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Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Vain Elephant

Down in South India, there’s a forest called Thekkady. The animals in this forest lived in peace, there was plenty of food to eat and the animals were all content. They called it God’s own country and considered themselves especially blessed.
Things couldn’t be better except for Aana, the elephant. Aana was a large elephant who thought he was God’s gift to the forest. He was extremely vain about his looks and was forever trumpeting his own praise. The other animals tried their best to ignore him, but it was difficult not to get irritated. It would have been good if he left the other animals alone, but he insisted on showing them his ‘good’ looks and ‘amazing’ abilities. Everyday morning he would catch hold of a few animals and force them to sit around him while he flexed his muscles and generally showed off. The poor animals had no choice but to watch because Aana was too big for them to resist and any protest would invite his wrath! His most prized possession was a large mirror in an ornate frame which had fallen off a caravan as it passed through the forest a long time ago. It had survived unbroken and Aana spent hours in front of it admiring and grooming himself.
One day, Meeka the frog and his friend Jabber, the monkey were walking through the forest. They were looking for a few particular leaves and roots because Jabber’s younger brother was sick and needed medicine. Meeka knew about roots and leaves which had healing powers. They had got almost everything they needed when Aana came across them.
“Aaah, just the animals I wanted to see..! Did you know that my neck muscles are bigger than a tree trunk? And..”
“Later, Aana”, Meeka pleaded. “We are in a hurry now. Jabber’s brother is not well and we have to make medicine for him”
“This won’t take long and you will be glad that I showed it to you. See… when I flex my neck muscles, they form such perfect columns…”. Aana had already started off on his monologue.
Jabber groaned and tried once again, “We’ll give these medicines to my brother and come back and listen to you, Aana, please let us go now.”
But Aana would have none of it. He glared at them both and said, “You will sit there and listen to me NOW! Otherwise, I will grab you both with my splendid trunk and hurl you far away”.
Poor Jabber! He was torn with anxiety about his brother but had no choice but to sit there. Meeka and Jabber sat on a tree trunk, gritting their teeth, angry as hell but powerless to do anything. Aana, that day was in his full form and waxed eloquent about his muscles and his skin and his trunk and…..
Finally at the end of three long hours, Aana got tired of his monologue and said, “I know you will be disappointed, but its time for my mud bath now. I have to stop enthralling you and leave now. Don’t worry; we will continue the next time we meet”.
Jabber and Meeka, glared at Aana and muttered under their breaths, “Big doddering muscle brain! If only we could teach him a lesson !”
They quickly gathered all the medicinal leaves and roots they had collected and ran to where Jabber’s brother lay. They were just in time! Jabber’s brother looked very weak and tired. Meeka quickly made the medicine and gave it to the little monkey. He drank it up gratefully and fell asleep in a while, feeling much better.
“Don’t worry about your brother. He will be alright now, we came in the nick of time”, Meeka reassured Jabber.
“I am so grateful to you Meeka for saving my brother. But I am so angry at that Aana. I really want to teach him a lesson!” Jabber said. “He thinks too much of himself!”
“But we are so small and Aana is so strong. He could crush us both without even realizing it!” Meeka shrugged helplessly.
Jabber looked thoughtful and said, “What you said is true, but we are cleverer than that muscle brain. I am sure we can teach him a lesson”
“Let me think a while”
Jabber sat thinking while Meeka watched over his brother. After sometime, he jumped up and said, “I know what to do! I have the perfect idea! But I need your help Meeka.”
“You can count on me” Meeka replied. “Just tell me what to do”.
Jabber quickly explained his idea to Meeka. Meeka was overjoyed to hear it. “That should work!” he said. “Aana will not know what hit him”.
The next day, early in the morning, Jabber and Meeka, stealthily went to where Aana lived in the jungle. Dawn was just breaking and Aana was fast asleep. Aana’s prized possession, his mirror, rested against a broad tree near him. Jabber and Meeka crept silently to the mirror and without making any sound carefully lifted it. They carried it a little away and carefully removed the mirror from the frame. They then hid the mirror and returned the frame to where it was before. Aana was still asleep blissfully unaware of what had happened.
Meeka quickly put on an orange robe and a crown of woven palm leaves. Jabber took up his position behind the frame of the mirror. Meeka hopped onto a low branch of a tree near Aana and shouted in the deepest voice he could manage. “AANA, wake up !! WAKE UP YOU WORM !!”
Aana opened his eyes sleepily, in an instant all his sleep had gone. In the dim light of dawn stood before him a strange creature. And it was shouting at him!
“I am the Spirit of the Forest! You have displeased me very much!”
Aana, for all his size and muscle was a coward at heart and started quaking. “But what did I do? I have never seen you before!”
“You have hurt my faithful subjects and they have complained to me. You are too vain for your own good and I am going to curse you.” Meeka glared at Aana. Though he was tiny, he really did look a scary sight!
“Henceforth you will look like a small, ugly monkey. I curse you! GADZOOKUM, BIDIKUM, GUMBLAM”
Aana’s knees were knocking with fear now. “Please don’t…. please”
“Too late!” Meeka said, “You’ve become a monkey now, look in your mirror and see for yourself”
Aana moved over to his mirror in dread and looked. There looking back at him was a monkey!!! A small ugly monkey!! It was Jabber, of course, but the stupid elephant thought he had indeed become a monkey. Jabber quickly mimicked Aana’s moves. It was true! He had been cursed and had turned into a monkey. Aana moved his head from side to side and Jabber also did the same. Aana was convinced now, he had indeed turned into a monkey!
Aana started wailing in anguish! “Oh my handsome looks! I have become an ugly monkey now! Who will look at me now? What will I do?”
“Oh Powerful Spirit of the forest, please forgive me! I will do anything you say, make me an elephant again! Please, I beg you!”
Aana was so desperate, he got on to his knees and begged!
Meeka declared in his most commanding tone, “Do you promise to be good from now on? Do you promise never to trouble the other animals in the forest? Do you promise to help others?”
“Yes, yes, yes, I will do everything you say!” Aana replied. “Just turn me back into an elephant! I will never be mean again or ever trouble anybody.”
“Very well, then I will forgive you” Meeka told Aana. “For the curse to be reversed, you have to apologise to every animal in the forest and beg their forgiveness.. After that you have to go to the river and dip yourself twice in the water. Then you will become an elephant again.”
“Thank you Oh spirit! Thank you! I will apologise to all the animals right away”, Aana gratefully said.
But Meeka said, “Mind you! The instant that you break your promise you will turn into an ugly monkey again”
Aana fairly quaked! “No! I will never break my promise. I will be a good elephant from today”
“Go now and beg forgiveness!” commanded Meeka.
Aana ran to apologise to all the animals.
Meeka and Jabber quickly put back the mirror in the frame laughing with glee. They had done it! Using their brains, they had taught Aana a lesson he would never forget!
Aana was true to his word and became a very good elephant. All the animals came to like him a lot and he made a lot of friends! Meeka and Jabber but never told him the secret of the forest spirit.. just in case!

The Mouse Who Thought He Was Very Clever.

In a little village in south India, there lived a little mouse who had a long tail. Now the mouse, who was called Moosh, used to wonder why his tail was longer than the other mice. Being a very vain mouse, Moosh was pretty sure that it meant something special but he simply couldn’t figure out why his tail was longer.
The mouse elders in his village, who were wise (you had to be wise if you could live long enough to be old, because all the mice were usually promptly eaten up by the cats in the village!) used to tell him, “Moosh, don’t be so vain, some mice have long tails, some have short tails, it doesn’t mean anything much you know..”
“When you are something as small as a mouse, its better that you don’t bring much attention to yourself!” they would say shaking their gray heads.
But Moosh would flourish his tail and declare pompously, “A fine long tail like this has to be something special. You old mice don’t know anything”.

He would spend his time grooming his long tail and thinking about why it was long. Then one morning, a fanciful idea struck him. Maybe his tail was so long because he was so clever. His brain obviously was too big to fit in his head and therefore his tail must be storing all that extra brain! The more he thought about this, the more he liked the idea and the more probable it seemed. By the time it was evening, Moosh was convinced that his tail was full of his extra brains. He carefully took his tail and instead of letting it drag around on the ground behind him, wrapped it around his neck. He then walked along jauntily through the village.
All the mice who saw him were amazed, “What’s got into Moosh? Has he been in the sun too long? Or did he eat some spoilt mangoes?”
But Moosh just looked down at them with his nose high up in the air, “Its something you mice of inferior intelligence will not understand. My brain is too big to be stored in my head, that’s why my tail is so long; to store all that extra brains”.
The other mice didn’t know what to do. Was this indeed true? Was Moosh so clever? Some of the younger ones got very excited and started yelling in their tiny voices, “Hurray for our Moosh, the cleverest mouse in the whole world. Moosh, Moosh. Moosh, our leader!”
Two of the mice ran and got two banana leaves and held it above Moosh and chanted, “Hail our new leader Moosh! Hail, hail!”
Moosh was reveling in all this new found attention.
“Why not”, he thought. “If I am the cleverest mouse, I deserve to be the leader of these ignorant other mice. They are so lucky to have me to lead them!”
“Tell all the other mice, that I am their leader from now on.” He commanded.
Moosh then walked grandly to a small hill near the village. His tail was wrapped around his neck, his steps slow and stately and his head high up in the air.
“This will be my court from now on”, he declared to all the mice around him. The other mice hadn’t seen anything like this in their lives. They believed every word that Moosh told them.
“All the other mice should bring half of what they find as food to me from today. Because I have bigger brains, I need more food than any of you.”
So, from that day onwards, Moosh lived like a king among the mice. Everyday, all the other mice would bring him food – roast nuts from Vasu’s snack shop, chicken pieces from Moosa’s ‘Hotel de Paris’, fresh tapioca from Georgekutty’s plantation.
The elders just shook their grey heads in resignation and ignored everything.
The days rolled on, Moosh reveled in his new role. Life was easy, all he had to do was impart his wisdom to a few ignorant mice. Food was plentiful, there were dozens of young mice to run at his beck and call and the small hill where he lived was like a palace now (by mice standards).

As time passed, Moosh started getting more and more fanciful ideas. Perhaps, he was not just the cleverest mouse in the world, but the cleverest animal ever! The more he thought about it, the more convinced he became, “Of course, he had to be the cleverest animal in the world, was there anybody else like him?”. His manner became grander and grander, he wore a piece of silk cloth as a robe and his tail was braided with pieces of coloured thread.

One day, he called for a meeting of his subjects, “I am the cleverest animal in the world. You all are the most fortunate beings in this earth, to have me as your ruler.” The other mice oohed and aahed in awe, “Moosh is not just the cleverest mouse, but the cleverest animal of them all! How lucky we are!!”

Moosh continued, “I wish to extend my rule to the other animals, starting with the elephants! An elephant will make a good transport for me.”
“Go find an elephant”, he ordered two of the mice.
The two mice scampered away squeaking to find the elephant.
They were back soon, “Oh, Great Ruler, we have found your elephant, he is at the riverside and sleeping”
“Alright, good job, I shall go now and capture him. Come with me”
Moosh and the rest of the mice moved to the riverside in a stately procession. All the time the other mice were shouting, “Hail Moosh, our great ruler, the cleverest animal in the world. Hail Moosh!!”

Soon, they reached the riverside. The elephant was there indeed, he was big with enormous tusks and fast asleep. The other mice were afraid of the elephant, but Moosh said “It is just a stupid elephant, watch how I capture him”

Moosh took off his royal robes and crept up to the elephant without a sound. The elephant was fast asleep, half in the water and half outside. His trunk was on the dry land away from the water. Moosh had an idea, he crept near the trunk and came to the opening at its end. It looked just like a cave! Moosh slowly crept inside the elephant’s trunk, his idea was to go right up the trunk and bite as hard as he could. He would then let go only if the elephant promised to become his servant.

He crept up slowly up the trunk, his long tail slithering behind. Meanwhile, the elephant was getting a bit disturbed with all that movement in his trunk.

Moosh was almost three-fourths of his way up, the most sensitive area of the trunk was near the top of the trunk… Moosh inched forward.. his heart was pounding and his tail twitched from side to side with nervousness. He was almost there, just a few inches more… his chest was hammering like an engine and his tail twitched violently from side to side.

The elephant had been feeling something disturbing his trunk for sometime…something itchy, something tickly… something so… aaahh, ahhhh, aaahhhhhh, ahhhh, AAAAHHH, AHHHHCHOOOOOOO!!!
The elephant erupted in one giant elephantine SNEEZE!!
Moosh came rocketing out of the trunk like a bullet fired from a gun! There was a big rock by the side of the river and Moosh got dashed on to it. He was dead as a door-nail.

The elephant, now with his nose clear, went back contently to sleep. The rest of the mice were lost without Moosh, and ran back to their village. Happy to be ordinary but alive!

Dolly- The Lazy Dolphin

In sunny Goa, at a place called Candolim, there lived a dolphin in the sea. She was called Dolly and she was a good-natured and friendly mammal. Her only fault was that she was exceedingly lazy! She was the laziest being you could ever see!. Life in the waters of Candolim was not too difficult, there was plenty of fish too eat and the tourists loved to pamper her because she was really a very friendly dolphin. There was nothing Dolly liked as much as floating in the warm water and sleeping.

Dolly's best human friend was a boy named Angelo, who used to work on one of the fishing boats. Angelo would swim beside her and scratch her back and feed her fish from his catch after he hauled the nets in. Angelo always used to tell Dolly that she shouldn't be so lazy.
"You spend too much time sleeping in the sea. If you don't watch out, one of these days, one of those big ships will hit you"
Dolly would scoff at this and reply, "Those big ships never come near me, besides they make so much noise and are so slow, I would be out of their way in the twinkling of an eye".
Angelo would shrug and say, "Just be careful, that's all I can say"

One day Angelo heard on the radio, that a big armada of battle ships were passing along the coast on their way to take part in a naval exercise. As he heard the news, he realised the ships were going right through the part of the sea that Dolly lived. He ran to the beach and looked for Dolly. There, he saw her, a little away in the sea, floating in the quiet waters, sleeping as usual.
He called out, "Dolly, Dolly!". But Dolly was fast asleep and didn't hear him at all. Angelo tried clapping his hands and shouting, but still Dolly wouldn't wake up. He finally dove into the water and swam near her. He pulled one of her flippers to wake Dolly up.
"Oww! What did you do that for?" Dolly exclaimed, looking petulant.
"I should be kicking you instead" Angelo replied. "Listen, you need to move away from this place for some time, there's a big armada of battle ships coming this way. They will be fast and silent and you wouldn't be able to swim out of the away. They reach today evening, go to Bambolim and stay there until all the ships have left."
"Hahaha, no ship is faster than Dolly", Dolly laughed at Angelo. "But since you are so worried I will go to Bambolim. Let me first complete my afternoon siesta, the ships will come only in the evening and there is plenty of time".
Angelo was happy that Dolly had agreed to move out of Candolim. He swam back to the beach relieved and excited. He had never seen battle ships before and he decided to come later in the evening to see them as they passed along the coast.

Angelo went back home and changed his wet clothes. He took a quick lunch and then went back to the beach. He had to repair a few nets before evening. As he neared the beach, he noticed that Dolly was still sleeping in the same place!
"This lazy bag-of-bones!" He exclaimed. He quickly swam out to the sea again and shook Dolly awake.
"Wake up, you lazy dolphin! Those ships will be here soon and if you don't move out now, they will hit you."
Dolly yawned and said, "There's plenty of time, Angelo. I haven't completed my siesta yet. I will go from here after that"
"Don’t tell me that I didn't warn you. I have to go repair my nets and will not come to wake you up again. Watch out" warned Angelo.
He then swam back to the beach and went to the store shed to repair his nets.
Meanwhile, Dolly was muttering, "That boy! He really should stop being such a busy-body. He's ruined my beauty sleep today. Battleships and armadas and what not! Anyway I have time to sleep for some more time"
She shut her eyes and promptly went back to sleep.

A little later, the battleships reached Candolim. They were blue grey in colour and quiet as a whisper and they were really really fast.
The first few had already passed, before Dolly realised that something was wrong. She woke with a start, realising that she was being thrown about by the waves. She opened her eyes and... there were dozens of ships all around her! Swift and silent they ploughed through the sea.
Dolly dived to the left and then to the right in desperation to avoid being hit. But they were just too many and they were faster than anything she had ever dodged before.
In a trice, one of the battleships hit her on the side. Dolly felt a searing pain as the ship passed. her whole left side felt like it was burning. She screamed with pain and fear. She had felt so frightened in her life.
"Oh, why didn't I listen to Angelo? Why was I so lazy?!"
But the ships were still coming and there was no time to lose. She flung herself this way and that way to avoid the ships.
Finally, it was over, the last of the ships had passed but Dolly was very weak. She had lost a lot of blood and couldn't stay afloat any more.
"Angelo", she weakly cried. "Angelo", she cried over and over again.
Angelo had been on the beach watching the battleships pass. There were so many of them, that he hadn't seen Dolly get hurt in between them. But he heard her cry as he stood there.
"Dolly's hurt!" He cried. "I must go and help her"
He swiftly took out his small fishing boat and paddled quickly out to the sea.
Dolly's voice was very faint now, but Angelo could see her, struggling to stay afloat. The left side of her body was cut badly and bleeding. He quickly paddled his boat to her side and pulled her in. The summoning all his energy he rowed back to the shore.
He left Dolly on the boat and ran to call George, who worked at the big hospital. George was his friend and loved animals. He quickly came back with Angelo to the beach and tended to Dolly's wounds. Together, Angelo and George took care of Dolly, feeding her and taking care of her wounds until they healed.
Dolly was very grateful to both of them.
"Thank you Angelo for saving my life! Thank you George!" she said.
"I will never be lazy again in my life!!"
True to her word, Dolly was never again lazy in her life.

Twinkle twinkle, diamonds.

Once upon a time, in a faraway land lived two pixies. They were called Casper and Jasper and they were the very best of friends. They were a friendly and good-natured lot and always wanted to help others.
One day Casper and Jasper realised that in Fairyland where they lived there was no one left to help! They had been so helpful to everyone that all the fairies there were happy and none needed any more help from anyone.
"Let's travel around the world and see if we can find people to help" Jasper said.
"What an excellent idea!", Casper replied.
So, the next day Casper and Jasper set out on their way to try and find people to help.
On the third day of their journey, they crossed a mountain and came to a valley where they had never been before. Being tired, they decided to rest near a bubbling brook, under a shady tree.
"Whew! This feels good" exclaimed Casper.
"Yes, it does", Jasper nodded his head in agreement.
After they had rested for a while, they both felt refreshed and decided to carry on with their travels. Suddenly they heard somebody sobbing from nearby.
Jasper cocked his ear and said, "Casper, did you hear that? It sounds like somebody's in trouble and needs help!"
Casper replied, "I heard that, someone really does need our help!".
They searched around to see who was crying. When they looked around the tree, they saw a princess sitting there. She was very beautiful and had a golden crown on her head. But she was crying! Her face was wet with her tears and she was sobbing.
"Princess, princess! Why are you so sad?" Casper and Jasper cried out. "Tell us please and we will help you in any way we can".
The princess looked at them greatfully and said, "Thank you, for offering to help me, but I don't know if you will be able to."
"An evil giant has come to our castle and he eats only diamonds. He has said that he will take all my diamonds away and eat them up! And my diamonds are magic diamonds which twinkle at night. Anybody who eats the will become very very strong. If the giant eats them up he will become the strongest giant in the world and he will then make us all slaves! Boo-hoo-hoo!!" The princess started sobbing again.
Casper and Jasper looked at each other. "Don't worry Princess, we will help you. We will hide your diamonds so that the evil giant can't find them."
"Oh! Would you? I would be so happy if you could do that!" the princess exclaimed.
"Just leave it to us and we will take care of it" Casper replied with a bow.
The princess handed them a large sack which was full of her diamonds and wished them luck.
Casper and Jasper set out to find a hiding place for the diamonds.
At first they thought they would hide it in the brook, under the water among the pebbles lying at the bottom. But the fishes in the brook, raised their heads out of the water and said, "No, no, no! Don't hide the diamonds here. They will twinkle and wink at night and the giant will find them alright! For it's in this very brook, he comes to drink and wash"
The pixies took the heavy sack and carried on to look for another place to hide.
They walked a long way and reached a field. The field had been freshly plowed and the earth turned up.
"Why don't we plant the diamonds in each furrow?", they thought.
Thinking it was a good hiding place, they happily started to plant the diamonds in the field. Suddenly, the ants in the field came out of the ant-hill and chorused in their tiny voices, "No, no, no! Don't hide the diamonds here. Its here that the giant comes to scratch his claws and these diamonds then he will find alright!"
Casper and Jasper were sad when they heard this. They were tired and hungry and still hadn't found a good hiding place! And they wanted to help the princess so much!
They put the heavy sack over their shoulder and walked on. A long, long way did they go, but in vain. All the places they found were not good hiding places.
Night was setting in and the pixies were tired. They sat on top of a hill under the moonlight and felt very very sad.
"I feel so sad not being able to help the princess", sighed Jasper.
Casper nodded and gave a deep sigh in reply.
It was a full moon night and the rest of the world was in their cosy beds and fast asleep. Except for Casper and Jasper, who were sighing deep sighs and feeling sadder and sadder.
Their sighs were so loud, that the moon heard them.
"Hullo! That sounds like Casper and Jasper!"
"It is Casper and Jasper!"
"You pixies are so happy always, why are you looking so sad now?"
The moon was their friend, so the pixies related the whole story to the moon and asked,"Do you think you can help us? You see the whole world from up above. Is there any hiding place that the giant won't find"
The moon thought for a moment, pursing his lips, his forehead furrowed with concentration. "The giant goes everywhere on the ground and he can smell a diamond even if its buried or under water or in the deepest cave.."
Then suddenly his face cleared and he beamed.
"I know where you can keep them safe and sound!"
"Where? Where?" Casper and Jasper shouted all excited.
"Not on the ground, not in the water, not on a tree, not in a cave... But in the sky with me!! The giant can't fly so he cannot take them from the sky. And I will always be watching them!"
"Yippeee", cried the pixies jumping with glee. "What a brilliant idea! That's the best place possible to keep the diamonds safe. The princess will be so happy!!"
They jumped up and danced with happiness whooping and shouting with joy.
They gave the sack of diamonds to the moon and the moon placed them all around him in the sky. And they did look a pretty sight, shining and twinkling in the night sky!
The princess was very happy when she saw the diamonds in the sky.
"I am so happy! I am so happy! Now I can always see my precious diamonds every night! And the evil giant will never be able to get them ever!!"
We too can see the princess' diamonds in the sky, all you need is to look up at the sky at night and you can see them there twinkling and winking and shining bright. And whenever, the princess wants to wear one of her diamonds, she just calls out to the moon and he throws one down to her as a shooting star.
As for Casper and Jasper, they were very happy that they could help the princess and carried on with their journey to help people. They had a lot more exciting adventures but that would be another story...!