Isn't Shrikar's drawing of Pintu adorable? If you'd like to have your art featured in the next story, please email us!
Seven-year-old Chutki and her monkey friend, Pintu, were playing under a large Pipal tree near an ancient temple. Suddenly, there was a loud bark. The bark was followed by the sound of a girl shouting, "Bruno! Come back!" in English. Little Pintu was terrified. He chattered in alarm and quickly scrambled up the tree. Pintu didn't climb too far, however. He was curious to see who was making all that noise.
The little monkey didn't have to wait very long. Seconds later, a huge dog appeared. He was being chased by a young girl wearing a mask. Before Chutki could call out to Pintu, however, the girl came to a halt. She said to Chutki in English, "Hi! I'm sorry if Bruno scared you. I don't know why he suddenly ran away!". She held the dog by his bright red collar.
"It's ok", Chutki said slowly in English. She didn't speak the language very well. She looked at the girl curiously. The girl was a few inches taller than Chutki and had a long ponytail. Chutki had never seen her around before. As the girl was wearing bright white shoes, Chutki decided that the newcomer and her dog must be visitors. No one in the village liked to wear chappals, let alone shoes. The dog was now barking up the tree at Pintu. Chutki was worried about Pintu, but he looked safe enough.
"Quiet, Bruno!" the girl said. The dog stopped barking and turned towards his human. "Good Boy!" she said and patted him.
"His name is Bruno. Do you want to pat him?" the girl asked Chutki.
"Ok, " Chutki said, gently patting the dog's long soft fur.
"Sit, Bruno!", the girl said. The dog sat between the two girls with his tongue sticking out. Chutki felt sorry for the shaggy dog panting in the summer heat. She decided that the short-haired Indian dogs in her village were probably happier.
"Hi! I'm Ishika. What is your name?" the new girl asked Chutki, holding out her hand. Chutki was amused, but she shook hands. No one shook hands in their village, and she certainly couldn't remember the last time she'd had to tell someone her name. Pintu had made his way down the tree now. He was sitting comfortably on Chutki's shoulder.
"My name is Chutki", she replied in Hindi. Patting Pintu, she added, "This is Pintu, and he's very naughty. Where are you from?"
"He's so cute", Ishika said, switching to Hindi. "I'm here to live with my grandmother for a while", she said, pointing in the direction of a large, old house.
"Oh! You're Durga Tai's granddaughter?", Chutki asked with interest and said, "Tai talks to us about you all the time!"
"Do you know her?", Ishika asked.
"We all know her. Durga Tai teaches the children of the village in the evenings", Chutki said.
Ishika said, "I arrived here last night. I am here spending the summer with Daadi. I have to go back now. Daadi must be worried as I ran after Bruno without telling her. But I'll definitely come back to play tomorrow". Chutki promised to meet Ishika under the tree the next afternoon.
While the girls were talking, Pintu and Bruno had sniffed each other and decided to become friends. Pintu was currently sitting between Bruno's paws, and Bruno was licking him.
"Come on, Bruno!", Ishika said. Bruno got up and left with Ishika.
Pintu chattered in disappointment. Chutki picked him up and said, "Pintuji, you seem to want to make friends with anyone who isn't a monkey". Pintu chattered in agreement as Chutki placed him in the tree.
Chutki and Ishika met under the Pipal tree every day and soon became good friends. So did Pintu and Bruno. However, as Bruno kept trying to run away, Ishika would tie him to the tree while the two girls played. One afternoon, Ishika and Chutki decided to explore the temple. So Ishika left Bruno at home and met Chutki at the temple. Pintu climbed Ishika's shoulder and chattered excitedly.
"Sorry, Pintu! Your doggie friend is at home today", Ishika said. "You'll have to play with your monkey friends instead". Chutki giggled.
The two girls went to the temple. It was closed to devotees due to the pandemic. So the girls walked around admiring the ancient carvings. They had just found something interesting to explore when they heard a man shouting loudly in the distance. The shouting was followed by an excited bark.
The two girls looked at each other. "Oh no! Bruno has escaped!", Ishika exclaimed. "Then Pintu can't be far behind either!" Chutki groaned. The two friends ran towards the sound of the man's voice.
Chutki's uncle was shouting from halfway up a coconut tree. "Your monkey is a menace! He climbed up my tree and started throwing down coconuts. I tried climbing down, but he brought a large, scary, loud dog with him this time".
"Sorry, Chacha! I'll catch him soon!", Chutki said. Ishika added, "Large, loud dog is Bruno, all right! But he's a sweetie. He's not scary at all..."
"Ishika, most of us find his teeth scary", Chutki replied. "Now come on!" she said.
A woman screamed, "Come back with my bananas, you monkey thief!" Bruno was barking loudly. The woman shouted again, "Get out of my house, you naughty dog! You've eaten all the chicken pieces I prepared for dinner. Go away before I throw my chappal at you!"
Ishika groaned and said, "You would think I never feed him the way he steals food from people". But Chutki wasn't listening to Ishika. "Listen! There's more trouble ahead", she said.
A bicycle bell sounded in the distance, followed by a crash and a boy yelling, "You bad monkey! Get off my buffalo. Shoo, you giant dog! You're scaring the calf!"
Chutki and Ishika ran up to find a man lying on the ground, angrily shaking his fist. A boy with his buffaloes stood nearby.
"What happened, Ramesh?", Chutki asked the boy while Ishika picked up the man's cycle.
"Your naughty monkey decided to ride on my buffalo, and his dog friend barked at her calf. My poor calf ran straight into Masterji's cycle", Ramesh said. "You had better train that monkey of yours", he added.
"Pintu is not really my monkey. He lives in the Pipal tree", Chutki said defensively. "Well, if you name him and feed him chips, he's your pet, and you have to train him", Ramesh said as he helped Masterji to his feet.
More loud barking sounded in the distance. Chutki's friend, Bitto, was yelling. Chutki and Ishika decided not to wait and find out what new havoc the two animal friends had caused. They had reached the fields outside the village, and the noise had stopped. As it was summer, the fields were largely empty except for a few piles of hay. Pintu and Bruno were nowhere to be seen.
The girls walked through the fields and searched for their pets. "Pintu! Bruno!" they called. But there was no reply. The sun was hot, and the girls were exhausted. "Well, at least there aren't many people here", Chutki said. "But where did the two go?", Ishika replied, worried.
"They must be around here, somewhere! Let's take a minute to go to the pond and cool off", Chutki said. Ishika reluctantly agreed. She was worried about Bruno, but Chutki was younger than her and definitely needed a break from the search.
The two friends slowly walked to the pond. When they finally reached it, Chutki burst into giggles. Bruno was swimming in the water. Pintu was lying on his friend's back and playing with the bright pink ribbon he had surely stolen from Bitto.
Bruno smelled Ishika and swam up to the bank. He woofed happily. "Look, Ishika! Bruno looks so happy", Chutki said.
Ishika replied, "He does! I guess Bruno was feeling hot, and Pintu just led him to the pond to cool off. What a clever little monkey!"
Chutki sat on the bank and dangled her legs in the water. "I guess they have the right idea, Ishika", she said. Ishika copied her friend and smiled. "Yes, they do!" she said, pulling out a bar of squishy chocolate from her pocket to share with Chutki.