We understand how difficult it is to ‘share’, so we won’t call this little chimp in our story, greedy. We’ll just say that he was a little reluctant to share. There were eight members in this chimp’s family — three adults, two babies and three, four-year-olds. The little chimp I was telling you about (shall we call him Chikka?) was one of the four-year-olds.
One hot afternoon, the adults and the children were napping as usual. But Chikka was restless and hungry. So, while the others slept, he quietly clambered down the tree and went off to explore. He shook up some bushes and tried to catch the insects that flew out.
That was when he saw the tomatoes. The plant, growing in a ditch, was almost hidden under a fat bush. Chikka excitedly plucked a juicy, red tomato.
“Hmm!” he said, as his eyes widened in surprise, “this is the tastiest thing I have eaten in all my life!” He gobbled up the fruit and looked in the ditch again. There were two red tomatoes and many green and yellow ones. Chikka plucked only the red ones and stuffed them into his mouth.
Now, according to the rules of the family, whoever found a food source had to show it to the others so that everyone could eat.
“If I show it to the others, the plant is sure to become bare in just a few minutes,” Chikka thought. “But if I keep it a secret, I will get to eat the tasty fruit for many days.”
Chikka ate his fill and climbed up the tree noiselessly. As everyone was gently snoring, he assumed they wouldn’t know of his little escapade.
He was wrong. Papa Chimp, as his wont, never slept deeply. He had to guard the family, so he was alert to the smallest movement around him. He had seen Chikka go out and return. He also noticed that the young fellow’s chest was stained with juice and there were tomato seeds stuck to his hair!
The next afternoon, Chikka was in no mood to play. He waited for everyone to fall asleep and then quietly climbed down and ran towards his hidden treasure.
Of course Papa Chimp was watching him all the time. “Grrreedy fellow!” he muttered under his breath, “I will teach him a lesson.”
That evening the family was sitting under the tree and grooming each other. Chikka was in a happy mood as he had eaten lots of ripe tomatoes. He was also thrilled about his little secret. “Scratch my back, Mama,” he said to his mother. “I feel very itchy.”
“No!” The loud, stern order from Papa Chimp surprised everybody. “Nobody should groom Chikka because he does not belong to the family.” And turning to Chikka, Papa Chimp said: “I am sure you know why I said that. If you want to live by yourself, you may do so. Don’t expect any favours from us.”
Chikka went red in the face because he knew what Papa was talking about. His juicy secret was out after all!
Chikka sulked in a corner.
The next morning Papa took the children to an ant-hill. He taught the young ones how to put a stick into the termite hole and lick off the ants that came stuck to the stick. Chikka wanted to join them, but he was too proud to ask. “I will eat the tomatoes,” he thought and stomped off towards the bush.
Strangely today, the tomatoes didn’t taste all that good! Chikka felt very lonely. He also felt very itchy and sticky. He realised just how much his family meant to him. He thought of his sister and brother and yearned to play with them. He knew what to do. He plucked as many tomatoes as he could hold. And he ran back to his family.
“Crrrrrrrr...,” he said, calling out to the young ones as he neared the tree. And the next minute, they were jumping on Chikka for their share!
After a while, Papa Chimp got up from his perch.
“Come here, silly boy!” he said gruffly, grabbing Chikka by the arm and forcing him to sit down. He then gently parted the hair on Chikka’s back and pulled out a tick. Chikka felt he was back in chimp heaven!