The wily old fox was not feeling too wily at the moment – just hungry and irritated. He had called a meeting of the jackals, foxes, wolves and other middle class intellectuals of the jungle kingdom to brain storm on the rising lawlessness and the declining authority of Sher Singh the king. But the meeting was going nowhere, with lots of useless arguments and intellectual clap-trap being bandied about as wisdom. He decided to take charge of the meeting.
“Fellow middle class carnivores,” he began with dignity, “you are aware of the mobs of elephants and boars and wildebeests and chimps and other riff-raff who are taking the jungle to hostage with their strikes and demonstrations. Sher Singh our king is getting on in years and is not sufficiently threatening – his terror is waning. The question before us today is what is to be done to restore order.”
What he did not say, but was understood by all was – how to ensure the subservience of the herbivores, an assured supply of food and how to check the threat of a revolution against the ‘just’ order of nature. It would be too easy to depose the old lion, but a lion-less jungle was not in the interest of his class.
“We must find a new king,” suggested the leader of the jackals.
“Easier said than done,” replied the fox. “There are no strong adult lions in the area that can be propped up as successor. The tiger that lives across the river is too temperamental to be relied upon – and he does not suffer sycophants and fools.”
The jackals nodded. They were afraid to snatch the leftover of a tiger-kill and had never succeeded in developing a working relation with the bad tempered, nocturnal beast. Moreover their own children were not safe with the tiger around.
After a while, an old wolf cleared his throat and in an apologetic tone began his speech: “Though it may sound farfetched at the moment, we must think of natural succession as the answer to our woes.”
A gasp went round the assembly. No one could believe that the wise wolf could forward such a stupid-sounding suggestion.
The only son and ‘natural heir’ of Sher Singh was Rex Singh – a youth devoid of any sense or ability. The general consensus was that under Rex, the fragile monarchy of the lion dynasty would collapse in a matter of days. Not only was the fellow lazy, moody and an idiot, he was also a coward. A combination that is tailor made to encourage the chimps and the monkeys and the cows to raise the banner of revolt.
“Do not get me wrong,” continued the wolf in a soft tone, “I know the limitations of Rex, but these are nothing that cannot be rectified. Such situations have arisen in the past in our great jungle. The answer has been careful mentoring of the ruler by us, the class who have been given brains for the purpose of ensuring that natural order is not disturbed. Listen carefully. The old fox, our leader, should take on the thankless task of befriending Rex and making him his protégé.”
He looked directly at the wily old fox and continued, “Be at your oily best, use all your sycophantic talents, show full subservience, encourage him to feel powerful, teach him his role – rule in his name and protect the interest of our class.”
The proposal was discussed at length, and at the end of it, towards day-break, the assembled animals felt reassured. They soon dispersed. Only the wolf and the leader of the hyenas remained.
“I do not trust the fox with so much power,” said the hyena, shaking his head, and expressing his discomfort.
“Don’t worry about the fox,” said the wolf. “He will grow too big for his boots for some time, but very soon the young lion cub will outgrow him, and will not have any use for him. For now, begin a rumor campaign about sickness and impending demise of Sher Singh and of the terrifying feats of Rex.”
Moral: The world is not as it seems.