The little monkey tugged his mother’s tail to get her attention. His mother was busy cleaning his aunt’s fur.
“What is it now?” she asked without looking up from her task. Monkeys take grooming very seriously.
“Ma, ma, I’m hungry, ma”, the little monkey said.
“Didn’t we have some berries just a little while ago?” his mother said.
“But I’m still hungry. All of us have been practising the branch swinging exercises you told us to do. We’re exhausted, and I’m starving!” said the little one.
“Well, it’s summer. While I’m happy that we’re not getting drenched in the rain, there’s not much food to be found. We’re going in search of some palm fruit soon. Maybe you can pick off a few pieces of bark to snack on meanwhile. Or why don’t you try finding mangoes at the top of our usual tree? You’re old enough to go by yourself”, his mother said.
The little monkey wasn’t pleased with Ma’s answer. He bounded off to find his friend. But his friend was taking a nap. So the little monkey made his way down the tree. He wandered around for a little while and wondered where all the humans were. The temple was usually teeming with humans carrying delicious things like sweets, fruit and coconuts. Little humans were the most interesting of all. They were always holding out things to eat or play with. Monkeys were always happy to accept these gifts. But they never understood why the young humans made such loud, horrible noises afterwards.
Now that he thought about it, the monkey troop hadn’t seen humans for a while now. No wonder their diet had been so boring lately. The little monkey missed the crunchy bits which came in a crinkly wrapper. Some sweet, cold water would be welcome too. He wondered how humans managed to cool water. The little monkey circled the temple grounds in hopes of finding some human food, but so far, he had no luck. The place was deserted.
A little human was wandering around on the other side of the compound. Chutki, a seven-year-old girl, lived with her parents in a small house behind the temple. The last few weeks had been quite grim for her family. Her parents had had to shut their small shop outside the temple due to the lockdown. With the shop closed, Chutki’s family had fallen on hard times. There was very little to eat. Thankfully, the government had provided some rice, wheat and dal to all families in need. Chutki’s mother also grew some vegetables in their tiny garden. Still, Chutki could have done with a bit more food in the house.
Chutki’s family sold snacks and cold drinks in their shop along with little trinkets and toys. Her father had given her little treats, like a packet of chips or a bottle of juice, from their stocks from time to time. However, as Chutki and her two brothers shared the snacks, she didn’t get them very often.
Tired of the lockdown and feeling a little bit hungry, Chutki had wandered into the temple grounds. The afternoon sun was harsh, and her family was sleeping. But Chutki didn’t mind the heat at all. She was just glad to be out in the open, and she walked around looking for a shady place to eat her chips. She soon settled down under the large peepal tree. Leaning against the majestic old tree, Chutki opened her packet of chips with a smile.
Just as Chutki opened her packet, she heard a soft chattering sound. Having grown up around the temple, Chutki was used to the ways of the monkeys. So she hurriedly hid the packet in the folds of her skirt. She knew that the monkeys had stayed away from the temple since the lockdown. So she was surprised to see a little monkey jumping around on the ground. He was quite a good climber too! And he’d managed to find a small mango from somewhere. Chutki smiled at the little monkey and watched him gobble the fruit. He looked adorable. So Chutki held out a few chips hoping to make friends with the cute creature.
The little monkey watched suspiciously. His mother had taught him to be careful around humans. Seeing him hesitate, Chutki slowly took a chip and ate it. When she’d eaten her third chip, the little monkey overcame his hesitation. He’d been longing to eat human food for a long time now, and chips were his favourite. So the little monkey came down to the little human and accepted a chip from her. He took a second chip from Chutki and then a third. But as soon as she made a move to touch him, the little monkey ran away.
Determined to make friends with the little monkey, Chutki saved the rest of her chips. She stood up, dusted off her skirt and went home. Once home, she went into the corner of her house and hid the packet in an old, cracked cooking pot where her brothers wouldn’t find it. Then she went to help her mother with the evening chores. Her brothers and father had gone to a nearby pond to catch some fish. After dinner, the family went out to sleep as they always did. The night was hot, and there was no breeze. Chutki and her brothers had each made a fan out of dried palm leaves to fan themselves. When Chutki slept that night, she dreamed of monkeys and mangoes.
The next afternoon, Chutki went back to the temple as she had the day before. She carried a few chips with her in hopes of meeting her little monkey friend. The little monkey indeed came back and happily took the chips she offered him. The same story repeated the next day too. On the fourth day, when Chutki had given him the last chips, the little monkey allowed her to pet him. As she stroked his back, Chutki said to the monkey, “We need to give you a name. Would you like to be called Pintu?” The little monkey chattered excitedly. Chutki took that to mean “yes”.
Pintu and Chutki soon became good friends. Although Chutki didn’t have chips every day, Pintu still came down to chatter and play every afternoon. He also quickly built up a small vocabulary of human words, including “chips”. Pintu listened attentively when Chutki talked to him. He jumped and turned somersaults when she was happy and patted her with his paw when she was sad. Although Pintu’s mother was initially against his friendship with a human, she soon grew used to seeing Chutki every day, too.
One afternoon, when Chutki didn’t show up, Pintu was worried. He went up to his mother and said, “Ma, my friend isn’t here today”. His mother thought for a moment and said, “She must be busy. You know how humans are! I’m sure she’ll be back tomorrow”. Pintu waited impatiently for a day, but Chutki didn’t turn up the next day either. Now his mother was worried too. “Let’s go and see if we can find her”, she said. So Pintu and his mother came down from the tree to search for the little human.
After walking around the temple grounds, they finally spotted Chutki’s hut and went to investigate. Sure enough, Chutki was sitting under the neem tree outside her house. She was crying. Pintu immediately went to his friend and put a paw on her knee.
“Oh, Pintu! I have nothing to give you”, Chutki sobbed. She was hiccuping from having cried so hard.
“I’m so hungry, Pintu. There’s no food in our house. The rice and dal have run out. A policeman chased my father away from the lake for going out during the lockdown, so there’s no fish either”, she added.
Pintu didn’t understand what Chutki said, but his mother did. She pointed to the place where humans usually cooked their food. “Look, son, not even an ant. I think she’s hungry”.
Pintu was heartbroken to see his friend in distress. “Can we help her, Ma? Please? Can we?” he asked his mother. She shook her head sadly. “Humans don’t eat our kind of food, son”, she said. But Pintu wasn’t convinced. He really wanted to help his friend. So he climbed up the neem tree and thought hard. As he looked around, he saw the edge of the forest. The forest had wild mango and jackfruit trees. Pintu tugged at his mother’s tail again, “Ma, how about the spiky, yellow fruit ma? Don’t humans eat those?” he pointed towards the forest and asked.
“You’re right. I’ve often seen humans going into the forest to gather them”, his mother said.
“Well, why can’t we go and bring a fruit for my friend?” he asked. He leapt off the tree and made his way towards the forest before his mother could answer.
A short while later, Pintu and his mother brought a small wild jackfruit for Chutki, who was still sitting under the tree. They dropped it at her feet and ran away. Chutki’s father was astonished.
“Where did the monkeys come from? Why did they bring you fruit, Chutki?” he asked in amazement. Chutki explained her adventures with Pintu. “Well, I’ve always said one good turn deserves another. Your friend has proved it!” her father said.
Although the fruit was small, the wild jackfruit was still sufficient for Chutki’s family to share. They did not sleep hungry that night. Over the next few days, Pintu and his mother led Chutki, her father and her brother deep into the forest to show them some more fruit trees. While times were still hard, Chutki’s family didn’t go hungry anymore.
As for the chips, Chutki’s father saved the rest of them for Pintu. Pintu didn’t get them all at once, of course. After all, too many chips are bad for anyone - human or monkey.
Do you like Chutki and Pintu? Email your thoughts to email@example.com if you'd like more Chutki stories. Don't worry. Venkat will be back soon too. This is just a short change :-)