“But...” said one little lizard.
“No BUTS!” shouted Makara. There was silence.
“I think ...” said a baby crocodile.
“No I THINKS!” screamed Makara, so loudly that the fruit in the tree above him rained down. After that, no one had the courage to speak.
Makara cleared his throat and showed a few more teeth.“Well,” he said, “I will tell you why we don’t like the tortoises. They are so slow! So stupid! They even carry their houses on their backs. Whoever heard of such a stupid thing? Now you lizards, you live in trees. Would you ever carry a TREE on your back? Would you?”
Small, frightened voices answered together, “No, we wouldn’t. But...”
“No BUTS! Now, listen. I have told the tortoises that they will have to move out of Pambupatti. When they go, we will have more of everything. More food, more water, more space. I want them out by tomorrow. But because they are such slowcoaches, I have given them one week. By next Tuesday we won’t have a single tortoise left in this jungle!”
And by the following Tuesday, they were all gone. At first the animals were sad, but then they realised that what Makara had said was true. There was more food, more water, and more space for them! But soon, a strange smell began to fill the forest. It was the smell of rot — rotting fruit on the ground, rotting animals in the river. This was what the tortoises used to eat. And even Makara had to go about holding his nose with his big claws.
Hardly two living beings opened its mouth to express their protest. It was a lizard and a baby crocodile. The moment they opened their mouth, Makara stopped them arrogantly in a harsh voice saying "No BUTS, No I THINKS!" which even made the fruits fell from the tree. With this terrible reply, the animals lost their courage to object to Makara. So, though felt uncomfortable, the animals were not given any chance to express protest, as, the powerful leader Makara, were almost threatening them with its loud voice.
The angry Makara
Makara itself took the decision on its own, claiming it to be a decision of the whole group considering that tortoises are slow and stupid ones and carry their home at their back. It asked the lizards whether they carried the trees they live on, upon their backs the way the tortoises carried their shells, which is not the case. So, on behalf of the reptile group, Makara had taken the decision of expelling them (tortoises) away from the forest. It pointed out an advantage as well, as, in this way, the other animals would enjoy more food, water, etc. The tortoises were given a week's time to vacate the place since they are slow-moving animals. So, the tortoises left after a week.
Tortoises left the Jungle
Initially, the animals felt happy and thought Makara's decision was right, for, they had more water and food. Though the animals had more water and food, soon they felt the need for the tortoises in the forest, for, the unbearable smell from the rotten fruit and dead animal bodies inside the river engulfed the forest.
Meanings of difficult words:
To surround or cover something
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2006). What Happened to the Reptiles - Zai Whitaker (pp. 33-42). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.