love for life?" asked the surprised Ratnakar. "I don't know. But I love money," the moneylender said frankly. "Pity. I know I won't get the food fit for me," muttered Ratnakar with a sigh. He left the village. Outside the village, his eyes fell on the young Harihar, the poorest man. To the demon's surprise, Harihar ran away. Ratnakar caught up with him. "O demon, please don't kill me. I want to live because the guy who is going to die has just decided to adopt me as his son. I'll inherit his property," said Harihar. The demon went to the patient to find out if what Harihar said was true. The guy said, "Brother demon, I'm much better today. The physician, at last, gave the right medicine last night. I hope to fully recover soon. Let me live." The demon met the physician and found out that the thief had been caught and his lost gold recovered. He was happy and he pleaded with the demon to let him live. By then the demon had grown so hungry that he fell down and swooned away. Then he changed into his human form. The physician's astonishment knew no bound. He brought Ratnakar back to sense and fed him. Ratnakar told him about his history and left for his home. 

The vampire paused for a moment and then asked in a challenging tone, "O king, why did the demon refrain from eating the three fellows even after they had grown greedy of life? Secondly, how did Ratnakar get back his human form although he had done nothing noble? Answer me if you can. Should you keep mum despite your knowledge of the answer, your head would roll off your neck!" Forthwith answered King Vikram, "Although Ratnakar had become a demon in form, his nature had not changed to that of a demon. Being human in nature, though he was very hungry he was not inclined to eat human beings. Being a demon, refraining from eating those three fellows was by itself a noble deed. That is why he got back his normal human form." No sooner had the King Vikram concluded the answer than the vampire, along with the corpse, gave him the slip.