It was difficult to keep the two sisters away from fighting with each other. I was fed up of yelling at them, all day long, to lay off. I have tried everything – scolding, admonishing, threatening, cajoling, pleading and even crying. Reactions from the girls ranged from looking ashamed, crestfallen, outraged to uncontrollable giggling.
And what does the father of the house do? Aloof and indulgent, he
goes about his business as if all this racket is quite normal. Why
does he think he has been given such a long neck if he does not
want to stick it out at all?
We, the giraffe family have been quite respectable in this
neighbourhood. We hold our heads high, except while grazing, of
course. I was quite shocked and disconcerted too when I learnt
recently that others have been talking about us behind our back.
When I had gone, along with my daughters Tolly and Bolly, for the
birthday party of the baby rhino, a hush had fallen as soon as we
entered their home ground. The chatter among the visiting
neighbours stopped abruptly and, while some smirked, Patience
antelope and the host Armour Rhino had at least the decency to
look somewhat ashamed. Tolly and Bolly were chirpy as usual and
mingled with the other kids but I was very uncomfortable.
While returning home, Miss Prickly porcupine accompanied me
halfway through. After much prodding, she said, “you know
aunty, everybody makes fun of the noisy fights of Tolly and Bolly. I
overheard Furry fox tell his wife that they lack discipline and have
not been brought up well”.
I glared down at Prickly, who decided suddenly that it was safer to
take a shortcut to her home and, with a hurried goodbye, vanished
into the bushes. Upset and fuming, I waited for the two girls who
were lagging. “Just you wait, you little imps”, I muttered.
“You are going to get a whack behind your ears and a sharp kick
on your butts that you will remember for a long time to come”.
I waited impatiently but there was no sign of the girls. I was
wondering if I should go back and look for them or go up further
towards home and attend to the waiting chores. Just then, Hawk-
eye eagle soared past overhead and on spotting me, turned back
and descended to a level where a conversation was possible. He
had seen Tolly and Bolly engaged in a fierce wrestling cum
kickboxing match near the dry pond, which is on a trail that
branches off from the main path.
With various emotions raging through my mind, I sprinted back
along the path with unimaginable speed and agility. Normally, you
can hear them from a mile off but I could hear no sound today,
which heightened my anxiety. As I neared the pond, I could
hear sounds of a struggle and muffled moans. My heartbeat
stopped for a second at the sight of my precious girls.
Their necks were intertwined, the two faces looking in opposite
directions. The rear legs of Bolly were in the air and Tolly was
struggling to remain upright. I circled them in agitation and was at
my wit’s end. The two could not move their faces and only their
eyes followed my agitated movements.
Oh! They looked guilty and shame-faced alright, but what am I to
do now to release their necks from this horrendous twisting? And I
hoped that there would be no permanent damage to their smooth
and slender necks. “Should I call someone for help or should I take
them along to somebody who can help”, I wondered.
Tolly was trying to say something but all that came out of
the mouth was a garbled and choking sound. Perhaps she was
trying to advise me about the course of action. Sheer
impudence! Bolly seemed to have understood what Tolly was
trying to say (they have matching minds, you see) and expanded on
it with further non-giraffe sounds, adding to the cacophony. I shut
them up with a blood-curdling yell and a forceful stomp of my
right foot. The whack behind the ears and the kick on their butts
will have to wait for a more favourable time.
“I cannot possibly take them to the forest healing centre”, I
thought. We would be a spectacle and would be giving fodder to all
those wagging tongues and shaking heads for years to come. After
dithering for a while, I made up my mind to go to Madcap
Bear, who lived in a cave outside the forest.
Madcap lived alone, shunned by all because of the lunatic streak in
him. But he couldn’t care less as he was happy, laughing and
muttering to himself all the time. If you were to go to the adjacent
forest and were to take a short detour from the main path, you will
come across Madcap frolicking in the meadows around his cave on
He harmed no one but due to his eagerness to befriend, he would
accost anyone who strayed near his abode, with a shout of joy and
would rear up on his hind legs, all ready to give a bear hug. The
vision coupled with folklore about his deeds or misdeeds rather
was sufficient to scare even the lion-hearted amongst us. As for the
lion, the so-called King of the Forest, faint-hearted that he is, he
does not come anywhere near Madcap’s territory after that single
encounter a few years back.
All these thoughts were running on my mind as we moved in that
direction. I wanted to hurry but the duo rolled along slowly in a
zig-zag manner. After the initial hiccups, they somehow managed
to coordinate their leg movements and were expecting
a compliment from me. “They do not realize the seriousness of the
problem”, I thought with exasperation.
I knew that Madcap Bear thinks of unusual remedies for unusual
problems. When I was a kid and was suddenly stricken with
the strange problem of my right hindleg kicking involuntarily, my
mother had taken me to Madcap. He made me do something quite
ludicrous which I do not recall now, but I was cured.
When he saw us, Madcap said “Aha” with a smile, which soon
turned into a grin and then into laughter. Soon, he was rolling on
the ground, holding his belly and laughing uncontrollably. These
two were also now shamelessly giggling and joining in his mirth.
After he had had his fill of fun and catching the look of
consternation on my face, Madcap became somewhat serious and
started inspecting the duo to ascertain the pattern and extent of
twisting of the necks.
Madcap then braced himself against a huge rock and holding the
two of them, one on each arm, by the scruff of their necks, he lifted
them and swirled them around. There were shrieks of horror from
all three of us. I watched the scene, with my heart in my mouth as
my kids went flying around in various orbits, from circular to
elliptical to hyperbolic. The shrieks from the two girls continued
but now these were sounding like the ones coming from kids
having fun on a roller-coaster.
After a few minutes of these acrobatics, Madcap set them down on
the ground. It had not worked. To add to the woes, Madcap’s
arms were also intertwined now! I was speechless with anger and
frustration as he looked at me sheepishly. He twirled himself
around till his arms were free. He then sat down in a serious
thinker pose, eyes closed, head bent down and his right arm with
the elbow resting on the knee holding his head.
“Oh, the works!” I muttered under my breath.
He got up again with new vigour and commenced the swirling of
my kids in the air. But now he was also on his feet and rotating.
Also, the movements were faster and the shift from one kind of
orbit to another was abrupt. He also shook them vigorously as one
would shake the water out of wet clothes before drying them. I
started thinking that coming to him was perhaps a mistake. He
looked like a discus thrower and for all I knew, he might just let go
of his hold, which will send Tolly and Bolly flying in the air,
in ballistic arcs, to certain death.
Breaking into a sweat, I tried to intervene. And then, all of a
sudden, the kids were separated, one on each of his arms. The
movements slowed down and Madcap put both of them gently on
the ground. He was still holding them by the scruff of their necks.
The girls were dazed and unsteady on their feet after that last
Madcap barked some instructions to the group of monkeys that
lived near his cave and who had gathered there to watch the free
entertainment. With alacrity, they climbed up a specific tree to
pluck the leaves and put them in a heap at Madcap’s feet. Madcap
chewed on these leaves thoroughly and then spit the mass, saliva
and all, on the necks of my daughters, patting them to form a cast
With instructions of do’s and don’ts and asking us to return after a
week for the removal of the cast, Madcap dismissed us and my
words of gratitude with a wave of his arms, I mean forelegs. I
mentally made a note to bring him lots of berries and honey on
the next visit.
Well, did Tolly and Bolly become alright again? Yes, they did and
their necks show no signs of the wear and tear. They have grown
up to be young giraffes with graceful, slender necks. Their fights
have also reduced over the years and now when they are angry and
upset, they do not speak with each other for a few hours or even
days. They have joined the new dance classes conducted by Vanity
Peacock, and I am told that they stand out with their excellent
footwork and graceful neck movements.
Madcap is getting older and more forgetful. But his mirth knows
no bounds and we all join in happily whenever we visit him.
About V Vaidehi
V Vaidehi has been writing travel stories in her blog titled “Weary feet…happy soul”. She has recently ventured into short stories and haiku poems, which have also been published on her blog. The link to her blog is https://vvaidehi.wordpress.com.