What Happened to the Reptiles

What Happened to the Reptiles
By Zai Whitaker

According to this story, each person has a distinct importance and role. People in this world frequently fight and cause havoc in the name of religion. In the story, a village called Pambupatti created a new and different world. Their diverse population coexisted happily and harmoniously, despite their differences.

This lesson is a storey of religious harmony told by reptiles who lived in the village of Pambupatti and retold by an old man to a boy named Prem who suffered religious riots in his village and reached Pambupatti while trying to escape for his life. Prem, the story's narrator, was terrified of the riot incident and refused to return to the place. To persuade him, an elderly man told him the story of Pambupatti.
Pambupatti was a land ruled and inhabited solely by reptiles. Makara was the forest's king crocodile. He was the most powerful and the largest of them all. Makara called a meeting of the reptiles one day and, using his power, told the tortoises to leave the forest because they were stupid and slow.
After a few months, he gave the order for the snakes to leave the forest again. Except for crocodiles, he gradually told every animal to leave the forest. No one would ever dare to question him if he disobeyed his orders. After a while, all of the animals left. As a result, strange things began to happen in the forest. The forest was filled with a foul odour, and rats and insects began to emerge. When other crocodiles saw the jungle's plight, they decided to call all of the forest's animals. All of the animals returned, and the forest returned to normal.
Hearing this, Prem changed his mind and decided to return to his village and share everything with his people in order to give them a better perspective on living together in harmony and to help them understand the unique role of each person in society.

Pambupatti is a peaceful village, inhabited by a variety of people.

• Prem, the narrator of the story, flees his village under unfortunate conditions to reach Pambupatti by chance.

• An old resident of the village looks after him and tells him an interesting story.
YOU may not believe this story. But I can tell you it is true, because I have been to Pambupatti, a village on the edge of the jungle. It is on a cliff, and the vast forest stretches below like a mossy green carpet. There are many kinds of people in the village — dark, fair, tall, short. They speak many languages. Some eat meat, some don’t. Some pray in a small temple at the edge of the forest. Others pray in a mosque some miles away.

  • Cliff : a pointed high end point of a rock

Prem tells the story after fleeing his village due to a riot and ending up in Pampubhati by chance. Prem was given shelter by an elderly man in the village, who also told him a story. The narrator assures us that, while we may not believe the storey, it is true. He'd visited Pampubhati, a village on the outskirts of a jungle. It was perched on a cliff, with a vast forest spread out beneath it like a carpet of moss. Pambupatti was a peaceful village where people of various sizes, colours, religions, languages, and tastes lived together.

My name is Prem and I live many hundred miles away from Pambupatti. I had heard about the village, but I’d never been there. Then last year, something terrible happened. The people of my own village went mad. Far, far away in a place they have never even been to, a temple or mosque had been burnt down, and they went mad. They started fighting with one another. Some had to run away in the middle of the night. And at three in the morning, as I lay in my house, half awake to the sounds of hate and violence, there was a fire. Many houses were burnt down in the fire. One of them was mine.

The narrator says he used to live far away from Pambupatti and had heard a lot about it. He wished to go there but was unable to do so. However, terrible riots erupted in his village last year. People went insane and began fighting with one another. The mosques and temples were set on fire. His own home was also set on fire. People were forced to flee.

I managed to grab a few clothes, some coins, my little Ganesh statue, and I ran! I ran for a day and a night, resting whenever my legs would not carry me any further. I jumped on to a train, then on a bus. No tickets. Never mind, everyone seemed to be running. Finally, I found myself in Pambupatti, and I saw some villagers gathered near a well. I ran to them, and before I could say a thing, I fainted.

  • Grab : to hold, to catch

The narrator was able to bring a few items with him and ran throughout the day and night. He took rest whenever his legs were unable to support him. He took the bus and train without purchasing a ticket. He eventually arrived in Pambupatti and noticed some villagers near a well. He dashed over to them and fainted before saying anything.

When I opened my eyes, I saw an old man with white hair, white beard and shining black eyes bending over me. For the next few days, he looked after me, putting food in my mouth and bringing me sweet, cool water from the stream. He rubbed my feet gently and made the pain go away. Neighbours,strangers — everyone came to visit me.

When he regained consciousness, he noticed an elderly man leaning over him. He looked after him for a few days, giving him food, sweets, and water. He gently rubbed his feet, relieving him of his pain. Everyone in the neighbourhood, including strangers, came to see him.

“Tell me, Grandfather”, I said to him one day. “I have never seen people like the villagers here! In my village, people fight with those who pray to another god. But here … this seems like a very strange place!”

The narrator asked the old man to tell him about the place because it appeared strange to him. He'd seen people fighting in the name of religion, but this was different.

“Prem,” replied the old man, “I will tell you the story of Pambupatti. You can take this story back to your village. Maybe it will heal some of its wounds, and dry some of its sores.”

The old man told him the story of the place. And asked him to take that story to his village in the hopes of healing the people's wounds.

“Oh, Grandfather,” I said anxiously, “don’t say that. What I have seen in my village makes me burn with shame. I never,never want to go back there.”

  • Anxiously: curiously

The narrator spoke anxiously and asked the old man not to ask him to return to that village because he did not want to return after witnessing the riots there.

“But that’s exactly why you must go back,” he said, in a soft voice. I kept quiet. I didn’t want to argue with him, and I wanted to hear his story.

The old man told him strongly that the disturbance of the place was a far more strong reason for him to go there. Because he was more interested in the story, the narrator did not argue.

It happened a long, long time ago, he began. So long ago that there were no schools and no teachers. Children lived in caves with their parents and helped them to collect fruit and berries from the forest. At that time, there were no tigers or panthers or elephants in Pambupatti forest. There were only reptiles, many kinds of reptiles. Now you know what reptiles are. Snakes, crocodiles, turtles, lizards. And you know that a reptile has scales on its body and it lays eggs. Every month, the reptiles of Pambupatti had a big meeting. Everyone came — the pretty excited snakes, the slow thoughtful tortoises, the clever quick lizards,and the moody crocodiles, grumpy because they were out of water. The president of these meetings was Makara, the biggest crocodile of the forest. All the animals thought he was very important. When someone is strong and powerful, you know, it is difficult not to go along with what he says or does.

According to the old man, there were no schools in the past, and children lived in caves with their parents, helping them. At the time, there were no other animals in the jungle, only reptiles. The forest was ruled by a wide range of reptiles. Makkar, the crocodile, was the most powerful and largest. He was regarded as important by all of the animals. Once a month, they had a meeting that was attended by all of them.

Now, one day, a strange thing happened. It was a week before one of the monthly meetings. Makara sent a letter to the tortoises, asking them not to come to the meeting. Ahistay, the big old star tortoise with black and yellow pictures on his shell,  was very angry.
“What does this mean?” he shouted. “How dare they!” But not one of the tortoises had the courage to attend the meeting— they were so few, the others so many!

Something strange happened one day. Makkar sent a letter to the tortoise just one week before the monthly meeting, telling him not to come because he was too slow and carried his home on his back. The big old star tortoise with black and yellow pictures on his shell became angered and began shouting. They had no right to speak to them in that manner. However, because they were few in number, not a single tortoise dared to attend the meeting.

Before the meeting, the giant Makara polished his teeth with the red flowers of the tree by the river till they sparkled. Everyone was waiting for him at the meeting place.

  • Giant: very big

Before the meeting began, the big Makara polished his teeth with red flowers by the river's edge until they began to sparkle. Everyone was awaiting him.

“Brothers and sisters,” he began. All the reptiles, even the beautiful king cobras, stopped talking. Makara continued his speech. “I have decided that we don’t need the tortoises! I have told them not to come today. Brothers and sisters, can you tell me why we don’t like the tortoises?”

Makara addressed the gathering by addressing them all as brothers and sisters, and everyone paused to listen to him. He stated that he had determined that tortoises were unnecessary. He had instructed them not to come. He addressed the crowd as brothers and sisters and inquired as to why they disliked the tortoises.

The reptiles looked this way and that. They felt very uncomfortable. The snakes hissed anxiously, the lizards wriggled their tails, the crocodiles opened their jaws even wider.
Wriggled; to move body in small quick movement

The reptiles looked around, as they did not feel at ease. They all began to move. Snakes hissed, lizards shook their tails, and crocodiles opened their jaws even wider.

“But…” said one little lizard. “No BUTS!” shouted Makara. There was silence.
“I think …” said a baby crocodile. “No I THINKS!” screamed Makara, so loudly that the fruit in the tree above him rained down. After that, no one had the courage to speak.

The Lizard began to speak with 'but...' Makara screamed, 'No Buts!' and silenced her. The baby crocodile then began with 'I think,' but Makara silenced it as well by saying 'No, I think.' He shouted so loudly that the fruit from the tree above fell to the ground. No one had the courage to speak after that.

Makara cleared his throat and showed a few more teeth. “Well,” he said, “I will tell you why we don’t like the tortoises. They are so slow! So stupid! They even carry their houses on their backs. Whoever heard of such a stupid thing? Now you lizards, you live in trees. Would you ever carry a TREE on your back? Would you?”
Small, frightened voices answered together, “No, we wouldn’t. But…”

Makara cleared his throat and explained why they didn't like tortoises. He explained that they were slow and stupid. They carried their houses around on their backs. He asked the lizards if they'd ever carry their home-tree on their back. The Lizard replied in a fearful voice, "No," and then tried to add, "But."

“No BUTS! Now, listen. I have told the tortoises that they will have to move out of Pambupatti. When they go, we will have more of everything. More food, more water, more space.I want them out by tomorrow. But because they are such slowcoaches, I have given them one week. By next Tuesday we won’t have a single tortoise left in this jungle!”

Makara once again silenced them by saying, 'No buts.' He went on to say that he had told the tortoises to leave Pambupatti, and that once they did, all the reptiles left in the jungle would have more of everything – water, food, and space. He wanted them to leave the next day, but because they were slow, he gave them a week. He termed them slowcoaches.

And by the following Tuesday, they were all gone. At first the animals were sad, but then they realised that what Makara had said was true. There was more food, more water, and more space for them! But soon, a strange smell began to fill the forest. It was the smell of rot — rotting fruit on the ground, rotting animals in the river. This was what the tortoises used to eat. And even Makara had to go about holding his nose with his big claws.

By the following Tuesday, all of the tortoises had left the jungle. Initially, all of the animals were sad, but they gradually agreed with Makara because they could have more of everything, but very soon, a strange smell began to spread throughout the jungle. Tortoises used to eat the smell of rotten fruits and animals. They contributed to keeping the jungle clean and fresh. The smell was so strong that Makara had to walk through the jungle with his nose covered.

A month passed by, and then the same thing happened all over again. But this time, it was the snakes. Makara wrote them one of his letters. They were to leave the forest and,since they could move fast, they had to go in a day!

The same thing happened with snakes after a month. Because snakes move quickly, they were told to leave the area within a day.

Naga, the head of the snakes, pleaded for more time, but Makara would not give in. At the meeting, he silenced the others — the lizards and crocodiles — with even louder shouts and threats. “Snakes are slimy,” he said, “and they make funny noises. Who wants such weird creatures around?” Again, no one dared to disagree with Makara, and so the snakes left.

  • Slimy : unpleasant

Naga, the snakes' leader, requested more time, but Makara refused. With his louder shouts and threats, he silenced everyone at the meeting, including lizards and crocodiles. In support of his decision, he stated that snakes were unappealing animals to be around. They made strange noises. No one could find the courage to oppose Makara's decision in the face of this. And the snakes gone.

For a while, the animals of the forest were happy because they had been a little afraid of the snakes. You never knew when one of them might lose his temper and spit some venom at you! And it took only a little poison to kill you, after all.

  • Venom : poison

Because of their fear of snakes, the animals were happy for a while. Because they were unpredictable, they could spit poison in anger at anyone at any time, which was dangerous and could kill the other person.

A few weeks passed and the animals of the forest looked tired and fed up. The RATS! Now that there were no snakes to eat them, the rats had taken over the forest. And they were having a wonderful time. They were everywhere, on the trees, in the grass, in the bushes, on the ground. They ate up the eggs of the lizards and crocodiles. There would be no babies that year. Makara’s own nest of eggs had been chewed up.

After a few weeks, all of the forest animals were exhausted and irritated. The rats were relieved because there were no snakes to eat them. Rats could be seen having a good time all over the forest. They even ate crocodile and lizard eggs. As a result, no new babies were born in the forest that year.

Then Makara had a great idea. He called a meeting of the crocodiles and said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we, the crocodiles, could have the WHOLE jungle for ourselves? No one but us? These lizards, now, just look at them! They have the strangest habits, and some of them even change colour! How can we trust someone who is green one minute, red the next? Let’s get rid of them.”

Makara now considered keeping the entire jungle to themselves. So he convened a gathering of crocodiles and expressed his wish in front of them. He maintained his position, claiming that the lizards were untrustworthy because they changed colour.

By now, the crocodiles were really scared of Makara. So they clapped and cheered. Makara was pleased. The lizards left the forest, some with their babies on their backs.

Because the crocodiles were afraid of Makara at the time, they supported and agreed to his plan. As a result, the lizards left the forest with their young on their backs.

But now, when life should have been wonderful for the crocodiles of Pambupatti, all kinds of awful things began to happen. To begin with, the rats grew bolder by the day. They became so fearless that they jumped and turned somersaults on the crocodiles’ backs! And there were too many frogs. They seemed to be growing larger, and there was no one to eat them but the crocodiles. These huge frogs began to eat the baby crocodiles. And the insects! Now that the lizards were gone, there were millions of them, growing bigger and nastier by the day.

  • Somersaults: physical exercise, movement
  • Nastier: unclean

And now that I was alone in the jungle, instead of having a wonderful time, unusual and strange things began to happen. The rats became more daring and danced on the crocodiles' backs; many frogs arrived and grew in size; and they were all fearless because no one was there to eat them. These larger frogs started eating crocodile babies. Insects spread far and wide as lizards gone. They grew bigger and more daring.

It was a terrible time for the crocodiles. They couldn’t understand what had happened to their happy forest home.

All of this made life difficult for the crocodiles. They couldn't figure out what had happened to their happy forest home.

Then one day, a squeaky little voice piped up at one of their meetings, “We know why the forest has gone crazy, don’t we?”

  • Squeaky : making a very high sound

One day during the meeting, a squeaky voice said that they all knew what had gone wrong with the forest.

Suddenly everyone was silent. They looked at Makara fearfully, but to their surprise, he looked nervous. He shook a rat off his tail and asked the small crocodile. “Why, little fellow?”
“It all began with the tort—”
“Okay, okay”, said Makara. “There’s no need to talk so much.” Makara didn’t want to admit he was wrong, but it didn’t matter. All the crocodiles knew now that he was not all that strong or powerful. Or always right. They sent urgent messages all over the place for the tortoises, snakes and lizards to come back to Pambupatti. And what a great day it was when these creatures came back, family after family, with their little ones on their backs or straggling behind, shouting at their parents to wait for them!

  • Straggling : to move and spread in a very shabby manner

Everyone fell silent in fear of Makara, but Makara was nervous as well. He became weaker, but he refused to accept his mistake. But the crocodiles all knew, so they made a decision and wrote letters all over the place to tell the animals to return to the forest. It was a wonderful day as all the animals began to return, one family after another, shouting at each other, children on their backs, moving shabbily and hurriedly.

In two months, the forest was back to normal. The rats disappeared, and the insects, and the smell, and the world finally went back to its familiar old self.

The forest returned to normal in just two months. The rats could not be seen. The insects and odour had also disappeared. The world returned to normalcy.

“Well, Prem,” said the old man, “have you fallen asleep? Did my story send you off to dreamland?”
I shook my head. “No, Grandfather, I was just thinking. Maybe it’s time I went back to my own village, because I have a story to tell them. But what if they don’t listen to me?”
“We can only keep at it, my son — tell these stories again and again, to more and more people. Some of them may laugh at you or say your stories are not true. But they may remember them one day, and understand that each of us has a place in this strange, funny world of ours.”
Prem was asked if he had fallen asleep and if his storey had sent him to dream land by the old man. Prem shook his head, saying that no, he was thinking that it was the right time to return to the village and tell them this storey. But he was afraid that no one would pay attention to him. The old man advised him that they needed to tell that storey to more people. They might laugh at it or call the storey as a fake story. But they had to keep telling it in the hope that one day they would understand that everyone has their own unique place in the world.