There was a huge tree in the clearing on the outskirts of the village. A snake lived in a hole under the tree. It had lived there for many years. Every evening the local children would come and play in the clearing. The snake would come out and raise its hood. It would ‘hissss’ and scare the children. One day the children were playing and their football hit the snake. The snake was furious. It bit one of the children. Luckily, the village headman was close by; he picked up the boy and rushed him to the doctor. The doctor treated the boy and the boy was saved.

There was a holy man who used to come to the village sometimes and beg for alms. One of the womenfolk told the holy man, “Please help us Baba. There is a snake in the Bel tree. Our children have no other place to play. But if they play there, it is very unsafe. One of the boys had a narrow escape.” The holy man promised to help.

He went to the Bel Tree and called out, “Oh snake! Come brother. Come out, I want to talk to you. Come, come, I shall not harm you.” After some coaxing, the snake came out. The holy man said, “I have come to know that you are not allowing the children to play here. That is not a good thing brother. Come; promise me that you shall not harm them. Let them play. God shall surely bless you for this good turn.” The snake promised the holy man that he would not bother the children. The holy man told the children that the snake had agreed that it would not make trouble. The children were exhilarated.

The following evening, a large number of excited children came to play in the compound. The snake was returning back to its hole. It quietly made its way to the Bel Tree. But before it reached its hole, the children spotted it. The children pelted the snake with stones. The snake had given its word to the holy man, so it did not fight back. The children injured the snake badly. The snake took refuge in its hole. The following day again the children spotted the snake basking in the Sun. They started stoning it. It slithered away, but not before one of the stones hit it. For a couple of days the snake did not come out of its hole. But eventually it had to. Hunger was creating havoc in its stomach. As soon as it came out, the children saw it and started throwing stones mercilessly. It started bleeding. The children laughed gleefully.

The next day, the holy man happened to be crossing by. The snake called out to him in a weak voice. The holy man was surprised. “Oh! Brother! What happened to you? Who has done this to you?” The snake said, “You took my word that I wouldn’t harm the children. They are responsible for my present plight. They stoned me mercilessly. I did not harm anyone. They thought that I was dead so they went away to play.” The holy man nursed the bleeding snake and said, “Oh brother! You took my words too literally. I didn’t mean that you do not protect yourself. Don’t hurt them, but at the same time don’t stop hissing. If any one tries to harm you, you must scare them to protect yourself. The very sight of you, when you raise your hood is enough to scare anyone away.”

Don’t let the others take advantage of your personal resolve to become good. Be good inside, but show the world that you can be a dangerous enemy.