‘Our forests were much different than the ones around Vanarapuri,’ Fathi took a swig of fresh tender coconut water and continued, ‘The trees were not as densely packed as here, and the climate was much hotter as well.’
They were sat in the study of Mr. Angad’s tree house on Marmoset Street. Fathi was sitting on the floor with a big picture album opened in front of her. Around her were Nila, Suri, Tommi, Eki, Sammy, and Unni. They were listening in rapt attention to the stories Fathi was saying about her homeland. Tara was perusing the old table in the study grading the exam papers, but she was listening to Fathi’s words. Even Mr. Angad who had come home just then and was relaxing had his ears tuned to the kids even though his eyes were shut.
‘Did you have tree races?’ Suri wanted to know. He was still smarting from the tree race he lost on his birthday. Though he was spending a lot of time indoors these days, usually with his Game-Monkey handheld, he did swing from the trees outside his home occasionally.
‘Not much, Suri.’ Fathi said with regret in her voice. ‘As I told you, the trees were not that dense over there, so it was not possible to have tree races. It was difficult to leap between the trees for common monkeys. Only the athletically gifted could do it. Even though they were the best of the best, they still had the occasional mishap and injuries. Once, my classmate tried leaping from a tree to the next, but fell down and broke his nose.’
‘What a Goobaloo!’ Suri exclaimed and the other monkeys sniggered.
Fathi looked confused, ‘What is a Goobaloo?’
Tommy piped up, ‘Goobaloos are monkeys who cannot jump between trees.’ He winked and added, ‘like Unni and Sammy.’
‘Oi! I’m not a goobaloo. You take it back.’ Sammy was irritated.
‘Yes, Tommy! That was most unkind of you to say. Don’t be a goobaloo, ok?’ Unni joined in.
‘I’m not a goobaloo! You are,’ Tommy said and folded his hands.
Fathi scratched her head, ‘Does this word have a meaning?’
‘Yes,’ Suri declared solemnly. ‘Goobaloos are silly monkeys who are being very silly.’
‘Fathi, I can understand your confusion.’ It was Mr. Angad who had decided to join in, ‘Have you ever felt like insulting anyone?’
‘Honestly? Many-a-time, Mr. Angad.’
Angad came over and sat next to them, ‘In those situations, what words did you use?’
Fathi looked down, ‘I’m ashamed to say, Mr. Angad.’
‘No need to repeat those words, Fathi.’ Mr. Angad continued kindly, ‘But you did hurl some hurtful words at someone, right?’
‘Yes, but all those times I was provoked Mr. Angad. I never hurl abuses at anyone just for the sake of it.’
‘I’m not judging you, Fathi. But have you ever thought the impact of hurtful words on a person?’
‘Every time, Mr. Angad!’ Fathi said, ‘I’ve never felt proud of insulting other monkeys. But sometimes, it just has to be done.’
‘I understand! Now, why do we insult someone else? Is it because we feel angry at them or is it because that they have said something that has hurt us? In either case, will we feel better just by doing the same thing that hurt us in the first place?’
‘No!’ All the little monkeys chorused.
‘No! we will not feel better. In fact, instead of one monkey feeling bad there will be two of you doing so. But we will feel better if that feeling of hurt goes away from us. Now, imagine this. Someone has just insulted you, but instead of you hurling an insult back what if you just say some random word which doesn’t have any meaning?’
‘They won’t understand!’
‘Precisely! They wouldn’t and that will confuse them. Then they will realise that you have defeated their biting words with a completely silly one.’
‘And that word is Goobaloo?’
‘Yes! Goobaloo is just a placeholder for any ill feeling or words that are bubbling to get out of you. When you know the meaning of a bad word and still you utter it, its negative energy surrounds you. Instead of that, just use a word which might have no meaning at all. The anger and irritation will go away from you because you have responded to the insult, but you will laugh about it and not feel bad.’
‘But won’t people start considering goobaloo as a bad word itself?’
‘Ah! That’s were lies the magic of goobaloo. You can use it in any situation, be it good or bad. That’s what I did with these little monkeys here. Now, they use the word to avoid saying something, anything unpleasant. Don’t you think it’s a good thing?’
Fathi smiled, ‘Definitely!’
Mr. Angad smiled back at her, ‘Now! Who’s a goobaloo here?’
‘Not me!’ cried all the little monkeys.