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Don’t Do Monkey Business This New Year

IMG_2290 panther

Imagine being the most popular person to be called for a party and then being the most unpopular person there. That was exactly Lorise’s problem. She was called for all the parties as her ten toes and fingers were designed for grasping. This really helped when you had a heap of party decorations.

Most animals couldn’t twist the vine around the flowers to make the multi-coloured garland. Or string fireflies on a Banyan tree prop root for those much needed disco lights. They couldn’t even make the cute little leaf umbrellas for the palm toddy cocktail (One part palm toddy, one part spring water, fresh berries and a dash of bark for bitterness). Even if all the decorations were made, none of the animals could climb and tie them around the party venue with as much ease as Lorise.

Before a party, everybody loved Lorise. She was sweet, friendly, helpful and always willing to go that extra mile for the decor. Once, for the kingfisher’s baby shower, she even hung-up ten dead fish on a branch. Now, this may not be everyone’s ideal party decoration but let us not get judgemental. The kingfisher was thrilled to bits and even today, when her fledglings have flown from the nest, talks about that day being the happiest in her life.

The problem with Lorise was that once the party started, she got really excited. So excited that she would shoot down four palm toddy shots at one go. The other animals had tried advising her. Go slow. The alcohol won’t run off. You have a small body, you get drunk faster. She would nod sadly, her hungover head in her hands, ashamed about the shenanigans of the previous day.

Come the next party and she was up to her monkey tricks again. Down four shots of palm toddy, start teasing the ladies at the party, make burping, farting noises when a male and female animal were talking, pull down all the decorations she had so carefully put up and sometimes, she even shat on the party table, which was groaning under the weight of all that yummy food.

The animals were furious. Their carefully curated treats would sit temptingly on the wooden log bench and none of them could touch it. Monkey shit had an unbearable stench. They would go home hungry, angry and completely miserable. The host would feel even worse. Her party had been a humungous disaster and it was all the fault of that stupid monkey.

What happened next was predictable. The animals began calling Lorise to put up their decoration. Then, they would find some pretence to send her away. ‘It’s an elephants-only party, My husband is allergic to monkeys, It’s a non-veg party, etc.’.

Lorise was completely miserable but she couldn’t stop herself from going and putting up those decorations. The animals were kind, they would let her eat a little of the party food. Also, it was the closest she got to happiness, this being near a fun venue before the fun began.

It was New Year’s Eve and the panther was throwing the biggest party of the year. The entire jungle was invited. Lorise was summoned to put up the decoration. She worked two days with just four banana breaks to make it look spectacular. The panther was highly impressed.

Poor Lorise. She was too scared to ask the panther whether she could attend the party. After all it was New Year’s. Her shoulders sagged and she began walking away, a pitiful primate, sorrow-struck on New Year’s Eve.

The panther’s heart melted. He invited Lorise to stay. She whooped in joy and almost kissed the panther’s whiskers. The party started. She downed four shots of palm toddy, started teasing the ladies, made burping, farting noises. Just as she positioned herself to shit on the food table, the panther growled, leaped 20 feet across the woods, pounced on Lorise and hit her with his giant paw, killing her instantly. Some of the animals brought in the new year by chewing on yummy monkey heart. For them, it was definitely a Happy New Year.

Moral: Don’t party with anybody who can eat you.

Lorise and the panther are drawn by the fabulous Bijoy Venugopal. You can find more of his wonderful stuff here bijoyvenugopal.com

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The Grass is Greener Under Your Feet

rangifer-reindeer01 ‘Rudolph, the red nose rein-di-arrrrr’ was playing on top volume in the forest. It was a snowy-white Christmas season and everybody was on holiday mood. The workers ants even took a break from work and sang along with the crickets. In that happy environment, there was a single, clear, discordant note.

Mr Sour Puss also called Rangifer was prowling around the woods with a dark cloud above his head. Every half hour he would give a deep sigh or an angry snort. Sometimes, he would stamp his foot, jiggling his entire body in disgust. His thoughts ran in somewhat this fashion:

‘Poor me, I don’t even have a red nose.
If I die tomorrow, Santa won’t even know who I am.
It could so easily have been ‘Rangifer, the red nose rein-di-arrrrr’.
Why am I so unlucky, to be a nobody in this world of somebodies?’

It was the season to be jolly and he was feeling as miserable as a polar bear on a melting ice cap. He remembered last month, when Santa had come to say hello to Rudolph’s grand aunt, who was going to die. He, along with the other reindeer had surrounded Santa asking him to pick them for the season.

Santa laughed his big ‘Ho, ho, ho’ and said he had enough reindeer. Maybe, if he decentralised the process next year, he could think of expansion and more hires. The other caribous were impressed with Santa’s corporate talk. Only Rangifer read between the lines and realised, it just meant Santa wasn’t going to choose any of them.

Surprisingly, none of the other reindeer minded. They went back to singing Christmas carols and chewing lichens and reindeer moss. Only Rangifer felt as bitter as the sedges on which a wolf had peed.

He sighed again, when he heard a small little voice in his ear. ‘You big dolt, can you stop sighing? It shakes your entire body, disturbs my sleep and drops my children to the ground, smashing their heads and leaving them dead forever.’

It was the Wise Warble Fly, a pest, which lived on Rangifer’s skin. She called Rangifer ‘a dumbskull, a toad, a miserable oaf and a senseless baboon’. Then, she explained to the thick-headed reindeer that Santa’s reindeer were the unluckiest for they had to work on Christmas Day. Imagine that. When the whole world had a holiday and were celebrating joy, peace and happiness, these poor creatures had to toil, carrying gifts, which weren’t even meant for them or their loved ones.

Yes, yes, songs were written about them and they’ve been immortalised in paintings, cartoons and greeting cards. But was it really worth it? They have to be away from their families, they couldn’t give their little calves Christmas gifts, no grand feasts or midnight mass. It was just work, work and some more work.

Miss Wise Warble Fly concluded her speech saying she couldn’t imagine why anybody would want to be Rudolph. Now, neither could Rangifer. Thank god, he was a normal reindeer. It would ensure he had a lovely Christmas day. Yes, it’s gong to be a Merry, Merry Xmas!

Moral: You are always luckier than the ones you think are lucky.

Rangifer is drawn by the fabulous Bijoy Venugopal. You can find more of his wonderful stuff here bijoyvenugopal.com

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Waiting for Kafka

hermann-tortoise01 An earth day is 24 hours long. Most inhabitants of this frenzied planet fill those hours with a hundred million things to do. Hermann was a different kind of resident. All day he did nothing.

He would sit in a small space at the bottom of the garden and stare at the other life forms so busy doing what they had to, to preserve their life. His mother lived a hundred feet away. If he had to visit her, it would take him two years.

Water to drink was at a fountain, fifty steps away. The time taken to crawl to it would have been three months.

A bit of grass, which was food, was a mere twenty-five steps away. An attempt to go towards it would cost him ten days of his life.

It seemed easier to wait. To not move. To watch. All day his beady eyes looked at the air, without the slightest bit of agitation or restlessness. It was almost as if he had been made in ceramic and not bone.

The non-living things in the garden looked at Hermann with envy. Even they moved more than him. The watering can had duties every morning. The pipe was uncoiled twice a day. The tap was turned on and off innumerable times. The wind chime begged for an unwindy day when nothing would stir.

Hermann felt neither hunger nor thirst. He didn’t even know what he was waiting for. He just stood there. Can it be called waiting if there is no yearning?

This life of absolute nothingness would have continued indefinitely if it wasn’t for short, tubby legs that ran down the garden path one day. “Please mother, may I take him to my room?”.

Hermann found himself lifted by stubby fingers and carried gingerly into a walled space painted blue. He couldn’t turn around and bite the fingers, which held him for he had no teeth.

He was dumped into a cardboard box lined with yesterday’s news. Hermann wasn’t political and didn’t take the slightest notice of the screaming headlines. A few minutes later, water in a red bowl was placed right next to Hermann’s nose. He bent his head and took a slow, sweet sip. How wonderful it tasted.

Then a bunch of leaves were scattered all over him, falling off his shell, landing at his feet. Most calmly, he chewed one of them and felt the energy of food trickle into him. Nobody knows whether this turn in fortune made a difference to Hermann the tortoise. He continued to watch the air, with the same indifference.

Moral: Even if you do nothing, something will happen.

Hermann is drawn by the fabulous Bijoy Venugopal. You can find more of his wonderful stuff here bijoyvenugopal.com

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A Goose Who Couldn’t Say Boo

IMG_1390 gooseIn the village of a 100 children, there lived Anser, Branta and Chen. Out of the three of them, Branta was the scaredy-cat. He wasn’t a cat though, he was a goose. A goose, who couldn’t say boo.

Unfortunately, in this village there was a rotten tradition. Nobody knew who had started it but the mummies and daddies claimed their mummies and daddies used to follow it. What happened was, when a child turned six, he or she had to go to the the gaggle of geese, pick a goose and say ‘boo’ to it. Now, Anser and Chen, when they were picked would lift their long necks and boo back, loudly, firmly, boldly. The frightened children would scurry off towards their waiting birthday cake, glad to have completed this most dreadful task.

However, when Branta was picked, he would try saying ‘Boo’, but the sound would stop in his throat and refuse to come out. Instead, what would emit was a gentle ‘Coo’ or sometimes a strange, strangulated half-whisper, which nobody could hear.

The children were thrilled. All of them began picking Branta to boo at. Some of them would even give him two or three boos. Boo! Boo! Boo! The humiliation was unbearable. The other geese, who were normally kind, called him a blot on their family name and wished he had been born a hen.

Branta couldn’t say ‘Boo’ for it really frightened him when those unruly children came and yelled in his ear. Why couldn’t they just say hello and introduce themselves politely? It was a shame, he thought, that this sort of hooligan behaviour was encouraged by the human adults. To make it worse, his gaggle blamed him, when all he was trying to do was preserve some level of decorum and decent behaviour.

One day, Branta was talking to a flower about the music of the bees, when two tiny twins, crept up behind him and yelled, Boo! Branta nearly jumped out of his white, feathered skin. The twins burst into giggles and began rolling on the floor laughing. Something snapped in Branta.

He raised his beak and gave the two children one quick peck each. Ouch! Ouch! They ran off crying to show their mummies and daddies the red mark that the evil goose had made. For some reason, Branta began to feel much better.

He never knew a good, swift peck was so therapeutic. Anser and Chen began to look at him with respect. Why hadn’t they thought of that before. The village council held a meeting that evening and decided to outlaw the tradition of saying boo to a goose. It was too dangerous.

Moral: If you can’t do the expected, do the unexpected.

Branta is drawn by the fabulous Bijoy Venugopal. You can find more of his wonderful stuff here bijoyvenugopal.com

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The Tears Of The Laughter

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Hyaen weighed 80 kgs and was 35 inches tall. He was the tallest male in his pack. It didn’t make a difference, for in the hyena community, the highest ranking male in the clan is subordinate to the lowest ranking female. Maybe, Hyaen needed to start a masculinist movement, which would liberate his fellow males from the shackles of this imposed power structure.

As he sat pondering his insignificance in the entire scheme of things, a frog inched up to him and rested her head on his paw. He looked at froggy with a wary eye. Ewww, he didn’t want to eat that. The frog sighed. She said she was hoping some of Hyaen’s happiness would rub off on her, but clearly that wasn’t working. She hopped away a bit broken, looking for her soul sunshine elsewhere.

Hyaen snorted in disbelief. Here he was feeling like a pill and she thought he was happy. It happened all the time. No matter how horrible he felt on the inside, his outside, especially that damn face of his always had a smile. In fact, even amongst the hyenas it was the best smirk. Wide, innocent, a bit leery, but always jovial. As if his soul was cracking one joke after another and his body unable to take the strain of so much laughter had frozen into a permanent grin.

His face didn’t change the fact that he was depressed. Seriously depressed. He didn’t know why. It was this black sludge in him, choking him, threatening to drown him in its vile what’s-the-pointness.

Unfortunately for him, nobody realised this. He was the most popular animal in the forest. The only one invited to every single party. For who doesn’t like joyful things in their celebrations? When some of the creatures created terrible puns, which nobody would laugh at, they would hop towards Hyaen and breathlessly spill out their attempt at humour. Even if he hated the stupid wisecrack, his face would have that same, wonderful delighted expression, as if the most amusing thing in the world had been said.

One springtime, when Hyaen was bleakly looking at the surging river while the sun set, silent tears running down his face, a passing fish shouted out, ‘The beauty of nature makes me cry with happiness too.’ Hyaen hadn’t even noticed how lovely the world was looking decked in its just-blooming finery. All he could see was the meaningless hollow that ate his belly, took over his mind and blinded his eyes.

It was winter now. On a particularly, surprisingly sunny day, which ate away the gloom of the cold, without warning, Hyaen jumped into the same river the fish had cheerfully shouted out from. The current happily carried off the happiest face in the forest. The creatures of the forest felt for a brief moment, the same sadness that filled Hyaen, seeping into them. ‘He laughed at my joke yesterday’, ‘He was such a fun creature, who would have thought…’, ‘Maybe he slipped in, how can somebody so happy want to end …?’ The shocked animals didn’t understand it. They say he died with a smile on his face.

Moral: Don’t trust the face.

Hyaen is drawn by the fabulous Bijoy Venugopal. You can find more of his wonderful stuff here bijoyvenugopal.com