Vikram Betal Stories - The Wonder Parrot

 The Wonder Parrot

The vampire went on: Sudarsan was a merchant who lived in Dhara Nagari, a fine city. Once a year he paid visits to distant cities for the sake of trade. He had an attraction for new and rare things. Once he was camping at Ratnapur. A stranger showed him a parrot and said, "Sir, this is a very unusual bird, without a second in the whole world. I am selling it because I am poor and I need money badly." "What is its specialty?" asked the merchant. "It can solve many problems for you. At moments when you feel sad, it can amuse you through wonderful tales," replied the man. The merchant at first did not believe the man. But a few minutes of conversation with the parrot amazed him. The parrot appeared to him wiser than anybody he knew. He gladly paid a thousand coins to the man and bought the parrot. On his return journey, the parrot narrated numerous tales and recited sweet verses to him. The merchant felt more and more fascinated by it. He had many friends, but all of them expected some benefit or the other from him. The parrot alone had no selfish motive. The merchant valued it as his greatest friend. Back home he told everybody of his wonderful parrot. The members of his family were happy at the beginning. But when they saw that the merchant was devoting almost all his time to the parrot, they grew pensive. They feared that the business will suffer if the merchant did not give his attention to it. One day his children told him, "Father, is it right for you to spend so much of your valuable time in the company of a parrot? Will our business not suffer?"

"Why should it suffer? What if I die tomorrow? Can't you manage the business? I find much peace and happiness by talking to the parrot. That is why I spend my time with it," replied the merchant. "Why don't you ask the parrot to give you peace and happiness at a time?" asked his wife. The merchant did not reply to her. In the evening, when he was alone with the parrot, he put the same question to the parrot. "My master, how can I, a prisoner myself, give peace and happiness to you? You have to find them yourself," said the parrot. "How can I do that?" "By coming out of the prison cell of your little self. As you broaden your mind, as you sympathize with others and be kind to all, happiness and peace will be yours," said the parrot. From the next day, the merchant began to take stock of the problems of the others. He helped some people with money and some people with advice or his influence. He rushed to the side of the townsfolk whenever they were in difficulty. He found much happiness and peace in his activities. One day he told the parrot, "You have shown me the path to happiness and peace. What can I do for you in return?" "Set me free," said the parrot. The merchant's face paled. "That is not possible," he said softly. "Ask me for some other reward." "Nothing else will make me happy," said the parrot. The merchant's children and wife were eager to get rid of the parrot. It was because the merchant was giving away much wealth to others under the parrot's influence.

One day his eldest son told him, "Father, is it even possible that a mere bird would be so wise? It must be a ghost who has taken possession of the bird. I'm afraid, it is inauspicious to keep such a possessed bird in our house." The merchant did not like his son's observation of the parrot, but he kept quiet. At an opportune time, he asked the parrot, "How did you master so much wisdom?" "Once a great Yogi, under a curse, became a parrot. I am his offspring. It is he who endowed me with such powers," said the parrot. "It is my good luck to have you with me," commented the merchant. "Maybe. But it is my bad luck to be a prisoner," said the bird. Some days later one morning the merchant observed that his servant who fed the parrot had forgotten to lock the door of its cage. "Your cage was open. How is it that you did not escape?" the merchant asked. "It is true that I desire freedom. But I cannot be dishonest. You have paid the price of a thousand coins for me. How can I go without your consent?" answered the parrot. The merchant was happy. Thereafter the cage was never locked. Once or twice the parrot warned the merchant, saying, "You are keeping the cage open. If I feel tempted to escape, you should not blame me." But neither the merchant locked the cage, nor the parrot tried to escape. A month passed. The merchant fell ill. Although the best physicians in the town treated him, his condition worsened. His sons called a renowned physician from another city. 

He examined the merchant carefully and said, "This is a rare disease. I know of one herb that can cure this. But that herb can be obtained from such a plant that is also very rare. We have not come across it in recent times." We are ready to spend any amount for it, five thousand coins or ten thousand or even more if you can tell us where to find the plant," said the merchant's eldest son. "That is what I cannot tell!" confessed the physician. Suddenly the parrot asked, "Will you let me try to find it?" The merchant agreed to the suggestion. The parrot left for some unknown forest. It returned three days later with a branch of the plant. The physician prepared the medicine and the patient recovered speedily. All were happy. But the parrot was not to be seen. They looked for it here and there but in vain. Six months passed. One day the parrot flew into the merchant's room and perched on a statue and said to the merchant. "I see, you are still keeping the cage hanging. Should I enter it?" "You may if you so please, you may leave whenever you please," said the merchant. "Thanks," said the parrot and it entered the cage. The merchant looked delighted. The vampire ended his story here. After a pause, he asked the king in a challenging tone, "O King, had the parrot not declared that it won't go away without the merchant's consent? How could it escape then? Again, why was it so eager to enter the very cage from which it had escaped? Answer me if you can. Should you keep mum despite your knowledge of the answer, your head would roll off your neck."

Forthwith replied the king Vikram, "One the parrot had brought the herb that saved the merchant's life, it had paid back infinitely more than the price the merchant had paid for it. It had earned its freedom. It returned to the merchant because of its love for him and because of its own human qualities. The cage was no longer a prison for it, but another nest. It could go at will!" No sooner had the king concluded his reply than the vampire, along with the corpse, gave him the slip.