Panchatantra and the CIO: The Crocodile and the Monkey

Once upon a time there was a mighty river. On the banks of the river there was an apple tree. On the apple tree lived a monkey.

The tree was full of sweet apples and the monkey, full of those apples, lived a quality of life most CIOs would envy. His days were spent doing what he loved to do. He had plenty to eat. He had nothing to worry about – no bosses to answer to, no politics and absolutely no system outages.

The monkey’s joyous and uneventful life was about to take a very interesting turn.

One day a crocodile came to the river bank. He was hungry and despondent having travelled for days in search of food and finding nothing. He looked at those delicious apples glimmering in the sunlight and thanked his lucky stars: food at last, food at last. Thank God almighty, I have food at last.

The crocodile had just one problem. He could not climb the tree to get to those apples.

Just as the crocodile’s joy was turning into despair, he saw the monkey on his hammock. The first pang of excitement caused an inadvertent call to the monkey, “Hello there friend, can you help me?”

The monkey, startled by the sound, dropped his book. Then he slowly turned his gaze in the direction of the voice and spotted the crocodile. Instinctively, he jumped off his hammock and ran for safety. Up and up he climbed till he reached the top of the tree. As he caught his breath, he heard his pounding heart and then the crocodile: “Hello there friend, do not be afraid of me. I do not mean to hurt you. I am hungry and would appreciate it if you threw some apples from the tree.”

The panicked monkey looked at the crocodile in disbelief. But our crocodile was no fool. He had his charm on! Convinced of his safety, the monkey threw a few apples to the crocodile who ate them instantly. Each throw brought an added degree of assurance to the monkey, so he kept the apples coming till the crocodile was full.

The monkey knew he had a problem on his hands. The crocodile would keep coming back for more and his kind nature could not help himself so he would keep feeding him those darn apples. The crocodile knew he had a solution to his problem. He had plenty of delicious food to eat only if he could befriend the monkey.

The relationship started on mistrust but soon blossomed into an all out friendship. Each trip of the crocodile got him to recognize the monkey as a friend and vice versa. The two friends talked about everything under the sun. They shared their joys and their pain. They laughed together and cried together. Well, you get the picture!

Like every good story, this one also takes a nasty turn before the “happily ever after!”

One day Mrs. Crocodile got curious about the sweet apples her husband had been bringing home from work. So she asked and the crocodile could not hide the fact and told her.

Her first reaction was expected: “You mean to tell me that you have been spending time away from home telling me that you are at work when you have been playing with your friends?”

Barely had the crocodile started to explain when the other shoe dropped. “You mean to tell me that all this while there was this delicious monkey that you could have brought home to eat and you are busy making friends with him?”

“I’d better have that monkey for dinner tonight,” she roared.

The crocodile summed up the courage to reply back. “Absolutely not,” he said, “the monkey is my friend and I will not kill him.”

Mrs. Crocodile was in shock. For the first time since their marriage had the crocodile replied back to her. Now, her palate was joined in battle by her heart – she wanted the monkey dead!

But Mrs. Crocodile was going to wait for her moment. So she kept quiet and days and weeks passed on by till the crocodile forgot about their conversation. Then she struck!

One day as the crocodile was getting ready for work he saw his wife still in bed. This was unusual, he thought to himself, as he gently removed the covers to take a peek at his wife.

“Are you all right, honey?” he asked.

“No, I am seriously ill,” came the reply.

Alarmed, the crocodile asked “what happened?”

“The doctor tells me that I will die in a few days if I do not get treatment for my disease,” replied the sick Mrs. Crocodile, “but there is nothing you can do so go to work. I will take care of it somehow.”

As the crocodile swam to work a struggle ensued in his mind. He loved his wife and could not let her die. But he could not get her the treatment the doctor had ordered. You see, the doctor – yes, the doctor – wanted Mrs. Crocodile to eat the heart of a monkey to get better.

In the end, the crocodile’s male ego won out. Now, he swam with purpose to the bank of the river where his friend lived. He had to get his heart to save his ailing wife.

As the crocodile reached the riverbank the monkey came rushing to greet his friend. They exchanged the usual pleasantries and ate apples together. The crocodile could not get himself to kill the monkey then and there – that river bank had too many memories of their friendship. So he came up with another idea.

The crocodile spoke to the monkey, “I am ashamed of myself. We have been friends for months and you have not even met my family! You have been very kind to me feeding me apples every day and I haven’t even invited you home for dinner. If you are not doing anything tonight, Mrs. Crocodile and I would like you to join us for dinner and drinks.”

The kind monkey was taken aback by this gentle request from his friend. “Of course, I will come to your home, meet your wife and have dinner with you guys. Pick me up after work.”

So at 5:00 P.M sharp the crocodile showed up and the monkey hopped on his back and off they went. As they reached the middle of the river, the crocodile could not keep quiet anymore. He had to tell his friend of his impending demise, so he did. “My wife is seriously ill and I have to feed your heart to her to save her life,” he blurted “I am sorry, but I hope you will understand.”

The monkey was in a state of panic but for once in his life he got himself together quickly. “Is that all you want from me, friend?” he replied. “Of course I will help you save your wife. After all, what are friends for?” He continued, “But you should have told me so I picked up my heart from the tree and brought it along. No problem let us go back and get it.”

Overwhelmed by his friend’s response, the crocodile turned back. As soon as they reached the river bank, the monkey jumped off the crocodile and scampered home to safety.

Leadership Lessons:

  1. There are always crocodiles who want to eat your heart out
  2. The only way to save yourself is to leave your heart at home!

About the Author:

Sourabh Hajela is a management consultant and trainer with over 20 years of experience creating shareholder value for his Fortune 50 clients. His consulting practice is focused on IT strategy, alignment and ROI. For more information, please visit his consulting firm.

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