It was a warm and sunny day in Vanarapuri. Suri was gamboling on the branches outside. His mistimed leap during his birthday tree race had made him determined to improve his skill level. Suri’s friends Eki and Unni were swinging along with him, making quite a racket as only little monkeys could.
Eki, a macaque, was considerably larger than Suri and Unni who were tiny breeds of monkeys – a marmoset and uakari respectively. Eki used his size advantage to make several long leaps between the branches and generally made his friends gape in awe.
‘Not fair, Eki!’ Unni the uakari droned after Eki performed a particularly tricky leap across the breadth of Marmoset street and landed with grace on the branch of a banyan tree.
Eki grinned from across the street and did a little victory dance, ‘Baldy!’ He called out to the uakari who had hairy bodies and bald heads. ‘Your turn now. C’mon, you can do it.’
Unni shook his head, ‘No, I’m quite comfortable here. Thank you very much.’ He was a very polite monkey and never spoke a word in anger.
Suri bobbed his head, ‘Unni, let’s try. There’s no harm in trying.’
‘Suri, that’s a leap of nearly twelve feet. I don’t think we can ever do it. We are too tiny.’
Eki swung from the branches and used his tail to maneuver another big leap back towards his friends.
He clapped Unni on his back and said, ‘C’mon, Unni! Suri is right. There’s absolutely no harm in trying. Try once. Suri will jump as well. Don’t be a goobaloo!’
Suri jumped up and down with barely contained enthusiasm, ‘Yes, Unni! Don’t be a goobaloo. I will jump. In fact, I will jump farther than Eki.’
‘Haha! Is that so, tiny?’ Eki usually referred his close friends using nicknames. He was a funny and friendly little monkey.
‘Yes! I bet that I can jump farther than you. In fact, Unni can beat your leap as well.’
‘Oooh! A bet?’ The three monkeys turned around to see who the newcomer was. It was Eki’s older brother Tongu. Unni made a face, he didn’t like Tongu much. While Eki was funny, Tongu was mischievous and ill-tempered and often picked on younger monkeys.
Eki was not pleased with Tongu’s appearance was well. But he loved and respected his elder brother. ‘What are you doing here, Tongu?’
‘I was waiting for this bald midget’s brother near the bakery on Howler street.’ He put a had around Unni’s neck and dragged him closer to himself, ‘Surprise, surprise! The lazy fellow didn’t turn up. I was swinging back home when I saw you with these scaredymonkeys who are not ready to jump between trees.’
‘Hey!’ Suri piped up, ‘I’m ready to jump.’
Tongu let out a laugh that was loaded with derision, ‘Look at the tiny monkey daring to jump. Careful, marmoset! You miss your landing and you’ll become marmalade on top of the road.’
Unni was still struggling in Tonggu’s grip, ‘Could you please let me go?’
Tongu shooed Unni away and made a swooshing action with his right hand falling rapidly towards his left, ending in a loud clap, ‘Splat! That’s what will happen if you miss the jump.’
Suri was needled, ‘I will prove that I can not only jump farther than Eki, I can jump farther than you as well.’
Tongu clapped his hands with glee, ‘Good, good! I like a challenge, especially one from tiny monkeys who can’t jump. Now, what about a tiny little bet?’
Eki was getting troubled by the developments, ‘Tongu, why don’t you go home or anywhere else? We are going to Suri’s house to do homework now.’
He hoped his brother would leave but Suri piped up at that exact moment, ‘What bet?’
‘Hmm! Let’s see. When I win, I shall have your complete collection of Action Monkeys comics. Is that ok, or are you afraid of the bet?’
Suri nodded, ‘Alright! And if I win?’
‘You will leave these kids alone,’ It was Uly, Unni’s brother who spoke the words as he swung into view. ‘Tongu, don’t you think that the bet is not fair at all?’
Tongu sneered at his friend, ‘No one asked the tiny marmalade to accept. Now, fair’s fair. Let’s get on with the jump, shall we?’
Uly shook his head in the negative, ‘Not quite yet, ok? Let me talk to these young ones first.’
Tongu shrugged and said, ‘Talk all you want. I’m going ahead and making my jump. Uly, know this! If you manage to persuade these runts from jumping then it automatically means that they forfeit and I get my prize.’
He didn’t wait for an answer and instead ran across the length of the branch he was standing and made a phenomenal leap and landed on a branch way beyond the one Eki had landed before. For the first time since Tongu had arrived, Suri looked troubled. The thought of losing the bet and his beloved comic collection started to play on his mind and he shifted uncomfortably.
Uly grasped Suri’s shoulders gently and said, ‘Suri, was it absolutely necessary to accept such a risky bet?’ Not only does Tongu belong to a larger species of monkey, but he is older than you as well. Did you for one second think before making such a silly wager?’
‘No, Uly bubba!’ Bubba was the monkey language word for big brother. ‘Tongu annoyed me so much with his insults…’
‘So, you accept a completely unfair bet? Suri, whenever you are presented with a tricky situation and if your little brain desperately tells you to do something, pause for a second and ask the question ‘but’’
‘Yes, but! For example, let’s take today’s little conundrum. Before agreeing to the bet with Tongu, you should have asked the following questions to yourself. But, is this a fair wager? But, can I make the jump? But, if I lose the bet, would I be happy giving away my comic book collection? But, if I give away my comics, will my parents be happy? If the answer was ‘No’ to even one of the questions, you shouldn’t have accepted to the bet.’
‘Isn’t it a little bit too late for ‘buts’ now, Suri?’
A shout reached them from distance, ‘Oi! Are you going to jump or do you forfeit?’
It was Tongu. Uly nodded at his brother and his little friends, ‘Let’s go! Time to turn the tables on Tongu.’
Uly led them towards Tongu through a completely different route through the trees, pausing here and swinging there. The little ones followed him, they could hear Tongu’s rants and shrieks through the calm locale, but they didn’t respond. They knew that Uly was upto something. Few minutes later, the quartet led by Uly reached the tree on top of which Tongu was perched.
‘Yes, latecomers and scaredymonkeys! Ready to leap or ready to weep?’
Uly beckoned Tongu close by, ‘Tongu, you need to think this through. I think you’ve agreed to the bet a bit rashly.’
Tongu sneered, ‘Me? Ha! You must be joking, Uly. You did witness my jump, right? How can tiny Uakaris and Marmosets even come anywhere near my feats?’
Uly chuckled and said, ‘Tongu! Tongu! You should have paid attention in class. Do you remember what is the maximum leap distance of Macaques?’
‘Er, no! But it should be nearly fifteen feet, right? I think I have reached fifteen at least once.’
‘Right you are! Now, do you know how far us Uakaris can leap?’
‘Nope! Five feet, maybe?’
Uly hooted with laughter, ‘Were you sleeping when the teacher taught this subject? Uakaris can easily jump up to eighteen feet.’
Tongu looked stunned, ‘Really?’
‘Yup!’ Uly pressed on, ‘Now for the real kicker. Were you even aware that Marmosets can leap up to nearly twenty-five feet in a single jump?’
Tongu was flabbergasted, ‘What?’
‘Yup! Do you remember who holds the Vanarapuri record for the longest leap?’
Tongu scratched his head for a while and suddenly he remembered, ‘Oh no!’
‘Indeed, Tongu! Now, don’t you think that you’ve made a very rash bet?’
‘I guess! But tiny marmalade here doesn’t even know to swing properly. Few days ago, he lost a tree race held on his very own birthday. How can he beat my leap?’
Suri piped up, ‘Hey! Don’t say that…’
Uly immediately raised a finger to his lips and said, ‘But! Remember the question.’
Suri kept quiet after that. Uly considered Tongu for a while and said, ‘Fine, Tongu! Let’s declare you the winner, ok? Suri is too young to compete with a nearly full-grown macaque. But I hope you do realize that Suri can defeat you quite easily.’
‘Then let him prove it.’
Uly clicked his tongue in disappointment, ‘Tongu! You never seem to learn. How many times have I asked you to ask yourselves the question ‘but’ before jumping to your hotheaded decisions? Now, think! Ask yourselves if you can face the embarrassment of losing to little Suri here?’
Tongu looked perplexed. His ego was fighting a losing battle against his common sense. Luckily, for him and Suri, his common-sense prevailed.
‘Alright! I’ll let this one slide. Little runts, one day we will have to find out who is the best, ok?’
He swung away into the canopy of the trees. Uly shook his head and said, ‘Did you learn something?’
Suri, Eki, and Unni chorused, ‘Yes, Uly Bubba! We will always pause to question ourselves before taking any rash decisions.’
‘Not before taking rash decisions!’ Uly smiled, ‘Ask these questions to avoid taking those rash decisions, ok?’
They nodded their head. Suri was curious, ‘Uly bubba! Who has the record for the longest jump in Vanarapuri? Tongu gave up immediately after you raised that point.’
Uly chuckled and said, ‘Why, Suri! It is your dad, Mr. Angad, who holds that mighty record.’
He left the little monkeys staring in disbelief and went on his merry way.