Posted on: Sept 17, 2011
A Fable of True Friends
Billy Peck was a farm duck whose dream was to become a tightrope walker. Every day he spent hours out on the rope practicing, encouraged by his faithful friend, Artie Quack.
Artie was an older duck who had been practicing the art from young. Both of them were a bit flat-footed at it; but they never let that discourage them. They kept training with the hope that someday they will excel.
One day, a new ram arrived at the farm. On seeing the ducks practice, he came over and began praising them. He said they were doing great, and he bet they could cross any distance on that rope of theirs. This boosted Billy's confidence, despite Artie commenting that he hadn’t noticed any real improvement.
A few days later, Billy found himself with the ram, looking at a deep pit. The ram told Billy that the only way to prove to the world his expertise in ropewalking would be to cross a pit like the one in front of them. The mouth of the pit was much wider than the distance Billy had ever crossed on a rope.
Artie tried to talk his friend out of it. He wanted him to realise that he wasn’t such a great tightrope walker yet. The ram disagreed, assuring them that Billy Peck was the best tightrope walker in the whole region, and that Artie Quack was just jealous of him.
Praise blinded the farm duck. He declared haughtily that he would cross the ditch on a tightrope and prove himself. Artie walked away in disgust, refusing to be a part of the misadventure. The rope was tied and Billy set out.
He had barely crossed half way, when he become nervous and his legs started to shiver. He also realised that his new friend was no more egging him to go on.
In the next few steps Billy lost his balance and fell into the deep pit and broke his leg. Even as the poor duck was wincing in pain the ram accosted him and promised to throw down the rope to pull him up. But in return the ram asked Billy to get the fresh and juicy berries that were growing on bushes in the pit.
It finally struck Billy how stupid he was to trust the praise of this selfish ram. But Billy could not stir an inch. When the ram saw that the silly duck was of no use to him anymore, he silently slipped away.
Billy realized that his old friend Artie had been telling him the truth all along. He saw that it couldn’t have been easy for Artie to tell him that he wasn’t a good tightrope walker, and Billy was grateful to have such a good friend who would always tell him the truth... And Artie really was a good friend, because knowing what was about to happen, he had gone straight off to find a group of wild ducks — old friends of his. These wild ducks flew much better than the poor old farm ducks and Artie prepared a rescue operation with the wild ducks.
Billy asked Artie to forgive him, and Artie happily did so. Billy felt foolish for being tricked by the cunning ram but also fortunate, because helped by his new duck friends, they managed to gather all those wonderful berries, take it to the farm, and have a big party among real friends.
True friends always tell us the truth, even if it’s something we won’t enjoy hearing. Those who give us false praise are not worthy of our trust.
In one of His divine discourses, Bhagawan Baba once remarked, “Friendship should not be based on considerations of fear and favour. If a person is adopting wrong ways, a true friend should not be afraid of pointing out the errors with a motive of helping the other person.”
On another occasion, Baba said, “It is clear that, as understood today, friendship and friends are far off the mark of the ideal. Friends who can confer real counsel, comfort and consolation are precious gifts, rarely found today.” He added, “Only those deserve the name ‘friends’—who help in uplifting life, cleansing ideals, elevating emotions and strengthening resolves. Those who drag you into pomp, pedantry, paltry entertainment, and petty pranks are enemies, not friends.”
Baba continued, “The feeling of friendship must activate every nerve, permeate every blood-cell, and purify every emotional wave; it has no place for the slightest trace of egotism. You cannot elevate the companionship which seeks to exploit or fleece for personal benefit into the noble quality of friendship. Perhaps the only friend who can pass this rigorous test is God.”
In our story, although Artie discouraged Billy from venturing into the dangerous expedition of tightrope walking over the pit, he did not chide Billy when the latter landed in trouble by saying, “Didn’t I warn you? You have to suffer the consequences of your foolish actions. I am not going to help you.”
Instead, being the true friend that he was, he rescued Billy from peril with the help of the wild ducks. That is the mark of a true friend.
Similarly God is our only true friend. He is our well-wisher at all times. We might not listen to what He says and eventually get into trouble. But He never deserts us; He is always there to bail us out of difficult situations.
Haven’t we seen this any number of times in the life of our beloved Baba?
Like the mother trying to feed a dose of medicine to the wailing child, His actions were always for the benefit of every one of us.
On many occasions, Baba openly chided people for their undesirable habits or behaviour. But that was all due to His love. Baba always said that He could never be angry with anybody, since He knew only love, love, and nothing but love. However at times He pretended to be angry, only to help people correct their mistakes.
Friends, let us imprint this story in our hearts. Let us walk along the path called life with God as our only true friend. He will never fail us!
- Adapted from 'Sri Sathya Sai Bal Vikas', November 2010.
Illustrations: Ms. Vidya, Kuwait
- Radio Sai team