There was pin drop silence in the foyer of Std. 1 of ‘The City Hall School’. Ms. Ami switched off the projector and looked at the two hundred odd faces of all the children of the sections of Std. 1. Their expressions strengthened her conviction once more that Education should not be imparting more and more information on all subjects, it should be increasing their knowledge by presenting information and initiating their thinking process.
Ms Ami loved children and was passionate about teaching. She always looked out for ways to make the children think for themselves. The facts also were given to them, for them to understand and test them out or accept them in a logical manner. She was their EVS teacher and the children loved her class for it was extremely interactive. Like many others, Ms Ami was anguished about the raging fire in the Amazon rainforests. She was wanting to talk about it, to the children, so as to they can have a comprehensive understanding about the same. It was a complicated topic for the children to understand for it covered many natural as well as man made events that the little minds may not be big enough to receive. Then she came across a short film showing a true story, somewhere, and she immediately knew what was to be done.
Ms Ami had just shown the film. It was named, “The Homeless.” It started off with a tribal boy around eleven years of age, named Bambra, sitting on a tree with a monkey like creature. It was a primate but no one had ever seen one like it before. The boy, with a bark like covering around his waste, had a completely lost look on his face. His eyes were pools of emotions that had a mix of fear, distress, agony combined with utter helplessness. He held the primate tightly to his bosom and his eyes were directed towards the Amazon forest, which was on fire.
It had been already more than two weeks that the huge, once magnificient rain forest of Amazon was burning. The extensive fire had not been able to be controlled so far and it kept on raging and raging, mercilessly. Many tribals inhabiting them, who had never come out of their area, were being forced to come towards the outskirts of the forest. Millions of indigenous plants, trees and animals were burnt, killed. They just did not know what was happening. Bambra lived with his tribe, Mura, in that forest. It was home to other tribes as well and they all lived in perfect harmony with Mother Nature. One day, people of their tribe started talking of a fire, somewhere far into the forest. They all ignored it, thinking that it will get extinguished soon, like the other bush fires did, but the wise old men of the Mura tribe, were worried. They did not quite like the colour of the sky, painted orange red that could be seen from far. The colour seemed ominious to them. But they could do nothing about it. Sooner than they had expected, their fear materialised. They could see the angry, adamant flames coming nearer and nearer. They were terrified. More than terrified they were devastated at the trees and vegetation along with the animals and insects being killed. They all were worshippers of Life. They could not bear the unbelievable destruction around and they clung to the existing trees and howled in pain.
Bambra, dumbstruck, had been observing all the misfortune around. One day, thinking of exploring some solution, he wandered far away from his own place. Suddenly he could feel the tremendous heat, almost engulfing him. There was smoke everywhere. He ran to get back home, when something fell on him. It was a baby saddle back monkey. Bambra knew him well. They were sort of friends and would play around on trees. Bambra had named him, Keeta, the naughty one, in his language. Keeta had jumped on Bambra and was shivering in fright. Bambra held him tight and tried to soothe him down when his eyes fell on the clump of huge trees, on fire and the way towards the inside of the forest, all aflame. Bambra had to run to save himself and Keeta. Holding Keeta tight, he ran as fast as his legs could take him and he almost came out of the forest. He then climbed atop a big tree near the road and strained his eyes as much as he could to find his people in the forest. His eyes could see nothing but the angry orange, red flames engulfing the forest as far as he could see.
Mike was returning home after thirty six hours of work. He was a fire fighter and was among the many who had been doing their best to extinguish the raging fire, though unsuccessfully. Being in that heat for thirty six hours, had totally exhausted Mike and he was returning home to take a few hours break. He had never seen such extensive fire and such magnitude of destruction before. Vast areas of burnt trees and vegetation, innumerable animals charred to death, tribals fleeing for life, the experience was too harrowing to bear. He suddenly stopped his car at the side of the road and putting his head on the steering wheel, broke down to wails. He did not know how long he cried then spent completely, he wiped his face and suddenly something caught his eyes. He saw Bambra from the back, crouching on the tree. He could see the saddle monkey clinging to the boy. He could make out the boy to be a tribal but he had no idea what creature was the primate. He had never seen or heard of the species before. Curious, he got out of the car and went near the tree. Hearing the car door, both the boy as well as the monkey looked down at Mike, with eyes filled with fear. Mike smiled at them and signalled to come down the tree. Both of them climbed up to the highest branch and looked down. Smilingly Mike signalled at them again. He knew they would not understand each other’s language. Using sign language, Mike tried to assure them of being safe with him and after some persuasion, taking long strides Bambra with Keeta came down. Mike gently held his arm and took him to his car and seating them inside, drove down home.
Mike lived with his wife Maria and a seven year old son, George. George saw Bambra and Keeta getting out of the car and ran to meet his father to know about the visitors. Mike gave him a hug and ushered everybody into the house. He helped Bambra to sit comfortably on the sofa with Keeta still clinging to him. It seemed like both Bambra and Keeta were holding out to each other, in this alien world. Mike briefed Maria and George about the two. Both were filled with sorrow.
“ Dad, how will they ever be able to return to their home? Its all burnt, isn’t it? How will they be re-united with their families? No one knows whether they are even alive?” Little George was livid with concern. “ Dad, what will happen to these two now? Can they live with us in our home please?”Suddenly the idea sparked through George’s mind. Maria too seemed liking the suggestion. Mike was relieved. He announced that the two new visitors would now live with them as a part of their family.
“ There would be problems in communication. We do not understand each other’s language so sign language will have to be used. We do not know much about them too, their habits etc. but most importantly we will need to give them that assurance that we care for them. They are right now, scared to their very bones and understandably so. We will need to be very patient with them.”
“ Dad, can they stay in my room please?” pleaded an excited George.
“ O.k. George, they are now your friends so take them with you and look after them.” Mike ruffled his son’s hair, affectionately and then went to Bambra and did the same. He patted Keeta on his cheeks. George got up and gently offered the sandwiches that Maria had got for every one. Seeing Bambra’s hesitation, he took one himself and took a bite. Then he gave one each in both Banbra’s and Keeta’s hands. Keeta took a bite and looked at George. He threw it down but within minutes he picked it up again and ate up the whole thing. Hunger was too overpowering than taste. Bambra though, could not eat it. The taste was so alien to him that as much as he was starving, he could not bring himself to eat it. Maria then got up and brought the fruit basket and kept it in front of them. Now the duo pounced upon the fruits and gobbled them up in no time. They kept littering the floor by throwing the peels down and after a while the whole place was some sight to see. George then bent down on the floor and picked up everything and put them in the bin. To everyone’s surprise, Bambra got up slowly and picked up a banana peel from a corner and put it in the bin too.
Bambra and Keeta shared George’s room. It was so unbelievable to George to see how different they were. They could not sleep on the bed inside the room; they settled themselves on the floor of the balcony outside the room. Mike explained that probably Bambra and Keeta found it too restrictive to live inside a room; they were used to the openness under the sky. Time is the biggest teacher and gradually both the boy and the primate started adapting to their new surroundings.
One day, George asked Mike that why did such a disaster take place? Why did the Amazon Rain Forests catch fire? That was not an easy question to answer. It was the imbalance between the Human progress and Greed. How man’s mindless intrusion into the realm of Nature, the very source of it’s being, had created such a chaos in the world. Why were innocent lives being destroyed and why were they made to pay the price for greed and apathy in man, blindly marching on the path of progress? Mike was thinking, where should he begin? Deforesting? Encroaching of forest areas? Logging? Uncontrolled urbanisation? The list was endless and Mike sat with George and started off with the inter dependance of man and Nature. It was a Sunday and may be the whole day would easily go by in this talk, guessed Maria as she tossed a banana each to Bambra and Keeta, who were cuddled on the other side of Mike.
The film was over. Now the children were all abuzz with talks. Hearing their conversation, Miss Ami was smiling to herself. She had succeeded in setting the young thinking minds ablaze! That is the only hope for a better future, she thought.