There lived a poor farmer in a village. He lived a hard life. Poverty was not the only woe of his life. He had been married for eight years but his wife was still childless. The husband and the wife were very sad about it.
They kept fasts and visited shrines to get blessed with children. But nothing worked.
Meanwhile a young couple came to live in their neighborhood. They were happy people. A year later a son was born to the young couple. The farmer and his wife also went to their house to congratulate them. The young couple welcomed them with open arms as the families already had become friendly.
Back home, the farmer and his wife worshipped Lord Ganesh and sought his blessings for one child at least. Their prayers were answered. Soon after, a male child was born to them. The farmer and his wife wept with joy.
The farmer names his son Prince because for them he was no lesser than a prince. Prince was the focus of their love and attention. Prince was growing up. The parents fulfilled every wish of the son.
Too much indulgence was spoiling the kid. He was becoming adamant. He did whatever he liked. Even at their own sacrifice the poor farmer and his wife gave all good things to eat to their Prince.
Overeating was making Prince a fatso. Other kids called him glutton. One day, Prince brought a load of mangoes from someone’s garden. He ate them all in spite of his mother’s advice not to do that. At night his stomach ached. His insides churned and he began having loose motions. The mother got worried. The farmer had gone to some
other village on an important work.
In the morning, the mother advised Prince.
'There is a local doctor named Moodamal in the nearby village. It is said that one dose of his medicine treats any disease. You must go to him. Tell him your problem and carefully listen to his instructions. Your father is not here to take you along."
Prince was in bad shape. He ran towards the nearby village where the local doctor lived. The doctor Moodamal knew the father of Prince. He at once gave a big dose of medicine to Prince. The boy felt some relief. He was asked to lie down on the cot that was there outside the door.
In a few minutes the pain subsided and the stomach no more churned. Prince got up to go and spoke to the doctor. 'Uncle! I feel okay now. Tell me what should I eat?"
The doctor said, "Son' You suffered due to overeating. Whatever you eat eat little for a few days. Consider yourself a bird and eat as much as a bird eats. Remember bird feed."
Prince was a slow brain. He looked at the doctor utterly confused. The doctor said, 'Just tell your mother that she must give you bird feed. She will understand."
Prince was still worried that he might forget it. So. he decided to go home repeating ‘Bird feed. Bird feed" all the way. Thus, he set out for home. On the way he saw lot of birds and he was now chanting Birds Feed distracted by them.
He passed by a field chanting ‘Birds feed-Bird feed." The farmer who was working in his field called out, “Hey Boy' What do you say?’
Prince replied innocently, ‘Birds feed, Birds feed ’
The angry farmer rebuked, “I am sowing my field and you are inviting birds to feed on my seeds.’ If the birds feed on my seeds what shall grow in my field? Say ‘Birds keep away’ or I will thrash you.'
Prince had seen the outside world for the first time. Till now he had lived a life protected by his loving parents.
Frightened off by the farmer he chanted. ‘Birds, keep away' Birds, keep away!'
He went ahead chanting that. Some distance away a bird catcher lay in wait after setting his net to trap the birds. When the bird-catcher heard Prince passing by saying, ‘Birds, keep away’ he got infuriated.
He yelled, "Stupid boy' Stop saying that or I will knock your teeth off. Are you calling to birds to stay away? Why are you acting like my enemy’ I don't even know you.'
Prince stammered, ‘Sir, I am coming after seeing a doctor. That’s why I chant ‘Birds, keep away' The doctor wanted me to remember that."
The bird catcher was not satisfied and the explanation of Prince made no sense So, he gave a hard slap to poor Prince and ordered, ‘You must say Get trapped, get trapped if you don't want another slap."
Poor Prince cried, “Get trapped! Get trapped!’ Weeping and so chanting, the boy walked ahead.
A little further, a group of thieves was going making a plan of a great robbery. Meanwhile, Prince neared them chanting. “Get trapped…Get trapped."
A thief heard it and drew the attention of others to what the boy was saying. The chant of Prince annoyed the gang. The thieves grabbed Prince and knocked him around. Prince could not understand why he was being beaten.
He said crying, “ Uncles' I go to my home but why do you beat me? What wrong have I done?"
The gang leader said, ‘Idiot! We are planning a big robbery and you wish us to get trapped? What a bad omen you create' We will break your neck if you again said those discouraging words '
Prince sobbed, ‘I understand nothing. Tell me what should I say? I will speak what you say '
A thief said, "Say, Good Luck to you."
From there on, Prince walked repeating, ‘Good Luck to you."
Ahead, a funeral procession was moving on. A man from the procession heard Prince saying, 'Good Luck to you."
On such a grave occasion someone wishing good luck was odd. The person lost his cool
and spoke to others. "Look at that evil boy! In our mourning he is wishing us good luck."
Many of the people asked Prince why he was speaking such out-of-place thing.
Prince tried to explain but failed. The mourners said to Prince, “Someone's death is a sad event. There is no good luck about it. You must say…How sad'."
Thoroughly confused Prince moved away chanting. ‘How sad! How sad!"
Suddenly, he saw a great marriage party coming from the opposite direction. People were singing and dancing at the head of the party. Prince moved to the side of the road and stood to watch the revelry. It was in fact the marriage of the real prince of that state. A soldier heard poor Prince chanting “How sad' How sad'
The soldiers reported the matter to the King. Poor Prince was nabbed by the soldiers and produced before the king. The king wanted to know why a boy thought the marriage of the prince was a sad thing. Poor Prince was weeping bitterly.
The king asked, 'Boy' Why do you say 'How sad!' at this happy occasion of my son’s wedding? Why are you sad about it?"
Prince was very scared. He stammered “Sir! I am not sad at your son's wedding A doctor has asked me to say those things."
'A doctor?' the king was surprised. He asked Prince to tell him the entire story.
Prince narrated the whole thing beginning with his eating of mangoes. The story made the king laugh. He realised the boy was innocent. He asked Prince to say on happy occasions, ‘Many happy returns of the day.’
The king asked one of he soldiers to escort Prince to his mother. The mother was shocked to see Prince weeping and being brought by a soldier. Due to thrashing he received, Prince was bruised and battered.
Prince clung to his mother and sobbed, "Mother! why does one man ask you to say something and another person beats you for saying the same?"
The mother consoled, ‘Calm down, son. The words mean different things in different situations."
Prince looked at his mother puzzled. She patted him and spoke, "Go to sleep, son. You are too innocent and too young to understand it."
But he could not sleep due to the aching body though stomachache had become a forgotten thing.