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The Laughing Hyena
by Debashish Majumdar

Motu Lal was the saddest zoo-keeper in the entire world.

“ Oh papa,” Chotu asked of his dad one day,” Tell me, why are you so sad?”

“ Well son,” Motu replied with a heavy heart , “ For the last fifteen years or so I have been feeding bears, the monkeys, the lions and the rest of the animals.”

He placed his right hand on Chotu’s shoulder and then said: “ Visitors to the zoo come and admire the animals …while I do all the dirty work.”

Chotu pondered for a while. He scratched his head. Dad had always boasted proudly that his son was so intelligent that he never sent him to school.

“ Dad…I’ve got a great idea!” Chotu cheered up his dad, “ Next time when the press photographers come to snap the animals, we will pose in front of the cages. That way, we will become famous.”

So father and son posed in front of the monkey’s cage. One of the visitors tossed a banana and instantly clicked his camera. Chotu caught the fruit in midair. The cameraman howled at the zoo-keeper and his kid. The monkey was more annoyed with Motu Lal. He chewed the banana and spat the skin right into the zoo-keeper’s big, fat nose! The next day, Chotu discovered an empty cage.

“ Well son,” remarked Motu slowly, “ What about it?”

“ Why don’t we both occupy the cage during your off-hours?” suggested Chotu, “ Maybe if we can entertain the kids…we will draw enough attention and become popular!”

“ You are a genius, Chotu,” smiled Motu Lal.

Just as the duo were dreaming of fame, Mr. Jhutmoot the zoo superintendent smashed their plans.

“ A laughing hyena is arriving this evening,” he stroked his chin,” He will be the centre of all attention.”

Soon there were posters marking her arrival. All this made Motu the zoo-keeper very jealous.

The hyena arrived. Visitors flocked to see her.

Whenever the hyena would see the school children, she would roll over on her back, tickling her armpits with her hind legs and burst out: “ Ha…ha…ha…ha..!”

“ That silly hyena has drawn enough attention,” barked Motu, “ While I have been cleaning and feeding him.”

“ Dad!” sparkled Chotu mischievously,” Why don’t we put a full stop to her silly laughter?”

They decided to consult the zoo doctor Medicinewallah. 

“ How can we make the hyena stop laughing?” asked Motu grumpily.

“ As I see there’s nothing wrong with the hyena,” replied the learned doctor,

“ The problem lies squarely with you.”

“ Whenever I tell him my sad tales, the stupid hyena doubles up with laughter,” fumed Motu Lal, “ It makes me sadder still.”

“ Ah I see,” exclaimed the doctor, adjusting his specs,” I’ll provide you with laughing gas.”

He lowered the jars upon a wooden table and said: “ Inhale deeply twice a day. That will bring back laughter to your life.”

“ Why should we laugh?” asked Motu,” We have nothing to cheer about.”

“ Dad,” Chotu tucked at the zoo-keeper’s sleeve and whispered: “ Now with the laughing gas solution on our side, we can challenge the silly hyena at his own game.”

“ Oh Chotu…I am so proud of you,” Motu was impressed with his son’s intelligence, “ We can start our laugh riots right in front of the hyena’s cage.”

“ I have got a bright idea!” Chotu flicked his fingers,” Why don’t we inhale all the laughing gas at one go?”

“ That’s super!” agreed Motu,” Then we can outdo the hyena over the next few days and achieve instant fame.”

So Motu and his son inhaled the entire laughing gas. They arrived in front of the hyena’s cage. They began to tickle each other and rolled over on their backs, just like the hyena.

“ Ho! Ho! Ho!” Motu laughed his lungs out, “ Now we’ll show this silly hyena who laughs the loudest!”

Poor hyena was so shocked that she stopped her laughter. She stuck her head out of the cage and observed how the two dumb creatures imitated her.

“ I heard laughter can be infectious,” spoke an old lady, “ Yet I never can guess it can reach such proportions.”

She stared at the zoo-keeper and her son.

“ Hey…look! We are drawing attention,” smiled Motu, “ Hee, hee, hee!”

“ Dad,” recommended the boy,” Let us occupy the cage. That way everyone will flock to see us…Ha! Ha! Ha!”

So that night, they opened the cage door, let the hyena out and stepped inside. They laughed and laughed. The hyena sniffed freedom and regained her lost laughter once again. Motu locked the cage and dropped the key. The hyena took the key in her mouth and scampered off.

Next day the zoo superintendent arrived at the cage.

Motu nearly lost his job as a zoo-keeper. And Chotu? Well, he was promptly dispatched off to school!

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