A Modern Fable

Ibn-e Eusuf

Actually this is an old story but like good old stories it never gets old.

So, here it is dressed up for modern times. Only the names are changed to protect the identities of the innocent stork and fox.

Once upon a time there was a yellow saw and a wry wind. They had seen better days but they were always in each other’s way and had been so busy quarreling that they were surprised by the lion that came upon them unawares.

It was not that the lion was very wise. In fact, it wasn’t a lion at all; it was a turkey with abrasive rough wings pretending to be a lion. It was just that the cackling heads of the jungle were so exhausted with the interminable wrangling of the yellow saw and the wry wind that they crowed in glee and went along with the pretence, which made the turkey feel enlightened and gave it a swollen head.

The lion-turkey acted first and thought later. It immediately consigned the yellow saw to the attic and confined the wry wind in a holy shroud. Word spread that the yellow saw was rusted and that the wry wind had turned benign. But these were only appearances.

Given the size of its brain, the lion-turkey with the abrasive rough wings wouldn’t have survived long. But a magic bush in a faraway land was giving it protection. The magic bush sent it a special feed of reinforced rice and sugar; and whenever it was threatened, the bush dispatched a pointed black barb to unnerve the antagonists. When needed, the bush could also tickle into action an exact offspring that had been transplanted into the city of submission that was the abode of the lion-turkey.

Time passed and the lion-turkey lost a few teeth and a few feathers and the bush too began to wither. In all such fables it is at a time like this that a fatal mistake is made and so what had to happen, happened.

Nobody can say how it happened. Some say the bush simply forgot to warn the lion-turkey because it did forget a lot. Some say the rice and sugar were laced with rum that emboldened the lion-turkey. Some blame the guards it had chosen for itself. One was a deer prone to shortcuts; the others were mostly retarded fowls but some were more retarded than others. The eagle (it was a fowl too but for some reason the chief of the cackling heads, half lion-half cow, called it an eagle) could not tell the difference between treated and untreated effluent and gorged itself on the latter till it became quite beside itself.

It so happened that there were four rugs that were sacred and in safekeeping in the hall of justice. The lion-turkey was protected as long as it kept away from the four rugs. But shortcut deer and raw-effluent eagle egged it on and the lion-turkey was not used to thinking before it acted. It had the four rugs brought to its palace to be aired in public and beaten so that the ancient dust could be removed before it put its foot on them.

No sooner were the four rugs beaten the magic began to wane. The rusty yellow saw came flashing out of the attic and the benign wry wind escaped its holy shroud and began to swirl and scream.

Now all they had to do was to make up and corner the lion-turkey with the abrasive rough wings in its lair. The bush too was distracted and could hear the bugle in the barracks that was the sign of its imminent withering.

But like the scorpion and the tortoise in another fable, the yellow saw and the wry wind were also creatures of habit. It was not in them to change their ways.

The yellow saw invited the wry wind for consultations and proceeded to cut the support on which the latter was resting. The wry wind, in turn, invited the yellow saw to its abode and proceeded to whip sand onto its blades.

They did this and they did that but they could not shake off their old habits. They signed an accord in the brown forest and buried it. They kind of agreed to encircle the lion-turkey’s lair led by their chief warrior, the rising sun, mounted on the four rugs that had now been reclaimed by the rightful owners.

But as the rising sun rose into the sky, the yellow saw could not help undercutting everything that was in the way. And the wry wind huffed first one way and then the other. All this confused the rising sun to such an extent that he quite forgot what he was supposed to do when he finally arrived in the city of submission. The sacred four rugs lay forlorn, lacerated by the yellow saw and seared by the wry wind.

And so the yellow saw and the wry wind got their just deserts. The toothless lion-turkey with the abrasive rough wings had got the better of them.

Meanwhile, the jungle fell dark and the denizens began to starve. The cackling heads continued to cackle quoting Cicero in the gathering gloom.

This is a puzzle that needs to be decoded. The clues are embedded in the text and become progressively more difficult. The reader who decodes the most clues will win a prize of US$100 equivalent. The contest will close on July 30, 2008 and the winner will be announced the next day.

The contest has ended in a tie with two winners decoding 15 clues each. Readers who feel they can do better can continue to submit solutions via the space for comments; they will not appear on the blog.

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