Making of a Zoo
Cheenu was rather a unique boy. He was restless, hyperactive, intelligent and notorious. He was kind hearted in his own way only that his acts of kindness often led to undesirable outcomes. During his childhood days he was a nightmare to those around him. Every now and then he would get a bright spark – so distinct that no one would even dream of it. One such great idea was to set up a zoo!
Our young hero lived in a small town on the foothills of Western Ghats. It was a quiet, laid back place that was home to domestic animals, rodents, stray dogs, cats, troupes of monkeys, occasional rabbits, local birds and insects in addition to a large population of humans. If one did not take into account the human beings, there weren’t much chances of finding variety of inmates for the zoo. Nevertheless, he managed to sell the ‘zoo idea’ to his friends, Chandru, Swami, Visu, Kumar, Sankar and Ramu. Few days went by and the group gathered to finalize the plan. Well, first things first. It was unanimously decided to name the zoo after Cheenu. Not a surprise, considering Cheenu’s reputation of notoriety. It was also decided that each group member would contribute either an animal or bird to the proposed zoo.
Next problem was to find a place to house the animals and birds. It so happened, Chandru’s older sister Meena was fascinated by this idea and she convinced their widowed mother to let the kids use the only room in the first floor of their house. So, a placard that read “Cheenu’s Zoo” in bright colors was displayed on the window sill facing the street.
Before long the hunt for the animals and birds began. Chandru, though not a pied piper, decided to catch a rat, for the simple reason there were quite a few running around his house. He tried several times using a trap with different baits, but to no avail. Ultimately, he managed to catch a white rat, probably an albino, after successfully using ‘masala vada’ as the bait.
Cheenu’s mother loathed all pets, except a cat called Jinju, as it helped reduce the large rat population in the house. Jinju had recently littered, but wouldn’t allow anyone to come near the kittens. One day, one of the kittens got trapped on the first floor ledge, though no one knew how it got there. Both Jinju and the little one made such a racket, that Cheenu’s father got the gardener to rescue the kitten. After this incident, Jinju became much more protective of the kittens and Cheenu had to abandon the hope of making one of the kittens a proud member of the Zoo.
Soon neighborhood doctor’s mongrel littered and the sympathetic doctor let Cheenu adopt a brown puppy, who was named ‘Tommy’. The puppy drank milk and barked all the time. Cheenu’s mother lost patience after a few days, and so Tommy was shifted to the ‘zoo’. Cheenu had to smuggle milk from home to feed Tommy.
Swami found a parrot with a broken wing in his garden, and shifted the bird to the ‘zoo’ in a cane basket. The boys fed the parrot with bananas and mangoes. Cheenu and Sankar spotted a rabbit on their way to school and decided to give a chase. They ultimately caught the rabbit after running through the paddy fields for more than a mile, stumbling and falling several times. It became Sankar’s responsibility to feed the rabbit.
Even after a month, the number of zoo inmates remained the same. Hence, after an emergency meeting, it was unanimously decided to catch as many insects as possible. So a dragonfly, few colorful butterflies, a cockroach, a grasshopper, a caterpillar, a moth and a beetle were added to the collection. Taking pity on their plight, Meena lent them a chicken. As the inmates grew in number, the upkeep of the zoo became a problem and as always, Cheenu came up with a brilliant plan to open the zoo for public viewing. He suggested that the fee collection could be used to feed the animals, birds and insects. An entry fee of four annas (25 paise) was charged from the neighborhood children and friends who visited the zoo. Unfortunately, the zoo had visitors for only a couple of days.
With mounting school work, the boys could not spare time for the zoo on a regular basis. Over time, the parrot’s broken wing mended and it flew away through the open window. Meena took back her chicken, the white rat escaped to be with its mates and the insects could not be contained for long. Chandru’s mother grew tired of Tommy’s incessant barking and asked the boys to vacate the zoo. Cheenu was deeply distressed to part with the puppy and the rabbit, but managed to find loving homes for them. Yes, Cheenu was indeed a unique boy, albeit with a golden heart.
Contributing Story Teller: Rathika Lakshminarayanan, I am a professional medical writer with passion for creative writing. firstname.lastname@example.org
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