It happened a long, long time ago, he began. So long ago that there were no schools and no teachers. Children lived in caves with their parents and helped them to collect fruit and berries from the forest. At that time, there were no tigers or panthers or elephants in Pambupatti forest. There were only reptiles, many kinds of reptiles. Now you know what reptiles are. Snakes, crocodiles, turtles, lizards. And you know that a reptile has scales on its body and it lays eggs. Every month, the reptiles of Pambupatti had a big meeting. Everyone came — the pretty excited snakes, the slow thoughtful tortoises, the clever quick lizards, and the moody crocodiles, grumpy because they were out of water. The president of these meetings was Makara, the biggest crocodile of the forest. All the animals thought he was very important. When someone is strong and powerful, you know, it is difficult not to go along with what he says or does.
Now, one day, a strange thing happened. It was a week before one of the monthly meetings. Makara sent a letter to the tortoises, asking them not to come to the meeting. Ahistay, the big old star tortoise with black and yellow pictures on his shell, was very angry.
“What does this mean?” he shouted. “How dare they!” But not one of the tortoises had the courage to attend the meeting—they were so few, the others so many!
The old man started narrating an age-old story that had happened a long time back when people lived in caves. Children used to help their parents to collect fruits and berries. There were only reptiles like snakes, crocodiles, turtles, etc.., that occupied the forest because there were no tigers or panthers, or elephants during that time in Pambhupatti.
Reptiles in the forest
Every month the reptiles conduct a meeting, being conducted by a large crocodile, Makara, to whom every fellow animal was obeying. Makara is a very powerful animal who was feared by the rest of the reptiles. The author emphasizes here, the effect of a powerful position as, if someone is in a powerful position, it's not possible for anyone to go against their decision.
One day, an unexpected thing happened, as the leader of this reptile group, the powerful Makara, sent a message to the tortoise group, ordering them to stay away from the meeting. On looking at this message, the big Old tortoise of that group became very angry.
The angry tortoise
He even shouted. Still, it was of no use. Even though the tortoises were angry and frustrated, they were compelled to obey the instruction. They were not given any other option. After all, their category seems to be a minority compared with the other animals.
Meanings of difficult words:
Animals that have cold-blood, skin covered in scales and lay eggs
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.