“It’s so boring,” Haula, the Hippo declared, trying to unsuccessfully suppress a yawn. Hamza the hare looked at Hippo’s gaping mouth fascinated. He had always been quite sure that his entire family could walk through the opening at one go and his entire clan could find refuge in the huge stomach in case of a calamity like Tsunami.
“You are right, Haula,” added Lamburam the giraffe. “There is nothing to do in the jungle.”
“Why don’t we play a game?” suggested Chilka, the parrot, who had just gone on a two week trip to the city to meet his twin, Pilka.
“What is a game? Is it something to eat,” Hanu, the Hathi and the king of the jungle asked. Hathi ate more than all the grass eaters put together and yet remained perpetually hungry.
Hamza, who had a terrific imagination, was sure there were a half a dozen monsters in Hanu’s belly. These creatures gobbled up everything, unknown to Hanu who was a rather simple creature.
“A game is a kind of sport which human beings usually play for fun. Now Hanu Maharaj, before you ask what a sport is let me explain.” Chilka went on to explain how various sports like cricket, football, hockey, table tennis etc were played.
He then looked around. “So did you understand what I mean by games and how these are played?”
Every one kept quiet. Hanu lifted his trunk and kept staring at its tip, Haula started searching for flies to beat up with his little tail, Lamburam tried to search for non-existent shoots and Hamza twitched his nose as if trying to sniff out the answer.
Chilka shook his head in exasperation and declared, “Okay guys let me tell you about a game which is simple and we can all play.”
The animals all nodded vigorously, Lamburam with such enthusiasm that Hamza was scared his neck would snap.
“What is this game called?” asked Haula.
“Tug of war.”
“But we are peace loving creatures. Why should we fight wars,” Hanu declared.
“No, no Maharaj, it is not the kind of war you have in mind. Here the players are divided into two teams and made to stand in a straight line. In the case of humans they hold a rope and pull it from opposite sides. The team which is stronger pulls the other team to its side, thus winning the game.”
“But how do we hold a rope?” asked Haula.
“We don’t, instead we will hold the tails and pull.”
“What will the animal in front hold?” asked Hamza.
“A brilliant question Hamza. The teams will be led by two elephants. Hanuji can lead one team comprising all male animals while Mrs. Hanu can lead the other team comprising all lady animals.”
“That will be fun,” declared Lamburam who was fond of a female giraffe called Lambini. ‘It would be a perfect way to impress Lambini,” he thought.
“So what do you think of the idea?” Chilka asked looking around and finally resting his gaze on Hanu.
The elephant thought for some time and replying, “Let me consult Honey first,” he lumbered away.
Hanu did not take a single decision without first checking with Mrs. Honey Hanu who was widely regarded as a brave and intelligent elephant.
An hour later a declaration was made by the king: “The First Jungle Tug of War Contest would be held on the coming full moon.”
Preparations started in real earnest. The teams had been formed and practice sessions started under the guidance of Chilka and Pilka who had been specially called from the town for the purpose.
Finally the day of the contest dawned and the teams lined up. The birds played cheerleaders and commentators – an art taught to them by Pilka who was an expert.
Hanu and Honey locked their trunks. Hanu’s tail was held by Cheetu, the Cheeta while Honey’s tail was grasped by Bijliee, the leopard and so on. Hanu’s team’s last person was Haula while Honey’s squad’s final player was Ruhi, the Rhino.
Chilka whistled and the most unique Tug of War on Planet Earth started. A line was drawn right in the middle and the team which succeeded in pulling its opponent past that line would win. Each side, egged on by the cheerleaders pulled, puffed and panted. Sometimes Hanu’s team would succeed in pulling Honey’s team a few steps towards it and at other times the opposite would happen. But no team managed to make its adversary cross the line. The contest went on for two days and two nights. The animal babies started howling, the contestants themselves were ready to collapse with thirst and huger, the cheerleaders had stopped cheering and the commentators had retired but no side was willing to give up.
Finally Honey asked Hanu a question: “Hanu dear, in your madness to win over me have you forgotten what day is it?”
Hanu who always believed that an elephant can remember more than any other creature thought very hard.
Finally he almost shouted in triumph, “It is our silver jubilee anniversary. 25 years ago we tied our trunks in this very jungle. Of course I remember.”
“So what are you going to give me on this special occasion?”
“Anything you ask for, dear,” Hanu gallantly replied.
“Anything! You promise?”
“Y..yes,” Hanu answered, this time a bit guardedly.
“Then allow me to win this contest.”
“What! How can I?”
“But that’s unfair!”
“All is fair in love and war, dear. And this is both love and war,” Honey replied. She had spent some time in a circus and had picked up quite a little bit from her human master and mistress.
Hanu slackened his grip and bit and Honey pulled with all her might.
Honey and his team tumbled forward and crossed the dividing line.”
“Mrs. Honey and her team are the winners. They have triumphed over Mr. Hanu and his squad,” shouted Pilka.
The ladies did a victory dance while the gents sat in a line their tails limp and their heads hanging down.
“Hey come on guys, don’t look so gloomy. It is our silver jubilee anniversary and I have decided to throw a grand party. We girls are going to organize a super feast for you in a jiffy,” declared Honey and Hanu’s eyes lit up. He raised his head and trumpeted and started doing a little jig. The other animals too got up and joined their king.
Later after the feast Hanu asked Honey, “What about my anniversary gift, Honey dear?”
“At the next ‘Tug of War’ contest I’ll allow you to win,” she declared.