By Veeraswamy Krishnaraj
Kesavan had a chicken he loved. It was no ordinary chicken, but the one with gleaming feathers that vied with Northern Lights. He carried it everywhere he went including school. He left the chicken in the school yard during school hours and took it home after his school studies. It was not uncommon for him to find an egg it laid while he was attending class in the school.
The hen laid about five eggs a week. They were fond of each other. The chicken did not go to his brother or his sister.
Life turned bad and topsy-turvy for Kesavan and the chicken. The chicken was missing. Did it abscond? Was it an absconder or an abductee? Did it go AWOL? What could have happened? Could it be that someone stole the chicken? The boy’s mind was racing with all these gloomy thoughts.
He went around the village several times to find the lost chicken. The village people told him, ''It is funny, you are looking for your chicken and your parents are looking for you.'' During his search, he met many animals: the sly fox, the dancing rabbit, the croupy crow, the solemn vulture, and the wily snake. No one saw the missing chicken. Kesavan was heartbroken. A monkey came to him and whispered to him, 'O Kesavā, Madhava, Govinda. Greetings to you. I came to you with good news. I saw a snake carry your chicken by the neck and drag it to a secure place. Let us go and find your chicken.'
Kesavan, the fox and the monkey went to where the snake lived. They found some eggshells on the ground. Aha! The snake was eating the eggs and spitting out the shells.
They also found the chicken in a large cage. Kesavan saw the snake struggling for breath. The fox said, ‘Kesavā! It is not choking but trying to spit out the empty shell of the egg.'
With the monkey standing guard on the tree branch, the fox accosted the snake saying, 'What is up with you buddy! I see you had your lunch. I wonder now why you did not eat the chicken.' The snake addressed the fox, ‘’Hey Foxie Wookie! I am no fool. Have you heard of the man who killed the goose that laid golden eggs? I kept the chicken alive so that I get about five eggs a week, enough for my sustenance. If I kill it I have no eggs.''
The fox had a quick talk with Kesavan and demanded the snake to release the chicken to Kesavan, since it belonged to him. The snake refused and said, 'Find me another chicken before I release this chicken. A fair exchange: A chicken for a chicken.’’
Kesavan and the fox had a quick consultation and the fox suggested to the snake, 'We will replace this chicken with another chicken. This chicken is the pet of Kesavan. Would you agree to it?'
The snake agreed to the proposal and handed (Did the snake have hands?) over the chicken to Kesavan only after another chicken took its place. Little did it know it was a senile chicken, past its egg-laying youth. The fox and the monkey were ecstatic to see Kesavan and the chicken back together. After the rescue of the chicken, Kesavan, the chicken, the monkey and the fox were fast friends.