Tiger Who Thought he was a Sheep

Once there was a tiger that thought he was a sheep. He cowered, he hid, he bleated, and he ate grass. When the shepherd hit him with his stick he fell in line like the other sheep. Of course he looked different, but he had no way of finding that out. The sheep did not see the difference because he behaved just like them. How did this happen?

Let us call this baby tiger Buddhu. A few days after he was born his mother saw a very handsome tiger and fell in love. She began to neglect Buddhu as she eloped with this friend of hers. In a few days the sojourning tiger went back to his native area a few kilometers away, and the tigress followed him. Buddhu was alone in a forest full of dangers. Poor baby was hardly able to walk but he was quite smart. On feeling pangs of hunger he began groping for his mother but she was nowhere to be found. Unmindful of dangers Buddhu walked right out of the den. Luckily, not far from the den he found a sheep suckling her lamb. To his eyes a mother was feeding a baby and her other teat was available. Smart cub, he walked up, pushed the lamb a bit to make room and went to work. The sheep did not mind, for she had enough for two.

Buddhu fell asleep after a full meal. On waking up he found himself alone, but on rubbing his eyes and focusing better he say a herd of sheep grazing some distance away. He toddled as fast as his feet could carry him and soon found his surrogate mother and brother. The sheep was still affectionate and the spare teat dangled invitingly. Buddhu went for it and from then on became part of the herd. He played with the lambs, ate tender grass and leaves, learned to bleat and follow other sheep without a thought. In time, not only the sheep but also the shepherd began to see Buddhu as a lamb.

One day a tiger, Sher Khan, came to hunt. He looked, spotted a suitable prey and began readying himself to pounce. His eye strayed to Buddhu and he thought, ‘who is that and what is he doing among the sheep.’ On seeing Sher Khan and hearing his roar the little cub cowered and hid among the sheep, but in one long leap Sher Khan was upon him saying, “Hey, you are not a sheep. You are a tiger like me. Lift your head up and come with me.”

Buddhu trembled like a leaf and begged Sher Khan to let him be; “Please let me go, I am not a tiger. I am only a sheep. Why would your paws hurt me if I were not a sheep? You are mistaken.” Sher Khan lifted Buddhu up by the nape of his neck and brought him to the riverbank. There they were both reflected in the water. Sher Khan said, “Look you fool! Don’t you look just like me? You are a tiger. Wake up and be free of this herd of sheep. Come with me.”

Buddhu’s eyes saw clearly, but his mind was reluctant to accept the truth. It said, “Safety is in remaining a sheep. Who knows what dangers and hardships wait in life as a tiger. This must be a dream.”

Sher Khan said, “Try roaring like me. You will then believe me.” Buddhu bleated. Sher Khan roared louder. Buddhu bleated louder after him. The third try and a faint roar broke through his throat. He was thrilled. Like mad he began to roar louder and louder. He was so loud that he made all the sheep of the herd tremble.

Buddhu woke up to his real self and knew he was a tiger and not a sheep. Fear vanished. Need to conform to the crowd lost its press. He was no longer worried about what others would say. He began living like a tiger, fearless and himself.

August 11, 2007