FOREST FRIENDS

One day, the peace of the jungle was shattered by a distant rumbling, which soon grew louder and louder. The monkeys spotted a man-made bird — a helicopter with its whirring rotary blades. The animals knew this spelt danger!

The herd of spotted deer made their way nimbly along the dappled jungle floor, following the troop of chattering monkeys feeding in the trees above. The monkeys were messy eaters, throwing half-eaten fruit and berries to the forest floor.

This offered the deer an easy source of food to forage on. In return for the sumptuous buffet they provided, the deer with their keen sense of hearing, warned the monkeys of any impending danger by stamping their hooves on the ground. Happy with this mutual arrangement, they lived amicably together.

One day, the peace of the jungle was shattered by a distant rumbling, which soon grew louder and louder, gaining in crescendo, as it drew directly overhead. The monkeys spotted a man-made bird — a helicopter with its whirring rotary blades. The jungle animals knew this spelt danger and cowered in fright.

The deer were startled by the sound of something crashing through the trees, heading pell-mell towards them.  Much to their relief, it turned out to be an elephant calf. They had expected it to be another one of man’s ghastly machines. The calf was trembling in fear. “Don’t worry. You are safe here under the cover of the trees,” said Shambu the stag, shaking his antlered head wisely.

Maitri, a mischievous but kind-hearted young monkey, climbed down her tree and offered the calf a banana to calm him down.  She stroked his trunk soothingly and learnt that Hemu, the baby elephant, had got separated from his herd in the chaos and confusion caused by the helicopter chasing them. This was the first time that he was without his Mama and he was terrified. “Where’s my Mama?” he cried.

Once the helicopter ceased hovering about and flew away, Maitri clambered up the tallest tree she could find.  Shading her eyes against the sun, she looked way out into the distance. She spotted the herd of elephants many miles away, crossing the winding river. “Shambu, please send one of your fleet-footed messengers to tell the elephants that Hemu is safe and waiting to rejoin his Mama,” said Maitri.

Tez, the fastest chital in the herd, set off at once and was back by nightfall with Hemu’s mom in tow.  What a happy reunion it was! Both mother and child hugged joyously, wrapping and winding their trunks around each other.

Grateful to the monkeys and the deer for their kindness, Hemu and his Mama visited them often, bringing gifts of bananas (Maitri’s favourite fruit).  Hemu enjoyed taking Maitri and her fidgety friends for a ride through the jungle on his back.

On one such jungle jaunt, during the dry season, when food was scarce, Maitri spotted a lovely, ripe bunch of bananas dangling temptingly on the other side of the swamp.

Everyone knew the swamp was dangerous and they were not to go near it. Yet mischievous Maitri couldn’t resist. She assured her friends that she could use a dangling branch to swing across the swamp and grab the bananas.

As Maitri swung towards the bananas, reaching out to grasp them, there was a loud crack and the branch snapped.  Maitri landed bang in the middle of the marsh and began to sink. The more she flailed about, the faster the quick sand sucked her in.

Keeping his wits about him, Hemu acted fast. Looking about, he broke a long branch from the tree overhanging the swamp. Holding the broken end firmly in his trunk, he extended the other end of the branch across the swamp towards Maitri, shouting, “Grab hold of this.” Maitri managed to clutch at the leafy end of the branch and Hemu began to move backwards, pulling the branch and Maitri out of the marsh to safety.

Covered in mud and badly shaken, Maitri realised how lucky she was that her friend Hemu was at hand to help rescue her from this sticky situation. Were it not for him, she would not have lived to tell the tale.  Hemu was happy he had succeeded in rescuing his friend and they all vowed not to venture near the dangerous swamp again.

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