By Suneet Paul
The two ants who were close friends, were taking a walk on the first-floor terrace of Sanjay’s house. It had been a tiring morning for them. The carefree and relaxed atmosphere was a welcome change. The brick paving of the terrace was rough and bumpy. They moved slowly, at a relaxed pace. Amri, the elder of the two, was upset about the early morning quarrel between her mother and father. Her mother had cried a lot, and her papa had left the house in a fit of anger. Tears rolled down her eyes as she recalled the morning scene.
She looked at Kaveri, her companion, as if asking her whether it was the same in her home. Kaveri was aware of the quarrel in Amri’s house. The whole neighbourhood had echoed with the shouts of Amri’s father.
To lighten up her friend’s mood, Kaveri spoke cheeringly, “Come on, Amri, let’s see what is happening on the other side of the terrace. It has been ages since I was there.” Amri gathered her gusto and replied, “Yes, that’s a nice thought. We can go to Bawa uncle’s colony also, and visit him. He is such a warm person.”
“Oh! I love him. I wish I marry a man like him,” Kaveri said coyly.
Amri laughed. “Yes, a man like him would be worth living with,” she immediately agreed with her friend.
Kaveri was concentrating on a white patch a foot away in the line of their path. The patch was quite a large one. Amri noticed it too. They slowed down their pace and approached it rather cautiously. Fully alert, they fearfully looked around. Nobody was in sight. It was a clear day with a steady wind blowing. A sudden blast of wind blew up the dust and mud on the brick floor and momentarily blinded them. When they gradually opened their eyes, lo and behold, the huge block of white was right in front of them! Kaveri shrieked out, and turning back, ran as fast as she could. Amri in contrast, stood her ground. Nervousness and tension had gripped her, but seeing the stillness of the white block, she felt encouraged to move a bit closer.
A layer of dust had engulfed the block. Amri slowly and steadily, stepped around it. A familiar odour was emanating from it. She stopped to sniff carefully. A slow realization dawned on her. Yes! It was the smell of bread. Hesitatingly, she dared herself to touch it. Yes, it was soft!
Amri somersaulted with joy at the grand discovery. This fantastic gift out of the blue, would provide nourishment for their entire colony. She somersaulted once more, with a loud yell expressing her happiness.
She immediately thought of Kaveri, and remembered her having run away. Amri shifted her gaze all around, but Kaveri had just vanished. A scare creeped in being all alone with such a large booty. “What if a human monster suddenly turned up?” This thought made her dash towards her colony, to spread the news, and have the loaf removed from there at once.
Amri’s colony was a large one. It was located a few feet away from a rain water outlet. Many a times the colony had got flooded during the monsoons. Life and property had been lost, but the residents did not abandon this place. Presumably, they had some very cherished attachments to this place. The entrance tunnel to the colony was narrow and dark. The whole space had been organised very well. Emphasis had always been on community-living. The place was full of life with something or the other always taking place.
When Amri neared the colony, she saw from a distance that a crowd had gathered outside her home. Someone spotted her and shouted, “Thank god, there she is.”
They all ran towards her, the lead being taken by her mother, who came and hugged her. “Oh my child! Praise be to God that you are safe,” she clutched her firmly.
Amri was totally baffled. “Why, mama, why shouldn’t I be safe?”
Her mama looked at her with a surprise. “What do you mean? Kaveri came and told us that you had been attacked by a white monster. We were terrified, and were planning as to how to tackle the monster.”
Amri remained quiet for a few minutes. The situation then became a bit clear, and she burst out laughing, “Kaveri is an idiot.”
All of them were surprised at her reaction and stopped short to listen to attentively. She continued with excitement in her voice, “Shall I tell you what that white monster is?”
There was a pause. “It is a loaf of bread,” she spoke jubilantly, “and we better hurry to collect it before it vanishes from there.”
A general cheer rose from the crowd. “Where is it? Lead the way. Let’s go at once,” someone burst out from the crowd.
The word spread around fast, and soon there was an army of ants marching towards the “white monster”. The pace of the procession was brisk, and they reached the spot in a brief time. A strategy was formulated for the transportation of the loaf.
It was just when all was set to start the grand operation that a loud shout was heard,
“Remain in your places! How dare you touch our property!”
All heads turned towards the direction from where the shout had come.
A strong force of thirty ants with solemn faces stood in a row. They seemed to be all set for a fight. Amri immediately recognised them. They were from Bawa uncle’s colony.
No one spoke for some time. The Headman of Amri’s colony then slowly came forward.
“This property was discovered by us. We have every right to it.” He had a stern expression on his face and his voice had been stern.
“What nonsense! It’s we who first came across it. One of us found it a few minutes before you came,” replied an elder from the opposite camp.
“We had information about it even earlier than you,” the headman retorted.
The elder was furious. “Whatever you say, we will not allow you to get away with it.” With a jerk of his hand, he gave a signal. “Come on, brothers, attack them. They are robbers.”
All the thirty of them rushed forward. There was total chaos. A fierce fight broke out. It was like a battlefield around the loaf of bread. In fact, fighting was going on even on its top also. Shrieks and shouts rang out in the air. Injured ants were gradually taking the place of the actively moving ones.
The Headman’s loud and cheerful voice was then heard by everybody. “Hurray! Three cheers! We have won!”
The crowd was jubilant. Orders were given to pick out the injured ones and plan for the task ahead.
And then, it happened swiftly and fast. A huge hand was spotted by everyone. In an instant, the familiar five fingers lifted the loaf from their grasp, leaving them standing helpless. Their tearful eyes slowly stared upwards. A chorus of moans was heard.
The Headman shook his head in dismay and sadness, “It was all in vain. The Human Monster has struck again.”