One day, a group of monkeys in a banana grove decided to fast. “Fasting once in fifteen days is good for our health,” said a wise old monkey. All monkeys nodded their heads.
“Let’s fast tomorrow,” said their leader. All monkeys agreed.
Soon, the day of fasting arrived. All the monkeys closed their eyes and said a prayer. A little monkey opened a corner of his eye.
There on the trees were bananas! Ripe bananas!
The little fellow licked his lips.
“No eating today, Chotu. We are fasting,” said his mother giving him a stern look.
“I was wondering…” said Chotu.
“What were you thinking of?” asked the mother impatiently.
“I was thinking — to fast means not to eat, right?” said Chotu.
“Yes?” said the mother.
The whole troop was now alert.
“But we can hold a banana in our hand, can’t we?” asked Chotu.
“What did you say?” Mother glared at Chotu.
“No eating. Only holding the banana in our hand,” added Chotu hastily.
The troop gravely considered this suggestion.
“Is there any harm?” asked Chotu humbly.
Mother looked at the wise old monkey. “A good suggestion must be considered, even if it comes from someone younger to us,” said the wise old monkey with a serious look.
“I see merit in Chotu’s suggestion,” said the leader.
So, it was decided that there was no harm in holding a banana in their hands and looking at it.
“But no eating,” said the leader sternly, as each monkey picked up a banana. A yellow ripe banana.
Holding a banana in hand all the monkeys closed their eyes in meditation.
Then Chotu opened a corner of his eye again.
Banana! Yellow ripe banana! Banana in hand!
“No eating allowed, Chotu,” said the mother, who was keeping an eye on her son.
“I was just thinking, only thinking…” drawled Chotu.
All the monkeys were keen to hear what Chotu had in his mind.
“I was thinking, is there any harm in peeling off the banana?” asked Chotu hopefully. Noticing the look of disapproval, Chotu added hastily, “Mind you, not eating. Only peeling off the banana and looking at it.”
All the monkeys gave serious consideration to the suggestion from Chotu.
“I see no harm,” said the wise old monkey. In no time, the bananas were peeled off.
Holding the peeled off banana in their hands and with eyes closed, the monkeys sang songs in praise of the Lord.
Then Chotu opened a corner of his eyes again. Banana! Peeled banana in hand!
“No, Chotu, you can’t eat it,” the mother warned Chotu.
“I was just thinking, only thinking…” said Chotu.
All the monkeys were now alert. They were keen to know what new suggestion Chotu was about to give.
“I was thinking, is there any harm in keeping the banana in our mouth?” asked Chotu hopefully.
“Not eating,” assured Chotu, “Only keeping it in the mouth, instead of holding it in our hands.”
“Hmmm… By keeping the banana in the mouth, you are not breaking the fast for sure,” said the wise old monkey.
Without further discussion, all the monkeys popped the banana into their mouths.
It was Chotu again who blurted out, “Mumma…”
Mother monkey gave him a questioning look. She could not talk as she had the banana in her mouth.
“Mother, I think… I think…”
All the monkeys held their breath.
“I think banana is gone. It is in my tummy.”
All the monkeys gave Chotu an understanding look, running their hands on their tummies. There was silence. Then the wise old monkey spoke, “We have made a great discovery.” All monkeys looked at the wise old monkeys with great attention. The wise old monkey spoke slowly, weighing each word, “We have made a great discovery that you cannot keep a banana in the mouth for too long.”
All the monkeys nodded their heads gravely.
Story: Subba Rao | Illustration: Marina Pereira