Panchatantra Stories English

 The Pretender

In a little town, a long time ago, there lived a potter named Yudhishthra. Although poor, he was a very cheerful fellow. Once, after a hard day's work, he went to the local tavern and started drinking. He drank so much that he couldn't walk properly, and he staggered all the way home. As he entered the doorway of his home, he stumbled and fell heavily on a large pot that he had made. The pot broke, and one of its jagged ends made a big gash on his forehead. Yudhishthra dabbed some turmeric on his wound, tied a coarse bandage around his head, and went to bed.

In time, the cut on Yudhishthra's forehead healed, but it left behind a big red scar. It was rather ugly, but the potter was not vain, so it didn't bother him at all. He went about his daily business as usual. A few years later, a terrible famine hit Yudhishthra's country. He found that no one was buying his pots, so he decided to look for another job in a neighbouring kingdom to feed his starving family. When he heard that the royal court there was looking for guards to man the doors of the king's palace, he immediately applied. To the potter's surprise, he got the job, and he soon began work as a palace guard. One day, when he was at his usual post beside the magnificent palace door, the king passed by. He noticed the new guard with a huge scar running across his forehead, and he stopped and stared at him. "This must be a very brave man indeed," he thought. "Look at the huge scar he wears so proudly on his head. He must have got it during a battle." "I am happy that such a valiant warrior like you has joined my guards," the king told the porter. Yudhishthra - who had never been anywhere near a king before - was absolutely dumbstruck when he was addressed by the monarch, and all he could do in reply was to nod and gulp!

After this encounter, Yudhishthra went on to become a firm favourite with the king. The monarch lavished gold and rich presents to him, and ordered that he be clad in the finest silks. He also made sure that Yudhishthra was with him on all ceremonial occasions. The potter was, of course, delighted with his amazing good fortune. Then one day, there was a huge military parade in the palace grounds. Soldiers from all over the kingdom gathered for the parade. The king took his favourite guard - Yudhishthra - along with him when he inspected the Royal Guard. After the king had strolled up and down inspecting his soldiers with an eagle eye, he turned to Yudhishthra and said, "Aren't my soldiers a magnificent lot? I'm so proud of them, but of course, not so proud as I am of you. You are my hero! Tell me, in which great battle did you get the scar that you wear so proudly on your head?" Yudhishthra was not expecting this question at all, and he was so startled to hear it, that he blurted out the truth without any second thought. "Your Majesty, I'm no hero, and I did not get my scar in battle, In fact, I am just a common potter, and one night when I was drunk, I fell over one of my own pots and got a big gash on my head. That's what caused the scar." So saying, he gave the king a sheepish smile.

The king was speechless when he heard this, but as realisation dawned that the hero he had idolised was no more than a drunker potter, he flew into terrible rage. "How dare you deceive me and make a fool of me!" he screamed at the hapless potter. "Thrash him and throw him out of my palace at once!" he ordered his guards. As the guards began to rain blows on poor Yudhishthra's head, he cried out for mercy. "Your Majesty," he wailed, "I have done nothing to hurt you or betray you. I'm still the same simple person that I always was!" "You may be a simple person," the king shouted angrily, "but you deserve to be thrashed! A man who uses pretense first, and then is foolish enough to reveal it is a man with little sense."

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