“Why can’t you clean your room for heaven’s sake?” “I will do it mother”, Arun said absent mindedly.“Really and when will you do that?” his mother asked, as she put his toys away.
Arun looked up at his mother, who was picking up his toys and clothes, strewn across the floor.
“And stop looking so dazed. You can’t take care of yourself and you want a pet!”
Arun jerked up. “Oh yes mother, I do want”, he said as he remembered his request.
“I want a dog or maybe a cat, just like Aditi’s. She takes care of her, takes her out, feeds her and even bathes her. I will do all of that.”
“Stop eating my head Arun”, commanded his mother. “You can’t take care of your own things, how will you do it for your pet? It will be a headache for me. First learn to take responsibility for yourself and then I shall see.”
She stormed out of Arun’s room, banging the door shut. Arun felt morose. He slumped back on to his bed and looked longingly at the ceiling.
“Everyone in my colony has a pet. Right from Shekhar to Aditi to Roy, everyone has a playful pet, why can’t I have one?” he thought out loud.
As he gazed on, he thought about what his life could be with a dog, a cat, rabbits or horse. He formed various options for pet, but nothing worked when he imagined his mother’s thundering expression.
He frowned and fidgeted along with his toy helicopter. “I want a real pet, not these anymore” and he put it back. He went to his balcony that looked upon his backyard.
He looked at the vegetables that grew in his mother’s kitchen garden. He was staring at the ripe tomatoes that hung low, somewhat touching the ground, when he heard them.
There was a store house, on the extreme right of the backyard, where his father kept odd looking things.
A squeal, a light ruckus was heard from inside the store. Arun craned his neck to see the source.
“Oh mom, look!” he shrieked and ran downstairs, jumping two stairs at a time.
He threw open the back door and went to peep in.Two medium-sized, pale brown monkeys stared at him. Though scared, they looked at him with tilted heads and open mouths, exhibiting curiosity.
“Oh Mummy, come here!”
No sooner had he yelled that the monkeys hid themselves behind wooden crates in the store room.
“What’s wrong with you Arun?” his mom shouted from the porch. “Can’t you see I’m working? What is it?”
Suddenly Arun got a queer look on his face and he turned to say, “Nothing Mummy, I thought I saw something, but there isn’t anything.”
“Oh, stop day dreaming boy and come inside. You don’t want to fall sick in this heat. Do you?”
“No Mummy, I will come in a minute.” He waited for his mother to leave and turned around to see the duo.
One by one, both of them popped up their heads from behind the crates.
“Don’t worry, I will not speak about you two to anyone”, whispered Arun. “You can stay here for as long as you want. I will look after you. Mummy thinks I can’t look after anyone, not even myself, but I can. After all, I will be eleven this year”, he declared proudly. “Well, let me introduce myself, I am Arun and this is my house.”
A strange comprehension dawned upon the creatures and one of them responded. It came to Arun, who was near the entrance and touched his extended hand with some apprehension. Soon he was shaking his hand, like a friend. Arun was amazed.
“I like you, but you are two of them and look alike, so how will I identify you?” He thought and then said excitedly, “Oh yes, I shall call you Changu and Mangu. You will be Changu”, he pointed to his right one, “and you shall be Mangu”, his left one. Happy to have named them, he decided to get inside before his parents came looking after him, but he was stopped. “What is it?”
The two monkeys opened their mouth and pointed inside.“Oh, are you hungry?”They nodded.
“Wait, I will be back, but don’t you move from here. Hide well or else Mummy will not like it.”
They nodded in agreement and took positions behind the crates once again.
Arun ran back indoors and stealthily brought some fruits, which the animals ate hungrily.
“Oh you poor things, how will you manage like this? I can’t be around all the time when you’re hungry. What if you feel hungry when I’m at school?”
The monkeys looked at him. They too had a concerned expression on their faces.
Arun quickly consoled them. “Don’t worry, I will plan for something. As of now, you can throw a ripe tomato on my balcony when hungry. I hope you know what tomatoes are?”
One of them found it funny and slapped a hand on his head. He quickly nudged his partner, who ran and plucked a tomato. Arun looked bewildered as he came and gingerly placed it on his palm.
“Oh my, you are quite intelligent I must say. Where did you learn all this? Did you go to a school too?”They nodded.
“What? Is there a school for monkeys?”They nodded again.“That’s amazing. Can you read and write? Can you do my homework?”They nodded again and again.
Arun’s joy knew no bounds on this discovery. The very next day, when no one was looking around, he crept back to the store house with his books and watched in amazement as the two monkeys helped him with his homework.
“Thanks. You two are a darling”, and he hugged them both. He offered them chocolates and bananas, which they ate happily.
“I also have a gift for you two”, and he put his hands into his pocket and drew out two colored bands. “There are two bands, green one for Changu and red one for Mangu. This will help me identify you two by names.” The monkeys were thrilled and they wore the bands instantly, flaunting their wrists to Arun.
“Yes they are nice. Now listen I have to go or else mummy will come” and he left with a quick hug.
Days passed happily for Arun and his new found pets. He enjoyed his time in their company, playing and talking to them and guarding them as well.
It was a bright Sunday, when Arun’s father declared on the breakfast table, “Today I shall be cleaning the store. Off late, it has started smelling funny.”
Arun spilled his milk as he heard it. “No daddy, don’t clean it”, he yelled.
His father looked with arched eyebrows.
“I mean, I will clean it”, he said trying to calm down. “You can tell me what has to be done and I shall do it.”His father smiled and looked at Arun’s mother.
“Are you sure boy? It might take the whole day. It’s quite tedious.”“Yes, I can.”“Well then, you will have to dust, sweep, mop, and carefully spray these,” he pointed to a bag full of brown powder.“I will do all of that.”“If you do all that, who will clean your room?” his mother asked, as she buttered his toast.“I will do that too, I promise.”
Both the parents looked at each other. While the father looked a little proud, the mother was anxious to know what had come over her son.
He quickly had his breakfast and started working. He did not want his father to change his mind.
“I know why this place smells funny” said Arun as he kept a small bucket of water down. ‘I have not given you a bath ever since you came here. The smell’s from you. Ughh”, he shrugged as he thought of it. “How can you be so dirty? Did nobody ever teach you to take a bath?”
The monkeys shook their heads.
“How can that be? What kind of school you go to? You are not taught about bathing?”
They again shook their heads in polite refusal.Arun pitied them.
“Don’t worry I shall give you a bath. I will teach you. But first let’s work.”
And the monkeys geared up to help Arun. While Changu helped him in sweeping and mopping, Mangu helped with dusting and washing. Within a few hours Arun, with the help of monkeys, had turned the store room, spanking clean. Not to forget the bath, which he gave, leaving them clean and smelling nice.
“We did some really nice work”, said Arun in pride. “I have to show it to dad. But you guys hide behind the house. I don’t want him to catch you.”
The monkeys did as told, while Arun’s father stared in utter disbelief.
“How did you do it single-handedly? I take an entire day”. He turned around and looked at his son suspiciously. “Are you sure, you had nobody around to help you?”
“No dad, I did it all alone.”
Arun’s father did not say anything, but shrugged and left. Heaving a sigh of relief, Arun signaled his friends to come in.“That was close, but I guess I will have to start doing things by myself or else I will be caught. As it is my parents think I can’t do anything by myself”, he said dejectedly.
The monkeys sensed a tinge of sadness in his voice and hugged Arun.
“I know you love me, but look I can’t take help from you all the time or else everyone will know. I need to work by myself. Now I will go and clean up my room” and he staggered ahead with the heavy buckets and mops. The monkeys looked at Arun with concern.
“Isn’t it looking nice Mummy?”
Arun’s mother simply stared in awe. Arun had changed the complete set up of his room from messy to spotlessly clean. Toys were neatly lined on their shelves, clothes were folded and packed in their cupboards and even books were organized into neat piles separately. This definitely was surprising.
“Mummy!” called out Arun. “Why aren’t you saying something? Isn’t my room looking nice? I put the vases, that you gifted me, on the corner of my window sill”, and he pointed to two tiny pots of geranium flowers.