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A Parasite Called Love

anglerfish01

From the corner of her eye, Linophryne watched an underdeveloped male swim towards her. In a matter of seconds he would bite into her skin, release an enzyme, which would digest the skin of her body and his mouth so their blood vessels could fuse into one. Literally not romantically or metaphorically. Nothing gross about it. It was just biology.

She needed him to fertilise her spawn and in return he shared her blood filled with life-preserving nutrients. He was too weak to hunt on his own. Statistically speaking he was lucky. Very lucky. Only 1 percent of his type find a mate. The rest remain virgins and starve to death. No one was sure which was worse.

He wasn’t the only one either. Her left rear had two males fused into her, while the right had this joker. Every time the other denizens of the dark ocean bed spoke about love or soulmates she wanted to puke. Her soulmates were parasites living in her bottom, little bumps on her back.

The bacteria on her esca got active and began to produce that beautiful luminescence at the tip of her illicium. Imagine a fish with her own personal fishing rod sticking out of her head. The light filled the dark, murky ocean and attracted her prey. No! She didn’t feel sad for those creatures who swam eagerly towards her enormous jaws, hypnotised by the lure of light Remember, she had to eat for four not one.

Linophryne wished at least once in her life she would would meet a male who would quote poetry to her or bring her a tiny sea anemone. Someone who would show a little lurve. She was tired of being the dominant person in this party.

Oh well, time to reproduce. She extruded the eggs in a kind of gelatinous sheet, which was thirty feet long. Her three attached males as if on cue released their sperm into the water. The sheet acted like a sponge and absorbed the fertile H2O. Job done.

Sigh. Did she mention she missed the romance? Soon another batch of babies would be born and she could go on doing this for another thirty years. She looked at her discontentment and on impulse decide to throw it all out.

She first threw out parts of her romantic soul it floated into some seaweed. She plucked away any desire for a large handsome fish who got her jokes, it wandered into a half-turned seashell. She cut off her loneliness, it got swallowed by a passing whale who began to feel particularly down.

There were finally no emotions left. She was just a fish with a bunch of male fish attached to her bum. She felt neither sad nor happy. She just felt like an anglerfish, which is what she was.

You can’t go so far to say life was good after this amputation but it did carry on till it met death. The path, however, was an untroubled one, filled with melting males, extrusile eggs and uninterrupted biology

Moral: Cut out emotions and everything becomes bearable

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

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The Good Luck Of Luck

Albatross
Like most of her species, Diomedia nestled on one of the most remote oceanic islands in the world. She couldn’t complain, the sun, sand and sea packaged with a sparse population and ample squid, fish and krill, which could be caught efficiently by scavenging, surface seizing or diving made life filled with all the good stuff that kept depression away.

These birds also had the conscience of a clock. As soon as she and her friends spotted a boat up ahead, they would fly with all their might to let the weary sailors know there was land close-by, where they could rest awhile before continuing their perilous and tiring journey.

One clear day, Diomedia was playing with the remains of a fish bone when she spotted a huge ship sailing in the distance. She looked at her beak-buddies excitedly. The oldest birdie there (He was 48 years old) shook his head, ‘Too far, we’ll leave this one to the mercy of the sea gods and the lost souls of sailors.’

Blame it on a full stomach but for some reason Diomedia didn’t want to leave those poor sailors at the mercy of anybody. She spread her 11.2 feet wings and took off. She flew steadily for an hour and that’s when she realised the ship was further away than she thought. The sea sometimes tricks you like that.

She didn’t want to head back and so this obstinate, clever little bird began using the tricks of aviation nature had gifted her. The first thing that come into play was her dynamic soaring technique, where she repeatedly rose into the wind and descended on the downwind, gaining energy from the vertical wind gradient. This helped her cover a 1000 kilometres without flapping her wings.

It was not enough. The ship still seemed miles away. Oh-damn-o-damn! She looked at the endless, pitiless, limitless stretch of sea and decided to use it to slope soar, a technique by which she could use the rising air on the windward side of large waves to fly further without exerting too much of her own energy. Luckily for her, the sea had an infinite number of huge waves and slowly, she inched closer and closer to the ship.

Finally, after 48 hours of flying, she reached the bow and silently perched on it, her exhaustion eating her thoughts, leaving her mind with a blank numbness. The sailors who were just about to turn their ship saw her and hooted with the joy of hope.

With renewed energy they made their way towards the land from which the bird had come from. A little cabin boy, meanwhile, gave poor, tired Diomedia some water and fish. When they finally reached the island, the sailors ran out, fell on their knees and kissed the land.

The captain hugged his men, salty tears rolling down his weathered face, ‘If we hadn’t got lucky and spotted that albatross, we would have surely died at sea.’ Diomedia glared at him, ‘Luck! Luck?? Bah!’.

Moral: Good luck is an unknown good deed

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The Rage Of The Unwanted

Amoeba-baba-1

When Der Kleine Proteus was born he loved the world and wanted to make as many friends as he could. He would extend his pseudopodia and move towards the closest human around. The tip held his heart begging someone, anyone to accept this gesture of friendship.

In the beginning the human didn’t mind, why, it barely registered his presence but the middle he settled down and called the host body his home, the human would start reacting badly to him.

The human’s body would go completely berserk. Frequent flatulence, violent diarrhoea, foul smelling stools – what a bloody mess! To get rid of poor Der Kleine Proteus, the human would then make that cold hearted, weak journey to a doctor, hoping it won’t lose control and stain the doctor’s upholstery.

Soon after that visit powerful antibiotics would enter the equation. They would be ingested orally to nuke out poor, friendly Der Kleine Proteus and finally the human would breathe a sigh of relief in spite of a burning bum.

Der Kleine Proteus tried to make friends with so many human beings but each one of them rejected him in the most selfish, brutal way. Every time he got flushed out of a body his heart would break into a million pieces. Painfully, he would put them back together and crawl towards another human being, hopeful of love.

It never came. Six-year-olds to seventy-year-olds murderously spurned him. Men, women, boy, girls, babies they all despised him with an unfathomable violence. Finally, the day came when his love turned to an empty numbness where nothing good grew.

He stopped wanting to make friends and lay quiet, unmoving for a long time. It could be years. The humans breathed a sigh of relief. The hiatus of his apathy had an expiry date. One day, a fury so blind filled him he could hardly see the days of love.

Der Kleine Proteus began using his powers of binary fission and divided himself at an unimaginable rate. When an army of amoeba entamoeba histolytica had been created, he sent them out, mutant versions of himself, to wreck and ravage every single human body around.

Bodies piled and the living turned dead. Finally, in that village of no body, all that was left was Der Kleine Proteus and versions of himself, each one of them, aching with love, loneliness and the gift of amoebic dysentery.

Moral: The starting point of hate is love

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

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Everybody Hates Me and Vice Versa

Anteater01

The panther sauntered past a frowning Pilosa and yelled a cheery, ‘Lovely day, isn’t it?.’ With characteristic familiarity she stuck out her tongue at him. It was a really long tongue, longer than her head and it accentuated her rudeness.

The panther felt his cheerful mood popping like a balloon on a burner and much to the dismay of the frolicking rabbits he was in a nasty mood the whole day. The forest was beginning to be affected by Pilosa’s hatred towards everybody.

Most of the creatures in that particular stretch of woods were friendly, genial souls who always apologised before wolfing down their prey. The deer would even discuss the weather with the lion when she knew his stomach was full.

In this garden of love and friendship was born Pilosa who detested everybody and everything. She was mean to all without any discrimination. She would say the nastiest of things to the other animals and follow the insult by sticking out her tongue and waggling it offensively.

She called the frog, ‘Bulgy Eyes’, told the bear he stunk of yesterday’s vomit, sneered at a worm’s diet, poked fun of the owl’s cries and ridiculed the sloth’s slow gait. If you asked her why she was being such a pill, she would fix you with her unblinking eyes and think of a fresh, new, hurtful insult aimed at you.

The other animals tried to keep away but the forest was too small to allow the luxury of space. They couldn’t do anything but put up with her churlishness, which spoilt their mood and curdled their joy.

As the forest slowly soured with the disgruntled rage of happy animals, a migratory crab docked by the stream of that forest to mate. He flexed his red pinchers and looked around for any sign of ‘female’.

All he saw was an anteater who told him he was so ugly he should pinch himself and then boorishly stuck out this indecently long tongue at him. Enraged at her incivility, he scrambled sideways towards her and with his pinchers cut off that ungracious tongue. Dropping the shameless appendage into the water he swam away vowing to find a place with more positive energy to procreate.

Dear, disagreeable Pilosa, she couldn’t believe she didn’t have a tongue anymore. How would she eat? She resigned herself to starve and die. The animals slowly began to notice that nothing abusive was being said to them anymore. At first they wondered why, then word got around, starting from the proboscis of a hovering butterfly – Pilosa’s tongue had been hacked off by a wandering crab. Yaaay!

The forest folk were a kind lot. Every day, one of them would volunteer to take a leaf full of dead ants for Pilosa. They would leave this offering of food in front of her. She would glare at them with her unforgiving eyes and in her head think, ‘brain-sprain beaver, idyot ibis, rubber-lipped woodpecker, divvy duck ‘ and so on but of course, she couldn’t say a word.

Moral: Nobody can take away the insults in your head

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

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Free Falling to Fly

caterpillardreaming

Plexippus seemed to be measuring the earth as he inched towards the edge of his world. He was born on a branch and unlike most caterpillars he wasn’t content to die on one. He aspired for bigger things like flying. Spreading his nonexistent wings and tasting the freedom of air.

His twelve eyes were focused on the end of the branch. His plan was simple. Crawl up to the tip, fall over and hopefully his body would learn how to fly. The word suicide didn’t enter his head even once.

He plummeted sixty feet towards a fast approaching ground. It felt glorious, time seemed to have slowed down and though he couldn’t move horizontally, the vertical trajectory of his path was as thrilling. He was perhaps the only caterpillars who understood why birds swoop even when there was no prey.

He would have come to a mangled end if he hadn’t landed on a abandoned, hatched egg. It caught him in the curve of its cup beautifully and a few left-behind feathers softened what would have been a harsh splat.

He was used to looping out of egg shells, why, he had done that as a baby. He nibbled at the chorion and the outer layer of this egg tasted just as good as his own. It was filled with precious protein, which gave him the nutritious spurt required to slither up the tree again to take another shot at free falling.

He was about to jump when a beautiful looking butterfly danced in front of his eyes beating her much coveted wings. ‘Want to fly like me?’ ‘Oh, yes!’. She bent her head and whispered something so terrible, Plexippus blanched with fear. ‘It is the best way’ she insisted. He believed her for she was the only creature who could fly who had spoken to him.

His first step to be able to eat the sky was to stop eating. He looked hungrily at the abundance of green leaves around but his ambition was greater than his stomach. He hung upside down on a twig. His body to keep pace with his strange behaviour created a button of silk to hook him onto the tree. Inert and imprisoned by his will, his eyes scanned the skies he so desired as a shiny, protective shell, the chrysalis, covered him, sealing him into a terrifying darkness.

The butterfly had warned him what would happen next would be gruesome. He closed his eyes and if he knew to pray he would have. His body released some powerful enzymes, which began to dissolve his tissues into a slurpy soup. Even if he screamed nobody could have heard him in that unforgiving cocoon.

In the broth of his body were floating a bunch of cells called imaginal discs. They began to multiply at an alarming rate. They grew and grew till they turned into a pair of wings. In tandem, a bunch of antennae, legs, eyes and genitals also grew, unasked.

Time ceased to have meaning and in that eternity of suffering the metamorphosis drew to an end. Plexippus split open his chrysalis and looked at the world. Nothing seemed to have changed except for him. Slowly, unused to his new body, he gently spread out his wings and flapped. He rose higher and higher. In a matter of seconds he was swooping, gliding, diving, hovering and fluttering. The first flight of his life was better than what he had imagined it to be.

Moral: For a worm to fly, it has to turn into a butterfly.

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

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The UnDelivered

darkstork

Most storks loved the babies they carried, their little gurgling, the delicate smell of the falling bits of pee and poo (They couldn’t wear diapers as it added to the weight) but you could safely say Aequon wasn’t one of them.

It was almost as if the babies understood his hatred. They would bawl through the entire route, fart heavily and pee in a whorl, sometimes splashing poor Aequon’s neck. He couldn’t tell you why he dropped the first one but he swore on Neognathae that it wasn’t intentional. He wasn’t that cruel.

The first baby he ooopsie-dropped fell on a rock and hurt her wee head. Aequon had to carry back the squirming, bloody, drippy bundle for he couldn’t deliver this highly squashed bunch of cells to the waiting parents.

The stork yard went into emergency mode. Hisses, honks, croaks, squeals and whistles were heard at a higher decibel than that which was permissible. Finally, a set of twins were separated and they sent two, more responsible storks in different directions. Needless to say those two babies grew up missing a part of themselves, looking for the other half in strangers who always fell short.

After a gap of another month they decided to test Aequon again. He had spent the last thirty days carrying a stuffed teddy bear over a distance of 8,851 miles. Not once had he dropped it.

His mission was to carry a teeny, curly headed cherub with the sweetest dimples to a couple in a tiny village. They had been fighting bitterly for the past five years and this sweet bundle of joy was supposed to be the balm to soothe their poisoned hearts. They really needed the baby more than the baby needed them.

The first 4000 miles were fine. Aequon didn’t think too much of the elfin creature he was carrying but at 4352nd mile, when he was crossing the ocean oopsa-daizee, plop, the burden fell and little dimples was eaten by a very, hungry whale.

Aequon flew back home dejected but lighter. The stork yard didn’t have another set of twins or triplets at that precise moment and the couple have now hired two sets of lawyers to divide their property and memories.

The stork yard didn’t know what to do. They had never in the history of storks come across one who dropped the babies. If this continued they would very soon be out of the delivery business. They were bit reluctant to fire him for since the beginning of evolution they hadn’t done anything like that.

They gave him one more chance. His beak just couldn’t hold on to his precious ware and it slipped, falling amidst a herd of running elephants. What happened to that pink, fragile, bawling package is best not described.

He returned home with a heavy heart and told the stork-yard he quit. They hurrahed silently in their hearts. Now, they wouldn’t have to fire him. He went to the edge of the lake, stood on one leg and pondered over what to do. After a few hours of relative bliss he realised standing on a single leg was the best job in the world and that’s what he was going to do for the rest of his life.

Moral: For job satisfaction you have to be good at your job.

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

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Pork-Owww-Pine

Porcupine001Stachelschwein was a little porcupine who had just been informed by his Biology teacher he was a rodent. Blurrgh! Indignantly, he exploded, ‘Rodents are uggghy rats, I’m not one of them!’ and stormed out of class. His best friends, Frosch the frog and Ameiselowe the antlion scampered after him.

The three of them decided to bunk school and were gambolling around the jungle when they came across three dormice, Zink, Zank and Zoob. Originally from the city these three dormice were abandoned in the forest. The forest folk had kindly taken them in. The three mice were very well adjusted now, even preferring the forest to the city. They did however miss pizza very, very much. Especially the one, which had cheese berry toppings.

The three Z’z as they were called looked exactly the same and nobody could tell who was who. Wally the weasel, the village gambler had made a pile of money by asking people to guess correctly who was Zink, Zank and Zoob. Stachelschwein looked at the three Z’z with disgust. Twitchy, smelly, silly twerps. How dare I get put in the same group as them? He got so angry thinking about this he decided to be mean to them.

Frosch and Ameiselowe saw the look in Stachelschwein’s eyes and knew that they were going to have fun. A passing parrot, shook his head midflight knowing these three were up to no good. They approached the Z’z innocently. Zoob, who was the cleverest immediately started twitching his nose faster than a humming bird’s wing. He knew there was something fishy in the air. Before he could warn the other two, the three friends pounced on the poor unsuspecting Z’z and pinned them to a tree with three of Stachelschwein’s quills.

Stachelschwein was very proud of his quills. He knew they were the reason the forest put up with his shenanigans and treated him with respect. Also, he loved the word ‘Quill’. When the forest scrabble champions would play, they would always pray for a Q (10 points) and the word they inevitably made was ‘Quill’. When Stachelschwein saw his body part spelt on the board he would preen with undisguised pride.The only negative bit about his quills were his gang of friends always refused a group hug.

The three Z’z were now pinned to the tree squealing in fear and anger, while the three friends plucked cherries from a nearby tree and ate them. Then, instead of spitting out the pits on the ground, they tried spitting at the Z’z. A pit that hit any of the dormice was equal to one point. Frosch won the game, all that fly catching had sharpened his aim. When the score reached 10-4-6, they called it quits. They swore that they couldn’t eat another cherry and laughing at their own silly jokes walked off.

After a couple of hours the quills lost their hold and the three Z’z fell. Plop, Plop, Plop. They were badly bruised and hurt. The pits really did sting. As they sat crying, the Wise-Old-Oak heard their tears in the wind. Gently, he swooped down, his leaves brushed their big, fat, round, shiny tears away and asked them in the kindest voice what had happened.

When they told him the Wise-Old-Oak was very, very angry. He knew that Stachelschwein and his friends weren’t evil but they needed to be taught a lesson. He told the Z’z to scamper up a branch and watch the fun. Then the Wise-Old-Oak sent for the three bullies.

When the three bullies heard the Wise-Old-Oak wanted to see them they had to go. That was the law of the jungle. As they walked up to the oak, Ameiselowe nudged Stachelschwein who elbowed Frosch. They saw the Z’z were sitting on one of the oak’s branches.

Now they were really scared. Mumbling tattlers, tall-a-tale-rats, buck teeth and other such insults under their breath they squirmed up to the Wise-Old-Oak. The oak smiled at them and in a deceptively polite voice said he was glad they had come. He had heard about their great friendship and wanted to see it for himself.

As he was speaking the Wise-Old-Oak bent his branches, brushed Stachelschwein so lightly even Stachelschwein didn’t know he had been touched. As Stachelschwein’s quills dropped to the ground, Mr. Wind, an old friend of the oak, swept the quills with his mighty breath right under each of the friends’ bums.

The oak asked them to sit. As soon as they squatted in a circle, they flew up again each one yowling with pain. The quills had pierced all three of them. When the cries subsided, the Wise-Old-Oak plucked out the pierced quills from their buttocks and the three friends started crying again.

‘Hurts doesn’t it?’ asked the wise oak. In fact they understood it so well, that when the giggling Z’z reached home they found three gifts. A fly from Frosch, an uneaten cherry from Ameiselowe and a card from Stachelschwein, which read, ‘I am really sorry dear …cousins’.

Moral: There’s always someone bigger than the bully

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

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Walking Towards Perfection, On A Hundred Legs.

centipede01

To tap dance with two feet (Obviously not left) may be impressive but to do the same with 51 pairs is surely staggering genius. Oryidae was an anthropod with a talent. He could tap dance to anything- the pattering of rain, the sprinkling of pollen by the bee, the rumble of a stream, which had found a secret way. If there was a noise being made in the jungle, he would creep up to the source and in perfect rhythm dance to the beat of nature.

His prodigious talent like most exceptions started of as an abnormality. He was born with hard feet-tips. At first Mama Centipede panicked but when he started beating them to the tune of a croaking frog her worries dissolved into a new form, ‘Oh, no! An artist’ and she slithered away to safety.

As each pair of legs were of a different length he got a range of sounds. The smaller ones produced higher pitches while the longer ones drummed a lower beat. He had perfected his act. Sometimes, he wouldn’t even depend on ambient sound. His front half of his body would make the music while his back half would jiggle away. He could even alternate between the front and the back depending on the view and the audience.

His fame, impulsively spread like a bout of scabies going around. He was soon in more demand than he could handle. Unfortunately, all this hard work had an adverse reaction. His feet began to smell like a rotting hundred-year-old carcass. Nobody knows why it happened but no matter what Oryidae did he couldn’t get the stink off.

Even the skunk adopted a superior ‘less-smellier-than-thou’ attitude around him. Oryidae was faced with two choices. Either he spent all his energy fixing his feet or he ignored them and focused on the fine tuning of his genius.

Naturally he chose the latter. The animals would still come for his performances but they would all carry a strongly scented flower. While they watched the complicated layering of his music and dance unfurl in front of them, they would occasionally dip their snouts, beaks, nose-tips into wisterias, frangipani, sweet alyssum, jasmine and gardenia for a whiff of perfume to eliminate the stench.

At the end of a spectacular performance (and it was always outstanding) the animals would head back to their homes remarking on the originality of his performance and the repulsiveness of his foot smell. ‘Brilliant, soulful but stinky’, ‘What intensity, what control, but what smell’, ‘Tearfully puissant but phew, that pong is a bit much’.

Nobody ever stayed back for an autograph or an interview. Oryidae would sit alone, watching them go, carefully dragging his mouth forcipules over each leg cleaning the tools of his trade. He had gotten used to his smell now and in truth, it didn’t matter. He knew today’s dance was better than yesterday’s. Every day, he was inching towards the best he could ever be.

Moral: If you want to be a genius, ignore the but.

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

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The Empty Hood

cobraaaa

Hannah detected the leaping frog 30 feet away. Not much of a distance if your body is an impressive 14 feet long. Moving with a swiftness that made lightening jealous, she barred her proteroglyph dentition and her fixed fangs struck poor froggy like a hypodermic needle.

According to the laws of science, by now 400 mg of venom should have entered little froggy’s central nervous system leaving it with blurred vision, severe pain, vertigo, drowsiness and an easy-to-gulp paralysis.

However, all froggy felt was bewilderment, ‘Dear god, why am I not dead?’ Hannah’s brain worked as fast as her body and in a blinding flash of illumination she realised her venom did not work. Before froggy could tom-tom this news around the forest, she lifted the tip of her tail and beat poor froggy’s brains out.

The bloody mess, though she had caused it caused a lack of appetite. There were bigger problems to solve. Hannah slunk into a secret cave. There she lie still waiting for her prey. Almost immediately, a friendly rat popped in to see if there were any other ratties around. He was feeling a bit playful.

Hannah’s tail merged with the shadows and snuck up on ratty. As soon as it reached the rat’s bum, it began coiling itself around the rat’s torso. Ratty squeaked and squeaked but when he looked into Hannah’s eyes, his voice died and his brain tried to compute what he saw. He had thought he was being eaten by a python but here was a cobra behaving in a strange way. Why didn’t this sadist just use her deadly venom and be done with it?

She raised her hood and struck, three, four, five times. The rat continued to stare at her with beady eyes. Damn! Hannah had lost her poison. She didn’t know how but it had happened. She squeezed ratty’s body till he asphyxiated, then she settled down to chew and think.

From then on Hannah hunted for food covertly. Always making sure nobody was around, she would coil her body around the victim and kill it. If she was ever threatened, she would spread her magnificent hood and hissssss. That seemed to keep most of her enemies away.

This deception continued for twenty years and finally Hannah was burnt out. Being secretive is exhausting not just for the mind but for the body too. She realised she was getting too old and weak to squeeze a victim to death. Her poison, which could kill an elephant was a long forgotten memory of her youth.

She approached two younger cobras (Identical twins, who liked to rap their hisses). The wondered why this ancient dodger was creeping towards them. They raised their hoods slightly ready to strike in case granny wanted to make them her lunch.

She bent her head to indicate she came in peace, told them her tale and begged for a favour that would set her free. The young cobras complied and bit her to death, taking turns to give the lethal blow.

As a mark of respect they didn’t eat her. They slithered away to tell the jungle the tale of this extraordinary cobra, who had the courage to live without that which kept her alive.

Moral: You don’t have to advertise your weakness

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

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When The Sound Of Your Voice Grates Your Ear

Hoopoe

‘Hoopoe, hoopoe, hoopoe’, an unmistakable cry tore the silence of a quiet summer sky announcing the flight of a cinnamon pink, black and white bird. She was quite stylish with a naturally formed mohawk.

The Hoopoe for that was her onomatopoeic name landed on a branch and snorted, rustling her feathers slightly. She hated her sound. Or more precisely, she despised the fact her name exactly corresponded with her cry.

She wondered who thought of this stupid idea. It was fine if the other animals followed the same rule. She wouldn’t have complained if the owl was called Hoot, the tiger was baptised Roarr, the woodpecker was named Tap-tap, the bear was branded Grunt and the hyena Ha-ha-ha but that was not the case. Only she was saddled with a name that imitated her call.

Hoopoe wasn’t one to take things lying down. She had begun practising to change her voice. Morning, afternoon and night she would try to make different calls but only a ‘hoo-poe’ would emit. This confused the male hoopoes terribly though for they heard her cry and thought she wanted to make babies. The males would fly to her, eager, happy at this chance of an off-season fling and she, instead of returning their overtures would peck viciously at their romantic feathers and chase them off.

She tried every single thing in the book to change her voice. A mean owl had told her the secret of its hooting was swallowing mice live. The poor Hoopoe had tried to catch a tiny mouse in her long beak. When she tried to swallow it, the wee thing got stuck halfway in her throat and almost choked her. A coughing fit released her and the mouse, who swore that hoopoe breath was worse than owl breath and it rather be eaten by a Western Screech any day (or night).

Poor Hoopoe, in spite of her best efforts when she opened her bill, the only sound that would come out was ‘Hoopoe, hoopoe, hoopoe’, always in sets of threes or fives. One day, after having tried to remain underwater for a minute (on the advice of a salmon), she gave up just before she drowned herself. She decided never agin to emit the cry that defined her. This momentous decision had far reaching consequences. As her mating call was on mute during the breeding season she never found a partner and had babies. She finally died just as she lived – silently.

When she fell to the ground, her stiff feet up in the air, the jungle folk echoed ‘The Hoopoe is dead, hoopoe dead, hoopoe dead’ and once again it seemed like the sound of her voice, which carried her name had been spoken.

Moral: Nobody likes to be slotted.

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