Monday, February 9, 2015

Rabbit Around the World

By Sajjeev Antony
(To be) Illustrated by Lamha Bijili

PROFESSOR KHARGOSH, THE RABBIT, leapt up and pranced about in his laboratory, whooping in glee.
     “Eureka!” he squealed as he reached for a well-deserved bowl of carrots. What an amazing discovery he had just made! He wished there was someone to break the news.
     There was a sound outside. Someone had indeed coming into the burrow --- ever so slowly. Khargosh groaned as he realized who his visitor was. It was Kacchoo, the Tortoise.
     All rabbits and hares regarded tortoises as stupid creatures, maddeningly slow and steady. But then, tortoises too used to laugh at rabbits and sometimes publicly insulted them by reciting aloud the old rabbit-and-the-tortoise story.

     “Hey Prof,” Kacchoo grinned, “were you sleeping?”
     “Har! hello,” muttered Khargosh in disgust.
     This was enough invitation for Kacchoo. He promptly plopped into the Professor’s favorite armchair and reached for the carrot bowl as if the place belonged to him.
     Still bubbling with the excitement of his new discovery, the Professor soon forgot his irritation.
     “I have discovered something wonderful,” he said.
     “Like?” asked the tortoise, his mouth full of carrot.
     “That the earth is round,” explained the Professor.
     Kacchoo stopped chewing and stared. “What did you say? The earth is what?”
     “Round,” repeated Khargosh, spreading his arms wide and making a big globe in the air. “I discovered it just now. And listen, I have also proved that the circumference of the earth is exactly one hundred kilo-snakes.*
     Kachoo choked on his carrot. He could hardly control his laughter. Like all sensible jungle folk he knew the earth was as flat as a banana leaf.

rofessor Khargosh was in the habit of making odd statements out of the blue. Once he said that lions had evolved from common jungle cats. This was very embarrassing to Sher Singh, the Lion, the King of the Jungle. For days His Majesty had felt too ashamed to come out of his den. If he did, some cheeky small animal would say, “miaow!” from a tree above, and all others would giggle.
     Khargosh said similar weird things about other animals too. Once he claimed that horses and asses belonged to the same family. The asses didn’t mind but the horses got terribly worked up. Naturally Professor Khargosh was disliked by most jungle folk.
     So Khargosh lived alone. Only Kacchoo the Tortoise used to visit him. Not that he was in love with the professor, but he liked to snoop around and gather funny news. Because of his thick shell he could stand any insult.
     This time it was a real scoop for Kacchoo. Within a day the whole jungle knew of Professor Khargosh’s latest discovery. Everyone had a laugh over it. Only a few weird animals took the idea seriously. But they were so few that their opinions hardly mattered.
     Finally the news reached the royal den. Khargosh was immediately summoned to court.
     “I hear that you are going around saying that earth is round,” said His Majesty sternly. “If the earth is sound why don’t I roll away? Answer me, Professor.”
     “Your head almost rolled away in the last year’s coup, Your Majesty,” Khargosh wanted to say. But he  remained silent. He knew no one would understand his calculations. Instead he said defiantly, "Even if I obey your Majesty and say that earth is flat, it will still be round, your Majesty."
     King angrily said, “Such impertinence! I will punish you for spreading lies.”
     The Law of the Jungle had a single punishment for all offenses. Death. Everyone shuddered.
     Finally the wise prime minister, Ulloo the Owl, spoke up.
     “Your Majesty,” said Ulloo. “Professor Khargosh says the earth is a huge ball. He also claims that the circumference of this ball is one hundred kilosnakes. I beg to give him a chance to prove it.”
     “What do you mean?” asked the Lion.
     “If it pleases your Majesty, I have a plan,” said Ulloo. Let Khargosh have a race with Kacchoo the tortoise. Let the finishing point be the Victory Tree, which we all know, is exactly fifty kilosnakes due east.”
     Victory Tree was an ancient pine near the eastern border of the Jungle, where long ago His Majesty had defeated his arch enemy, Babar Khan, the Tiger.
     “But only Kachoo will go in that direction, I mean, east.” Continued Ulloo. Professor Khargosh will run in the opposite direction, that is, west. If his theory is correct, he has to run only fifty kilosnakes to go around the earth and reach the Victory Tree. Whoever reaches first shall be the winner.” He sat back and preened.
     The Lion liked the idea. “So be it. And I will make the winner my next prime minister.” Turning to Ulloo he added: “O wise Ulloo, I am proud of you.”
     Everyone applauded and looked in admiration at Ulloo, who had however gone very pale.
     “Hoo-hoo-hoo,” moaned poor Ulloo softly to himself. “I could have done with a little less wisdom.”
N THE MORNING OF THE RACE all jungle-folk assembled at the venue. The competitors got ready for the sprint.
     “On your marks. . . Get set. . . ROAR!” said his Majesty. All animals cheered wildly. In a few nimble strides Khargosh disappeared from view. He felt happy he was going west. This meant the sun wouldn't be in his eyes. A few rabbits and rabbits assembled there applauded him timidly. They knew he was a fast runner. But even they did not believe in his theory that earth was round.
     From the other side Kachoo had started crawling slowly and steadily towards the rising sun. The assembled tortoises, turtles and other crawling creatures like snails and earthworms were on his side of course. They patted him on the back. “When you become the Prime Minister don’t forget us,” they said. “Of course I won’t!” thought Kachoo, who really wanted to clean up the administration. “I will appoint creepy crawly creatures as my office staff,” said Kacchoo and all snails and worms shouted.

     After ten day of patient plodding, Kacchoo completed his fifty kilo-snakes and reached the Victory Tree, the finishing point. Most other jungle folk were waiting for him and Khargosh to arrive, and they all cheered Kacchoo loudly and waited for Khargosh in vain.
     When they returned to the Jungle in triumph, His Majesty the Lion issued an official statement that declared, "Earth is Flat."

      Keeping his promise the Lion appointed Kacchoo as his prime minister. But Kacchoo didn’t keep his promise to other crawling animals. He did not recruit any snail to his office. Instead, he chose Ulloo and other owls. "Treachery!" hissed all crawling creatures. They all marched to Kacchoo's office in protest but Ulloo and other friends were waiting for them. All protestors were eaten by the owls. 

       Kacchoo began to think that he was superior to all animals and even better than owls. He rebuilt his office and home in a grander scale than that of His Majesty the Lion. He even got a lioness to fall in love with him, and got engaged to her.
        His Majesty the Lion tried to reason with his daughter. But she was a sociology student and wouldn't listen. She said believed that all animals were equal and lions and lionesses should set an example by marrying other species. 
        His Majesty was in panic and had nightmares of growling tortoises as his grandchildren. Finally he called Ulloo the Owl secretly and discussed how to get rid of Kachoo. They made a plan.
         Next day Ulloo went to Kacchoo and praised him skyhigh. Ulloo even told him that he was fit enough to be the King of the Jungle. But for that he should do a feat of valor, said Ulloo. Kachoo was so full of self confidence that he was willing to do anything. 

        The crafty Ulloo suggested that Kachoo should learn how to fly and thus prove that he was superior to even a lion! Kachoo excitedly agreed. The very next morning the lessons started. Kachoo would ride on the back of Ulloo in flight and watch how Ulloo flapped his wings. After a few days Kachoo felt confident that he could fly alone. Ulloo congratulated him on his confidence and took him very very high. Kachoo slithered off the back of the owl, started flapping his legs and arms and fell like a stone into the deep valley below.  That was the end of Kachoo.
     But whatever happened to our hero, Khargosh? Some animals living in the eastern part of the jungle claim that he was eaten by a fox. A group of Siberian cranes swear that they saw the Professor fall off the edge of the earth. They might be right. After all, they keep flying to all corners of the world and have tremendous knowledge.

     BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK? Where did Professor Khargosh go wrong? Will he ever be able to return to the Jungle? Let us follow him and find out.

(to be continued)

*Kilosnake is a jungle unit of measurement. One kilosnake is roughly equivalent to one kilometer.

You might have heard it was a hare, not a rabbit, but it was actually a rabbit, as per ancient Jungle records.