Once upon a time there was a king named Varsha who owned a pigeon and its name was Sibi. This pigeon was so wise that King Varsha would always consult him before attending his court. Sibi was also very good at predicting the weather and days of good fortune. King Varsha and his ministers whenever they wanted to go out hunting or on a long journey would consult the wise pigeon Sibi.
One afternoon when Sibi was sitting in the court, a flock of pigeons flew past the open door and settled noisily in some apple trees that grew in the garden. King Varsha was most surprised when Sibi turned to him and said, “Those are my people perched on the apple trees. They have come to ask me to visit the country where I was born and bred. Please give me permission to take a holiday so that I may visit my old home and see my parents and relatives again.”
But King Varsha was disturbed by the pigeon’s request.
“If you go away, Sibi,” he said “who will advise me and help me to make correct decisions? How do I know that you will return from that distant country where your people live?”
Sibi felt hurt that King Varsha had doubted his loyalty.
“You know King…that I never break my word”, he said. “If I promise that I will return upon a certain day, you know that I will keep it. Moreover, on my return I will bring you a truly wonderful fruit which has the rare quality of giving immortality to those who eat it.”
King Varsha’s curiosity was aroused by Sibi’s description of this rare and wonderful fruit. Although he was reluctant to part with Sibi even for a short time, he agreed to let him go for a week. Sibi flew off with a shrill scream of delight and joined the flock of pigeons on the apple trees. For a few minutes there was a great chattering in the trees and then they all rose into the air and flew off.
Sibi’s father was the king of all the birds in his native country. He and his queen were delighted to see their son again. There was great feasting and rejoicing in honour of his visit. Time passed all too quickly and at the end of a week, Sibi told his parents, “I must now return to my King Varsha. He is expecting me back tomorrow and I must not disappoint him.”
“Go. my son”, said the king of the pigeons, “and if your king can spare you again, come and visit us next year.”
“I will try to come”, said Sibi. “And I have one favour to ask you… Will you allow me to carry back to my king a specimen of the fruit of immortality which grows in these forests?”
“Most certainly”, said the king of the pigeons and he gave his son one of those wonderful fruits. Some hours later, while King Varsha and his Chief Minister were together in the council chamber, the pigeon flew in through the open window and settled at the king’s feet. In his beak Sibi carried the golden fruit.
“A thousand welcomes, my dear Sibi!” said King Varsha caressing his beloved Sibi. “And is this the fruit of immortality of which you spoke?”
“Yes, it is”, said the pigeon, laying the fruit on King Varsha’s throne. “Those who eat it shall never die.” All eyes in the council chamber turned enviously upon the golden fruit. King Varsha considered for a moment and then said. “This precious fruit must not be wasted. Let us plant it in the ground and raise from it a tree which will bear more fruits upon its branches. In this way, many people will benefit from it.”
The gardener was sent for and he was told to plant the fruit with great care in the royal gardens. When the young tree appeared, it was to be well watered, fenced around and tended with great care.
Time passed and a plant did spring up from the fruit and began to grow into a young tree. King Varsha and the pigeon both watched its growth. Fruit began to form upon it. Then a strange thing happened. On a certain night, one of the fruits fell to the ground and was poisoned by a snake which bit the fruit. In the morning, the gardener, not knowing what had happened, chanted to pass by and seeing the precious fruit lying on the ground, picked it up, put it into a basket and took it straight to King Varsha.
The king summoned Sibi and the Chief Minister and said, “Behold, here is the first fruit of our tree of immortality.” “Do not eat it your highness”, said the Chief Minister. “The first fruit should be dedicated to God”. The king was pleased with his advice and sent soldiers to inform the pundits that he would attend the temple the next morning.
The king divided the fruit amongst the pundits, dedicating the two pieces to God. These portions, of course, the pundits took as usual, for their own use and no sooner had they eaten one of them than they fell into a profound sleep from which they never woke. The king was thunderstruck and immediately consulted the Chief Minister.
“Their deaths must have been caused by the fruit of immortality”, said the Chief Minister.
“It appears to me that Sibi has done us a great evil by introducing this poisonous fruit into our country. It seems that he intended to kill you and your family in this way!”
King Varsha was inclined to believe his Chief Minister and summoning Sibi, he asked the pigeon. “For whom did you bring this fruit of immortality?”
“For you, O, king!” answered Sibi without any hesitation.
Then King Varsha said bitterly, “I have protected you all these years and placed you in a position of honour and trust. You have nothing but ingratitude for me and an evil plot against my life and the lives of my family and people.”
Without giving Sibi a chance to say a word in his own defence, he chased the pigeon out of his palace and told him not to come back. Then the king gave instructions to the gardener to place a thorny fence around the tree and ordered that no one was to visit the spot. Sibi was full of grief and flew to his native place where his parents lived. Sibi told his parents what had happened and cried bitterly.
The king of pigeons said, “Do not worry, my son, a time will soon come and King Varsha will learn the truth. Till that time you stay here and pray to God”.
Sibi was much comforted on listening to his father and prayed to God. But he refused to eat anything until the king learned the truth.
Now, there happened to be a dhobi – a washer man connected with the palace. He lived with his son who was married. Unfortunately, the dhobi’s wife and the son’s wife did not get along and were frequently quarrelling with each other. This brought much grief to the dhobi and his wife. So, one day they decided that they could no longer withstand it and would put an end to their lives. While discussing the matter, it occurred to the dhobi that some of the poisoned fruit from the king’s tree would serve their purpose. At night he got into the garden pushed aside the thorny fence and taking one fruit, returned home. Then he and his wife both ate the fruit and lay down as they planned to die.
But the result was very different from what they expected, for no sooner had they eaten the fruit than they suddenly became quite young again! The dhobi sprang to his feet exclaiming, “Isn’t this wonderful? I feel almost like a boy again!” and his wife gave a skip and a jump and screamed, “I’m a girl. I’m a girl! I can dance and sing again!”
The strange news spread fast and reached the palace. King Varsha was amazed and very troubled in mind when he heard the story. He made enquiries and learnt, for the first time, that the fruit which the gardener had brought to him was not plucked from the trees, but picked off the ground. “That unlucky fruit must have been poisoned by a snake!” cried King Varsha in distress. “And I chased my faithful Sibi due to my own suspicious thoughts and lack of faith. My poor pigeon has been my best friend. I shall go to his native country and beg him to forgive me. He would come back to me.”
Then King Varsha at once set for the native place of Sibi. Soon he reached the place where Sibi’s parents lived. At once the king of pigeons who was Sibi’s father came forward and welcomed King Varsha and his men. He took King Varsha where Sibi was chanting prayers. On hearing the noise around, the wise pigeon Sibi opened his eyes and said, “Oh my lord! You’ve come to see me”. King Varsha was filled with joy. With tears in his eyes he said to Sibi, “My faithful friend! Forgive me for I suspected your conduct! Please come back to my place and stay with me. To rule the country wisely, I need your advice and help.”
Sibi at once came and sat on King Varsha’s hand and the king kissed his dear bird. They went back to their country and Sibi was praised by everyone. The king and Sibi ate the fruit of immortality and lived forever. The king also gave the fruit to everyone and all his countrymen praised Sibi and they lived in peace.
MORAL : Suspicion poisons friendship.