Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Purple Monkey

Mungo was a brown monkey. Really very ordinary and brown. Just like any other monkey.
Mungo was tired of being a brown monkey, really very ordinary and brown, just like any other monkey. He wanted to be special. He had a really large family because monkeys have lots of uncles and aunts and brothers and sisters and cousins. They were all the same. They looked the same and spoke the same way and thought the same thoughts. The big monkeys taught the little monkeys how to do things and the little monkeys kept doing those things till they were all grown up and then they taught other little monkeys to do the same. Which was all very good and natural. That was how things had been for a long long time. Nothing had changed for years in monkey history.

But Mungo wasn't happy. He wanted more excitement, he wanted things to be different, he wanted to look different and special. His father told him not be silly. Life for the monkeys was already becoming too exciting, he said. Now that the humans were cutting up all the forests for building more houses and growing more food and burning more fuel, life was too exciting for the monkeys. Finding a safe place to live was exciting; finding enough food, good food, for everyone was exciting; finding cover to hide from other wild animals was exciting. Just the other day old cousin Jaroo had to run for miles to escape from the big cat that was chasing him. Luckily for him the hyenas kept getting in the way of the big cat, so it couldn't run fast enough. There had been no trees for Jaroo to leap on to for at least two miles. and just last year there had been trees spreading out for at least five miles in that area. Too much was changing already. Mungo's father was impatient with Mungo.

But Mungo wasn't happy. He would tell his friend Javi, a rabbit, all his thoughts and dreams. Sometimes Javi couldn't understand what Mungo was talking about but she was a loyal friend so she would listen. Sometimes she would fall asleep because Mungo went on and on and on.... But Mungo wouldn't even notice.
It was a very hot summer and all the animals were resting and conserving their energy, because the heat was making everyone extremely tired. Mungo and Javi were also lying in the shade of a large tree and it was sooo hot even Mungo was quiet. Suddenly they heard the sound of a car. Cars were now quite common in the jungle. Mungo loved them because they looked so colourful and were so noisy and he loved the smell of the petrol fumes. The car passed by and there was a little girl staring out of the window. She saw Mungo and Javi. She got very excited! But she was too small to speak clearly and no one else in the car could understand what she was saying. So she threw a tantrum and flung the picture book she had out of the window. After the car had moved away to a safe distance Mungo went and picked up the book. He began to jump up and down with excitement. Javi went up to him and stared at the book. On the cover was the picture of purple monkey!
Mungo was almost wild with happiness. He had always known there were monkeys that looked different, he said. Not all were brown like him and his tribe. An idea jumped into his head. That was the way to look different! Become purple like the monkey in the book. That would make him special. He would no longer be like all the others. How wonderful!
Javi was a practical rabbit. That's all very well, she said, but how was he going to do it. Mungo was irritated. No one likes it when they dream big dreams and then somebody comes along and says yes, but...... He was sure he would find a way.
They both began to think. All the thinking made Javi tired and she fell asleep but she woke up with a jump as Mungo gave a yell of triumph! He had remembered the purple berries that the tribals in the forest used to colour their cloth. They were big, juicy berries and the colour lasted for a long time. Javi was not so sure. Do think about it carefully, she said. But who wants to think when they've got such a brilliant brain wave! Certainly not Mungo. He was already on his way to the clump of purple berries. Javi sighed and hopped along behind him. They found the berries and since it was the middle of the berry season there were loads of them. Mungo pulled off bunches of them and started squeezing the juice out and covering himself with it. Javi watched, aghast. She wasn't sure if she should go and bring Mungo's mother to stop him. But she knew he would stop speaking to her if she did. So she watched as Mungo became more and more purple.
She thought he looked really beautiful and asked him to paint her with the berries as well. So at the end of it ,there they were, a purple monkey and an even more purple rabbit.
Once they were completely purple Mungo swaggered off to show the tribe how different he was from them. Javi followed him rather slowly because now she wasn't so sure it had been such a good idea! Mungo's mother saw him first and fell off the branch on which she had been sitting. Her horrified screech alerted the rest of the monkeys and soon they were all around Mungo, looking at him, speechless. They laughed at him and made jokes about him and laughed at him some more but that purple monkey was so happy and proud of himself, he didn't care.
Finally they got tired of laughing at him. Then all the younger monkeys started looking at him with interest. They rather admired his new look. They went up him and asked him how he had done it. Then slowly one by one they went away. After a few hours there was some more shrieking from the monkey mothers. Every one of the young monkeys had gone to the clump of berries and turned themselves purple!
Well, that isn't the end of the story. Mungo was unhappy again. He didn't look so different anymore. Half the monkeys in the tribe looked like him. Now he was going to find some red berries and he certainly was not going to tell everyone where to find them.
As for Javi, the colour did not stay on her fur for long and she was very relieved! She liked being an ordinary rabbit!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Extraordinary Ordinary Boy!

Ali was a Bedouin. A Bedouin is a nomad who moves from place to place in the deserts of Arabia, Syria, Nubia and the Sahara. They are Nomadic tribes. Nomads move from one place to another in search of food and water for their animals and themselves. A Bedouin is born and raised in the desert or mountain wilderness and lives alongside nature in black tents or in caves. He raises goats, sheep, donkeys, horses and camels and knows how to milk and shepherd the goats and to ride the horses and camels. He uses all kinds of herbs as food, drink and medicine. His life is simple. Bedouins know the desert like the back of their hand and they love it and appreciate the beauty that unfolds before them every day.
And Ali was a Bedouin boy. Like his people he knew the desert very well and could find his way about it without getting lost. For there are no roads in the desert. There is only a vast stretch of unending sand. Beautiful and golden and sometimes forming wave like hills called sand dunes. Ali and his tribe would move from place to place, setting up their tents and forming camps till the animals had grazed all the food in that place and then they would move away again. Ali too loved the desert. He loved the camels and goats and horses that were as much a part of the tribe as the people. He would sit and look at the camels grazing peacefully, moving around gracefully. Sometimes people passing through the desert on their way elsewhere would stop with the Bedouin for a while and rest. They were usually afraid of the camels. They thought they were bad tempered and would kick out at them! But Ali would explain that they were really very gentle creatures. He would point out a strange fact about the camel . Camels have two pairs of eyelashes; one very long, curly pair to shade their eyes from the sun and one shorter, straight pair to protect their eyes from the sand. That would amuse the visitors and they would look at the animal even more curiously! Ali's father, Hassan,would smile at him and nod appreciatively. The Bedouin were famed for their hospitality. They saw each visitor as someone sent by god and would look after them very well. Travelers would often stop and rest with the Bedouin before continuing with their journey. They would admire the beautiful Arabian horses that the young men of the tribe rode so well! They would sing beautiful songs about their horses, praising their speed, beauty and grace. Ali would join in . He knew all the songs! But when he sang the songs he always sounded a little sad. He loved the Arabian horses but Ali could not ride them. His legs were not strong enough to sit astride a horse . So he had to be satisfied with admiring them and singing about them. This made him sad sometimes.
But he was not always sad. Ali had many things to be happy about and he loved being a part of the tribe where everybody shared each other's joys and sorrows and each person was important. Bedouins are usually very happy with what they have. When there was rain so that there was enough food and water for themselves and their animals they rejoiced and were grateful but there were often times when the rains would not come and they would have a hard time . But they still went about their work cheerfully knowing that the difficult times would pass and the rains would definitely come again.
Often, as he sat and watched the others riding the horses, Ali would also want to be on a horse, flying over the sand dunes and across the desert with the wind sweeping past him. He would admire the powerful legs and glossy coats of the animals as they flashed past. He would watch them closely as they grazed, occasionally shaking their heads and tossing their manes of silken hair. As he watched the horses, he would have a piece of wood and a penknife. He would sit for hours watching the horses and carving the piece of wood. He never showed anyone what he was carving.
Once, a trader stopped at the Bedouin camp on his way to the markets in the city. He saw Ali carving away and was curious. He went up to the boy and watched him. Ali was so engrossed that he did not see the man. The trader saw, to his surprise and amazement, that the boy was adding finishing touches to an exquisite figure of a horse. The little horse was tossing it's head and the legs were raised in a gallop. It looked exactly like a real Arabian horse! The trader went up to Hassan, Ali's father and told him that his son was an extraordinary craftsman! Hassan was intrigued and went up to his son to see what the trader was talking about. He too was amazed when he saw the beautiful little horse that Ali had carved from a small piece of wood. Ali looked up at his father and smiled. He was happy to see Hassan admiring his work. He took him into the tent and lifted the cover that he used to keep himself warm in the cold desert nights. And lying there, in a small heap, were wonderfully carved horses, each in a different pose!The trader took away some of Ali's horses to the markets in the city. On his way back he brought back a small fortune for Ali. He used the money to make life easier for his tribe. He now had something that made him extraordinary. His extraordinary skill! Ali became a renowned craftsman. But his life went on as it had always done. He was happy being a simple Bedouin.

Shivani hasn't heard this story so she has no questions! Do you?

In case you find some of the words difficult, I've added a link to a dictionary(on the left hand side,under 'links'). You don't have to ask anyone, just click on the link and it will take you to the dictionary where you can type out the word and find out what it means!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


A Bedouin boy like Ali.

An old Bedouin man.

Bedouin on camels.

A camel.

An Arabian horse.

Bedouin family.

Sand dunes.

What Rahul thought .

Ooookkkk! So here's what Rahul had to say.
"I think," said Rahul "That we have to let people know exactly what damage they're doing and show them what could happen if we continue this way. I know it's being done but maybe it's not enough. Schools can do more and also get the children more involved in environmental projects. We have to also make enough fuss so that the governments and the civic bodies take more care. There should be strict laws if people damage the environment or if they use public places as garbage dumps so that diseases spread!"
Shivani agreed. She also said that it would be possible ONLY if everybody would get together and work as a group. Unless everybody cared enough nothing would change.
So let's have more ideas on that from you! And see if you can all get together and do something to make the earth as beautiful and clean as our homes are!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Rahul was sitting by the edge of a pond and pulling out bits of grass as he sat and stared into space. He was verrry bored. School was closed for the holidays and most of his friends were away. Since his family had guests staying with them they had to stay at home. The guests were friends of his parents. Rahul liked them but they were GROWN UPS ! He spent a little time with them everyday but then slipped out when they started talking grown up stuff. Usually no one noticed! Sometimes he rode his cycle around the garden or went and stared at the dog next door ,but today the dog was just lying around with his tongue hanging out because it was a really hot day. So he went and sat at the edge of the pond near his house.
It was cool there, sometimes he saw a frog snap out it's tongue and catch a fly. which was really disgusting but interesting as well. He loved to see the disgusted look on his sister's face when he described it to her! His sister turned up her nose at soooooooooo many things it was easy for Rahul to irritate her! He did that a lot now since he had so much time and not much to do. But she was spending the day at her friend's house so Rahul walked around till he reached the pond.
There were stones lying around and he absent mindedly started throwing them into the at a time. They fell in with a nice 'Plunk' and then there were ripples around the place where they fell in. He threw in one, two, three,four, five and picked up the sixth one. It felt cool in his hand and smooth. Curiously he looked at it. It was round and shiny. Also really white.
As he was looking at it he heard his mother calling him so he put the stone in his pocket and went home.
The next day was a rainy day. And not a drizzly kind of rain either. It poured down and soaked everything outside. Soon the house was surrounded with water that was a few inches deep and still it kept on raining! It was so dark they had to switch on the lights. It was the kind of day when there was nothing to do but get on your elder sister's nerves! So Rahul followed his sister around and asked her questions till she screamed and started throwing things at him. His mother was really embarassed since the guests could hear so she called him and said 'Rahul,why don't you go to your room and do some holiday homework?' Rahul tried explaining to her that he had just been asking his sister questions but she did'nt seem interested and went on and on about homework so he went to his room.
He went to his desk and started shifting his books around and then he saw the stone he had picked up at the pond. It looked really round and smooth! He noticed the box of paints that his parent's friends had given him lying on the desk and he opened it. They were really bright acrylic colours. There was also a brush. Rahul looked at the colourful paints and then at the smooth white shiny stone. It seemed to him that the pale stone would look better with some colour on it! He mixed the paint with water and dipped his brush in it. Then almost absentmindedly started painting the stone. He put on some red paint, some blue, some black and pink....finally he stopped and looked at it. He was a little surprised! He seemed to have painted a face on the stone without meaning to! It had bright red hair, black eyes, a round nose and a mouth.
Rahul kept staring at the face on the stone. He turned it this way and that, he threw it up in the air and caught it again and then looked at it again.

Then he almost threw it away beca
use the face suddenly frowned! He set it down on the table and took a couple of steps back!
"How would you like it " the face on the Stone said " if someone threw you up and down?" Then it went on frowning. "I'm sorry" stammered Rahul. Stones were not suposed to do that, they were supposed to maintain a 'stony silence', he thought; and giggled a bit in a scared sort of way.
"I didn't know you were alive." He felt quite silly talking to a stone but didn't know what else to do.
"Why?" The Stone asked.
"Well, because you were just lying there I suppose, like a stone"
"I am a stone. That's what I do. That's what all stones do. It is the essence of being a stone. Do you think just because we don't keep moving around like you people we don't have a place in this world and you can just pick us up and throw us around ?!!"
Rahul blinked! He thought he must be dreaming! He could hear his sister complaining about him to a friend on the phone, and that gave him a sense of reality but he still felt it was all bit too much! Meanwhile the Stone was getting angrier and angrier!
"There I was, lying down, minding my own business, being a part of the bank of the pond and then you come along and put me in your pocket along with all sorts of things that have been lying in it for God knows how long! Then you paint me all over! Would you like it if someone painted you?!"
Rahul thought maybe he wouldn't, but some of the smaller children he knew seemed to think it was rather cool to have their faces painted!
The Stone was now hopping around in anger. "But I'm not at all surprised! It's exactly what you People do!"
"What People?" asked Rahul.
"You People " the Stone said"Human Beings! You walk around like you own the place and use whatever you want and destroy whatever you want with not a second thought! Everything has it's own importance in this universe, you know! Even the moon is a rock, though it's much bigger than me, of course! Would you treat it the way you treated me?!"
By now Rahul thought the Stone had a point and was beginning to feel a bit ashamed of himself.
"I could take you back," he said.
The Stone calmed down a bit. "Well, OK!" it said. "I suppose you didn't know any better. There was a family of tiny insects who lived under me and are probably getting soaked in the rain right now, but I'll let that pass."
Rahul had to wait till the next day for the rain to stop and take the Stone back, but thankfully it stayed quiet after that! All that talking and hopping around had probably exhausted it!
The next morning he took the Stone back and put it down where he had picked it up from. It settled into the mud and gave Rahul a crooked smile with it's painted-on mouth! Rahul sat next to it for a while and then went home.
He went to visit it again the next day but couldn't find it. There was no Stone there with a painted face. It had rained again and probably the paint had all got washed off! Then he saw a stone that was surrounded with some runny colours. He saw that it was the Stone. but now it looked like any other stone! Rahul was happy. He had sort of put things right!
He told Shivani what happened and she asked him a silly question."Rahul, do you think we will all be able to put things right and get the world back to how it was before we interfered so much with it? What do you think we should do?"
Now you know what you have to do before I tell you what Rahul said!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Jatin and Laila spent some time thinking and Jatin said, "I think it's because they're free to do what they want. Just think! They don't have anyone to answer to! They can do as they please!
No school, no homework or going to office or doing household chores! What a life! Really, they seem to have all the fun." He felt a little sorry for himself and thought that, actually, he had a very raw deal, not to mention all other humans!
Laila took a little longer to come up with an answer. Then she said slowly, "Maybe it's because they're doing what they're supposed to be doing?"
"What?!" Jatin didn't know what she was talking about! "Please, could you explain that so we could all understand?"
"I think," said Laila, "it's because they are closer to what nature meant them to be. They look after themselves, live as they are naturally meant to live and are not dependent on anyone. When they are pampered and spoilt and kept as pets they lose their instincts. Except for those that are lucky enough to be the pets of someone who is wise enough not to smother their "natural nature"!
Shivani was really impressed with Laila's answer!
"Yes!" she said. "I think that is more or less what it is! After all if we were not allowed to be children and had someone doing for us all that we were supposed to be doing we wouldn't be happy either!"
Jatin was not so sure! He felt that he really wouldn't mind if someone would do all his homework and clean his room and go to school for him! But I think if he tried that for a few days he would be unhappy too!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Shivani , Jatin and Laila were returning from school. Their school was very close to their homes and they walked back everyday with some other children who lived in the same neighborhood. They lived in a town, which was not very big but was a bustling place all the same. It was beautiful and green. Many shady trees lined the roads. There were little parks alongside the roads where the children could play or just sit and watch the birds and squirrels as they went about their work busily and cheerfully. Shivani always wondered why birds and animals rarely looked sad, especially the ones which were free to roam around and live their lives freely. Some of the pets she saw in houses did not look happy. Some of them did, like the bouncy little poodle in Deena’s house, which seemed to never stop wagging it’s tail. But others, like Ramesh’s Pomeranian, always looked sad or bored or grouchy! Animals that were free rarely looked sad or bored or grouchy. No, they looked busy, happy, gay, chirpy and also, strangely intelligent! They looked very clever, very smart!
Shivani asked her friends if they knew why this was. “ Why” she asked “ is Stray Cat so cheerful all the time?” Stray Cat was the name they gave to a grey cat that roamed around their neighborhood and depended on the kindheartedness of the people who lived there. Sometimes they weren’t so kind and then Stray Cat had to be clever enough to find food for herself. This she did quite often and it was quite a common sight to see her shooting out of some house being chased by a woman brandishing a stick and screaming at the top of her lungs. Then that cat would sit calmly on a nearby wall, lick herself clean, look smilingly at Shivani and her friends who were admiring her, blink a couple of times and go to sleep! It wasn’t an easy life for Stray Cat but she made it seem easy. And she seemed to enjoy herself!Why did she seem so cheerful?
Jatin and Laila looked at each other. Shivani always had these kinds of questions. It was quite irritating really because they had used their brains so much at school they just didn’t want to use them to find answers to Shivani’s silly questions. But they knew that if they didn’t she would go on and on till they reached home. What do you think the reason is? Shivani would love to know! Laila and Jatin had some answers too but I’ll tell you what they were in a couple of days. After you post your answers! Shivani will be waiting! She wants to know why the animals in the park and animals like Stray Cat are happy while some of the pet animals aren't, though they are so well looked after!