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Nibya and the Giant

by Subhash Chandra

The Grandmother said: “A giant lived in an old fort in the jungles of Saranda.”

“Where’s Sar…anda, Dadi?” asked three-year-old Rini.

“In Jharkhand.”

“Where is Jhara… khand?”

“It’s very far. Once, this fort belonged to a Rajah who had no children. Whenever he wanted to go hunting, he would stay in the fort for a month or two. After his and his wife’s death, the fort lay vacant and unlooked after. The giant occupied it. He soon became a menace to the people in the village, Digha, which was near the jungle. Poor people lived in the village. They were landless labourers, iron smiths and potters. Most of the families owned a goat or a cow. When they had nothing to eat, they survived on the milk and curds. The giant would enter the village at night every now and then and take away an animal to eat. The poor people were helpless and unhappy. They could do nothing but curse their destiny."

Rini crept close to her Granny on the bed.

"When some villagers went into the jungle to collect wood, or fruits, they avoided going anywhere near the giant’s fort. Besides, they always went in a group of four or five. The children of the village had been especially warned not to enter the jungle. All of them kept away from the jungle for fear of the giant.

"But Nibya was different. She had a strange fascination for the jungle. When she was young – just five years old – she would head for the jungle, soon after her parents left in the morning to work on the zamindaar’s field. They came back late in the evening and so, Nibya would get to spend almost the whole day in the company of animals, sprinting around and playing with them. A couple of times, Nibya came back home later than her parents. Her father scolded her and asked her to stop going to the jungle. But she continued with her habit of being with her friends in the jungle”

“The lion did not eat her up?”

“No. She had become friendly with all the animals, the lion too. But she was thick with the monkeys, especially. She learnt their language and talked to them. They taught her how to climb up trees fast, jump from one branch to another and from one tree to another. She would pluck the fruits of her choice and enjoy them, sitting on a branch of a tree. Sometimes she shook the jamun branches and got the squirrels lots of food. The squirrels frisked and jumped in delight. Many squirrels came up to her on the tree and nuzzled her. She caressed them and liked their soft, fluffy feel. She wore dirty clothes, which made her look like the monkeys, when she mingled with them."

“What were the names of Nibya’s parents?”

“Why do you want to know the names?”

“I want. All of us have names. I’m Rini, you’re Dadi…”

“O.K. Arka and Oliya.”

"One day, the giant caught a small boy, Maahir, and brought him to his fort. Maahir’s parents, Yaajit and Dubri were stricken with grief, but could no nothing. Maahir was their only child.”

“Nobody helped them, Dadi?”

“I told you, everyone was scared of the giant.”

“Do you remember the name of Nibya’s father?” asked Dadi.

“Yes, Arka.”

“Good. When the giant prepared to eat Maahir, he found the boy was too skinny. He would make only a couple of morsels. So, the giant kept Maahir locked up in his fort to fatten him. He would bring milk, butter and fruits for the boy to eat. But Maahir knew what was in store for him and he did not feel like eating. The giant would beat him up and force feed him. Maahir looked at the giant with piteous eyes, but he was a giant after all. He had no feeling of pity in his heart. Maahir frequently looked towards the huge shut gate, hoping his parents would come and get him released. But this did not happen. So, he would sit in the courtyard and cry and sob most of the time.”

Rini sat in bed, worried and wide-eyed. She asked, “Dadi, the giant ate up Maahir one day?”

“Just wait, sweetheart. I’ll tell you everything,” said the grandmother sweetly. "One day, Nibya was passing by the fort.”

“She was not afraid of the giant?”

“No. She did not know fear. She heard the cries and sobs of a boy. She immediately clambered up the tree, nearest to the wall of the fort. She saw the boy sitting in the courtyard and halloo-ed to him. Maahir was surprised and happy to hear a human voice and looked up. His eyes were sad and seemed to say to Nibya that he would die soon.

"Nibya narrated the sad tale of Maahir’s imprisonment to the leader of the monkeys. He was the wisest and the bravest. He called lots of monkeys for a meeting. He explained the whole plan to them in detail and a decision was taken about how they would act tomorrow. Everyone understood. He asked them to keep ready.

"The next day more than a thousand monkeys took their positions on the trees surrounding the boundary wall of the fort. Each tree had about fifty monkeys hiding in the leaves. Nibya, who was on the tree closest to the fort, saw that the giant was sleeping in the courtyard. She signalled to the leader, who then gave a call. A large group of monkeys jumped into the compound of the fort and attacked the sleeping giant. Before the giant could realize what was happening, waves of monkeys jumped into the compound and the huge army started lynching him. The giant was taken aback by the suddenness of the attack. He tried to fight back, but so many monkeys were sticking to his body like ticks, biting hard and inflicting deep wounds that he could do little. The leader jumped up and scratched the giant’s eyes out and he became blind. He began to flail his arms aimlessly. But soon he was overwhelmed by the sheer number of monkeys and their agility and lay panting on the ground. Then it was easy for the monkeys to kill him by hitting him on the head with rock pieces.

"Yaajit and his Dubri were very happy to get their son back. Soon the word spread in the village that Nibya had not only got Maahir freed but also got the giant killed. Everyone was very happy. The villagers and their children and animals were safe now and they lived in peace. Nibya became the darling of the village. The Sarpanch of the village called a meeting and honoured Nibya and her parents. He announced that she would be admitted to the village school and would be given a scholarship of twenty rupees per month for her books, notebooks, etc.”

“Then Nibya stopped going to the jungle, Dadi?”

“Not altogether. Every day, she went and played with her friends for some time. Then she came back, as she had to study. Arka and Oliya now did not stop her from going to the jungle."

“Dadi, Nibya was brave.”

“Yes, very brave. And she was clever, too.”

“I want to become like her.”

“Yes, you should. Be fearless and kind. Always help others. Will you?”

“Yes Dadi. I will,” said Rini, lay down relieved and soon slipped into a happy sleep.

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