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A Tamil Story by Angela Walker
“Come outside and play,” said Manish the monkey tugging on Manav’s tail. “It’s boring watching you on the internet all day long.”
“Go away,” said Manav as he carried on typing. “I’m chatting online. You can play outside if you want to”.
Manish peered over his older brother’s shoulder. “You know you’re not supposed to be in these internet cafes. Mum will go mad if she catches you!”
“Only if you tell her,” retorted Manav. “Go away and play your stupid games.”
Manish scampered away with his tail between his legs and his head hanging. He hated it when Manav was mean to him. It was horrid being the littlest brother. He wanted Manav to notice him. Manish ran out of the internet cafe and along the street. He ran past the food seller serving up hot spicy curry. He ran past the stalls of women in the market selling brightly patterned cloth. He ran past the men working at the garage fixing the cars and mopeds. He ran past the furniture shops selling hand-made wooden beds and tables and chairs. Manish ran and ran and ran to his favourite place, a small grove of trees on the outskirts of the town. This was where the rainforest began. Manish climbed and climbed and climbed to the top of his favourite Jackfruit tree. From the highest branch of the tallest tree Manish could see for miles. He could see across the town, where people were going about their business. People driving, people walking, people working, children flying their kites and playing outside. Manish could see across the fields, he could see across the forest, where the brightly coloured birds were nesting. Deep inside the rainforest Manish could see the tigers roaming. They loved to bask in the warm early evening sun. The cubs were chasing each other whilst their mother looked on, keeping a watchful eye. Manish climbed down and down and down from the top of his favourite tree. Then he ran and ran and ran deep into the rainforest.
After school the next day Manish waited for Manav outside the school gates. “I’m going to play football. Are you coming?”
“Not now Manish, I have things to do” said Manav and he hurried off to the internet cafe.
Manav loved the internet. There was so much information there. You could find out anything you wanted. You could find out how far away the moon is. You could find out how deep the oceans are. You could chat to your friends online. He knew his mother was worried about him visiting internet chatrooms but he liked to chat to new people there. He couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Manav logged in to his favourite website, Monkey Mania.
Ping! A bright blue box popped up. He had a message! “Hello!” it said.
“Hello!” Manav typed back. “I’m Manav. What’s your name?”
“My name is Aabha” said the message. A picture appeared. Aabha was beautiful. She was smiling and she looked like so much fun. Manav and Aabha chatted online for ages. Aabha said they were the same age. They chatted about what they were doing at school. They chatted about sport. They chatted about television. Manav was so happy. “Would you like to meet up?” asked Aabha. Manav was so excited about making a new friend. “I would love to!” he said. And so they arranged to meet the very next day after school.
Friday’s maths lesson seemed to take forever. Manav was looking at his watch. He couldn’t wait for school to finish. He had arranged to meet Aabha. Finally the school bell rang and Manav grabbed his bag and ran. As he reached the school gate he saw Manish. “Manav!” shouted Manish. “No time!” said Manav and he ran past the school gates. Manav ran down the street. He ran past the food seller serving up hot spicy curry. He ran past the stalls of women in the market selling brightly patterned cloth. He ran past the men working at the garage fixing the cars and mopeds. He ran past the furniture shops selling hand-made wooden beds and tables and chairs.
Manav ran and ran and ran until he reached the edge of the rain forest. He paused for a moment. He had never been further than this on his own. Then he carried on running. The forest grew thicker. The forest grew darker. Manav was not sure where he was going. All he knew was that he going to meet Aabha. After what seemed like forever Manav found a clearing in the wood, just like the one Aabha had described. Manav sat himself down on a rock to wait. The sounds of the forest were all around him. He could hear the mynah birds singing, calling out to each other and he could hear the crickets chirruping. But he could also hear something else. It was some kind of rustling.
“Aabha,” he called out. “Is that you?” There was no reply.
“Hello?” he shouted, looking around. There it was again. This time it was louder.
“Hello!” he cried out. “Who is it?”
Manav was starting to panic now. The noise was growing louder still. Now he could hear something that sounded like a low growling. It seemed to surround him. It seemed to be getting louder. Rustling and growling. Growling and rustling.
“Aabha, Aabha where are you?” Manav asked. He was beginning to wish he had never come here. He was beginning to wish he was playing football with his brother, or at home with his mum.
Suddenly there was a sound louder than Manav had ever heard before. A loud, loud roar. Suddenly, there, right before him was a tiger. Manav turned to run – but there was another one, and another one. A whole pack of tigers surrounded him. They stood in a circle around him.
“Who are you?” cried out Manav. “What do you want?” The tigers began to close in on Manav. He looked around, this way and that, searching for an escape route but there was none. Manav whimpered and huddled into the rock. The tigers prowled around him hungrily. Then, one stepped forward and leant forward
“Manav.” The tiger said in a low voice. “Why are you here?”
Manav looked up.
“Are you looking for Aabha?” The tiger asked.
“What have you done with her?” Manish whimpered.
“Manav,” the tiger said gently. “I am Aabha.”
“But…we were chatting online!” said Manav, looking confused. “She sent me her picture” he said pulling out a picture of the young, smiling money.
“And what made you believe that this was Aabha?” the tiger asked.
“I…I don’t know. She told me so much about herself and we arranged to meet here” Manav said.
“Manav, you are young and naïve. You must understand that you cannot believe everything you see on the internet. You cannot trust everybody you meet online. Some people may wish to harm you” and with that the tiger let out a fearsome roar which echoed through the rainforest.
The roar was so loud it could be heard by the food seller serving up hot spicy curry. It could be heard by the women in the market selling brightly patterned cloth. It could be heard by the men working at the garage fixing the cars and mopeds. It could be heard by people at the furniture shops selling hand-made wooden beds and tables and chairs. It could be heard by Manish and Manav’s mother who was at home making their dinner.
The tiger raised up a huge paw and Manav cringed and closed his eyes. The tiger rested his paw on the young monkey’s shoulder. “Manav,” the tiger said, her eyes full of wisdom and kindness “Go home to you family and friends. Warn people to beware – that online you cannot always be sure who you are speaking to.”
Manav opened his eyes and as he did so he saw the tiger pack part. He could see a small figure running between them. It was his brother!
“Manish!” he said embracing him. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m sorry Manav,” said the littlest brother. “I wanted you to see what a risk you were taking and so I asked the tigers to help teach you a lesson.”
“Come on,” said Manav “Let’s go home for dinner. And then we can go outside and play.” With that the two brothers scampered out of the clearing and headed for home.
A Tamil Story by Angela Walker
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