- The Brave
By Ramendra Kumar; Illustrations by Neelima Bhushan
(First published in The Deccan Herald)
In a busy town in south India was a zoo.
In it lived a hippopotamus whose name was Gappu. Gappu was a kind
and gentle creature who loved children. However the children always
made fun of him and this made him very sad. “See how ugly
that creature is.”
it has such a thick, oily skin and such a horrible face.”
“Isn’t it slow, fat and stupid looking?” The kids
would yell to each other making faces at poor Gappu. The hippopotamus
would listen to all this and shed silent tears.
knew he was ugly. How he wished he was as majestic as the lion,
or as swift as a cheetah. How he longed to have the beautiful feathers
of a peacock or the tender skin of a rabbit.
day he was sitting in his enclosure moping when he heard a young
voice call out to him. “Hey Hippo! Why are you looking so
looked up. He saw an eight-year-old girl staring down at him. She
was painfully thin, with a flat nose and buck teeth. She had small
eyes and her face was pock marked. “My name is Gappu,”
he replied seriously; not quite liking being called Hippo by a chit
of a girl.
am Rekha,” she said cheerfully, waving her hand. “I
live close by with my uncle and aunt.”
“Where are your parents?”
“They are dead.”
“Do you go to school?”
My aunt makes me work the whole day in the house. I clean vessels;
sweep the floor and wash clothes. My aunt has gone with my cousins
to her mother’s place. That is why I could come here to the
zoo. My uncle gave me five rupees to spend. Gappu, you didn’t
answer my question. Why are you looking so sad?”
told her his tale of woe. “Gappu, I know how you feel. Everyone
makes fun of me too. They call me ‘buck tooth’, ‘ugly
face’, ‘bag of bones’ and what not? I have no
friends. Even my cousins don’t take me out anywhere. They
feel ashamed to be seen with someone as ugly as I am.”
Rekha I think you are very sweet and gentle. You are the first person
who has talked so kindly to me.”
“I think you are cute too. And who says you are slow. My uncle
once told me that you can run faster than a man.” “Yes,
that is true,” Gappu nodded.
“Will you be my friend,” Rekha asked.
of course, “Gappu replied shaking his snout vigorously.
From that day Rekha and Gappu became the best of friends. Whenever
Rekha had time she would come over to the zoo and chat with Gappu.
Gappu too eagerly waited for her visits and would tell her the latest
gossip of the zoo.
day Gappu and Rekha were chatting when they heard a commotion. The
noise seemed to be coming from the crocodile enclosure, which was
right next to Gappu’s. Rekha rushed ahead to find out. The
enclosure had water all around with an island in the middle. A four
year old boy had fallen into the enclosure and his mother was screaming
for help. Luckily the boy had not fallen into the water but was
hanging on to a pipeline, a few feet above the water, precariously.
It looked as if he would fall any moment into the water.
were around a dozen crocodiles lazing on the island. Hearing the
noise one of the crocodiles raised its snout and glided into the
water towards the boy. Rekha rushed back to Gappu. “Gappu,
a small boy has fallen into the crocodile enclosure. Please do something.”
thick wooden gate separated the two enclosures. Gappu charged towards
the gate and hurled himself at it with all his might. The gate shook
but did not break. Gappu went back a few steps and charged again.
This time the gate gave away and Gappu barged straight into the
crocodile enclosure. The boy was still hanging on and just below
him, with his jaws wide open, was a crocodile.
rushed at the crocodile and rammed it. As it flew away at the impact
Gappu shouted to Rekha. “If you can swim jump down and climb
on to my back. Then lift the child up and ask some one to pull him
hesitated for a few seconds and then dived into the water. She had
grown up in a village and was quite an expert swimmer. She quickly
swam to where Gappu was and climbed on to his back. Gappu quickly
reached the spot where the boy was hanging. Balancing herself on
Gappu’s back, Rekha lifted the child up. The boy’s mother
reached down but the gap between them was still too much. Just then
one of the onlookers threw a rope.
asked the boy to hold her tightly as she clutched the rope. The
boy held on and both of them were pulled up as the crowd of onlookers
Gappu the danger was not over yet. The rest of the crocodiles had
by now realised what was happening and had surrounded him. They
lunged at him biting his ears, tail and whatever else they could
reach. He started bleeding; this excited the crocodiles even more
and they rushed in for the kill.
at that moment the zoo staff reached the site and began throwing
huge lumps of raw flesh into the enclosure to attract the crocodiles.
The ploy worked. They left Gappu and rushed to grab the meat, fighting
each other in the process.
Gappu rush back to your enclosure,” shouted Rekha. Gappu did
as he was told. Since the gate between the crocodiles’ and
Gappu’s enclosures was damaged it was not safe for Gappu to
be kept in his usual home. The enclosure on the other side was empty.
The Zoo staff took Gappu there and the doctor tended to his wounds.
next day, everyone had come to know how Gappu and Rekha had saved
Amit (that was the boy’s name) from the jaws of death. Reporters
took Rekha’s interview and her photographs sitting on top
of Gappu. Rekha and Gappu had become celebrities. Amit’s father
came and met Rekha’s uncle and made his request. Her uncle
agreed and Amit’s parents adopted Rekha.
Rekha now goes to school, gets tasty things to eat, beautiful clothes
to wear and lovely toys to play with. Even though now she is living
happily with her new family, Rekha has not forgotten her friend.
She comes in a car once a week with her kid brother Amit to chat
with Gappu. Gappu too is now very happy. No one calls him ugly or
stupid or ungainly. They now call him Gappu the brave.