Chakram was a happy-go-lucky donkey who lived in the Rumpum Jungle. In the brains department he was sadly lacking, even as donkeys go.
But on the scale of contentment he rated very high. He was a happy, carefree sort of fellow who wanted nothing but tender grass to chew on and the shade of a leafy tree under which to laze. And since Rumpum had plenty of both, Chakram was as close to nirvana or salvation as any donkey can get.
Chakram looked like an ordinary donkey and also behaved like one. But there were two qualities that made him different. For one, he could run very fast. In fact, if ever Jungle Olympics were to be conducted, he would probably bag the gold medal for hundred metres.
The second quality was his voice. Donkeys are normally considered quite unmelodious. Well, Chakram’s braying was downright cacophonous. Fortunately, he rarely felt the urge to bray. So the animals and birds of Rumpumn were spared the torture of listening to him.
One day Chakram was in a rather adventurous mood. He decided to explore the farthest corner of the Jungle where, it was rumoured, the tenderest grass grew. He started on his expedition early in the morning.
By lunchtime he reached the spot beside a small pond. His friend Sunehri the deer had recommended it to him. As he bent his head down to sample the soft green grass he noticed a movement from the corner of his eyes.
Chakram looked up and stood as if turned to stone. All thoughts flew from his mind. All he could do was just stand and stare. Standing in front of him was the most beautiful donkey in the world – tall, graceful and stately. He had never seen a creature more lovely than her.
He fell instantly and completely in love. Even before Chakram realised what he was doing, he found himself moving towards her. Gazing admiringly at the beautiful creature, and uttering words that he wasn’t even aware he knew, he said, “O! Beautiful one! Just one look and I have fallen madly in love with you. Will you be my wife?”
Startled at the sudden declaration of love from a complete stranger, the donkey, whose name was Nandini, jumped back a few steps. She then coolly looked him over and said, “Who has given you the right to come charging with declarations of love? Do you think you own the jungle?” she asked, her eyes blazing.
Any other creature with an ounce of sense would have beaten a hasty retreat. But Chakram being Chakram continued standing, looking at her like a puppy staring at a juicy piece of bone. Finally he mumbled, “I am Chakram and I want you to be my wife.”
“Don’t be silly,” replied Nandini. “I have had proposals from many donkeys who were handsome, brave, smart and talented. But I refused. I want to marry someone special?”
“But I am special,” insisted Chakram.
“In what way. You only look ‘specially’ stupid to me.”
“I can run very fast.”
“I am not impressed.”
“Then what will impress you? I’ll do anything to make you my wife, O! lovely one!,” Chakram pleaded.
Nandini wanted to get rid of Chakram. She not only found him stupid but also quite irritating. She thought for a moment and said, “I’ll marry you if you become the king of the Jungle at least for a day.”
Chakram’s face fell. Rumpum was ruled by Zahreela the lion. A powerful and autocratic king, Zahreela ruled the Jungle with an iron hand. It was impossible to replace him even for a minute, let alone a day.
“B…..but that is impossible and you know it,” stammered Chakram.
Nandini shrugged her shapely shoulders, “Just a few moments ago you declared, “I’ll do anything to make you my wife O! lovely one!,” she said imitating him perfectly.
Chakram hung his head in defeat and trudged away.
For two days Chakram roamed around restlessly, racking his brains. Not being used to thinking, his brains started creaking under the strain. Finally he decided to approach Zahreela directly. He hoped against hope the mighty king would take pity on him and agree to his request.
When Chakram reached Zahreela’s cave, the king was sitting in front and feasting on a freshly killed antelope.
Zahreela was a huge lion, powerfully built with an impressive mane. He was the most powerful beast in the Jungle and even Haathi the elephant was scared of him.
Zahreela had only one problem – he suffered from headaches. Once when he was a cub he had tried climbing up the tail of Haathi’s grandpa, Bade Mian. Irritated, Bade Mian had picked him up with his trunk and hurled him to the ground.
Since that day he suffered from occasional headaches that were set off by any loud, unpleasant sound. But this was a secret not many animals knew.
Chakram cleared his throat. “Pranam, O! mighty king.”
This wasn’t the ideal time for a chat with Zahreela since he hated being disturbed in the middle of a meal.
“What is it you fool? Can’t you see I am eating?”
“Oh! Noble one. I have a small request,” Chakram began and in one single breath blurted out his unfinished love story.
By then Zahreela had finished eating. He got up and came lumbering towards Chakram.
“So you want to become the King of this Jungle for a day,” he asked softly.
“Yes, sir,” Chakram said, encouraged by his gentle tone.
“I’ll send you to a place where you’ll be the king for life. And that place is hell,” snarled the King and leaping forward landed a resounding kick on Chakram’s backside.
Chakram leapt in the air with a howl and took off, gathering all the speed he could with Zahreela hot in pursuit. Fortunately, Chakram’s ability to run fast came in handy and his life was saved.
Utterly desolate, he slumped under the shade of his favourite Peepal tree. He was shattered. All his dreams were shattered. Now he could never hope to marry Nandini. Feeling totally dejected he raised his head high in the air and started braying with all his might.
Soon there was a flutter of wings and someone screamed, “Stop! For heaven’s sake stop!”
Startled, Chakram looked up in ‘mid-bray’. It was his friend – Kaaki, the crow. Kaaki was very clever and Chakram respected him for that.
“What happened my friend? Why were you howling like that? asked Kaaki. I was half a mile away. I came rushing thinking that someone was getting murdered?”
Chakram told him the whole story.
Kaaki sat in deep thought for some time and finally declared, “I have got it. There is only one solution to your problem.” She landed on his back and whispered in his ear.
An hour later the king was taking an afternoon nap when he woke up with a start. There was a weird kind of sound that had pierced his eardrums. For a moment he thought there was an earthquake.
The next instant he was sure lightening had ripped through the Jungle. Finally he decided all the elephants had got drunk and were on a rampage.
When the sound blast hit him again he realised it wasn’t coming from somewhere deep in the jungle as he had imagined or hoped but right in front of his cave. As he looked up he saw Chakram raising his head and braying with all his power.
The sound hit Zahreela like the kick of a mule on his temple and he screamed in agony. His head started pounding. It was as if Haathi was dancing on it.
“Come on Chakram! Great job. Keep braying,” urged Kaaki, perched safely on a branch just above the spot where Chakram was giving his musical performance.
Chakram, who had paused to regain his breath, started again with renewed gusto.
Zahreela rushed towards him and Chakram took off, relying on his fast legs to keep him beyond Zahreela’s vicious jaws. After a couple of yards Zahreela stopped. He couldn’t even run. The more he ran the worse the pain got. He just slumped on the ground, his head between his paws.
Kaaki flew to where Chakram was standing and asked him for a repeat performance. Chakram happily obliged.
“Please, please. Stop. For heaven’s sake stop,” pleaded poor Zahreela now rolling on the ground in pain.
Kaaki flew back to the King. “If you want to stop Chakram from singing his heart out you will have to agree to a simple request.”
“Tell me quickly what is it? said Zahreela. “I’ll do anything to escape this agony.”
“You’ll have to make Chakram the king of our Jungle for a day.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll do that but for heaven’s sake stop that donkey from making this infernal sound.”
“He will never again bray in your presence. But you have to promise that you won’t go back on your word,” said Kaaki.
“I promise,” the King mumbled, massaging his aching head with his paws.
Two days later Chakram was declared the king of Rumpum for twenty four hours. The same evening the marriage of the beautiful Nandini and the devoted Chakram was solemnised. All the animals of the Jungle joined in the celebration. The chief guest of the ceremony was Zahreela. His wedding gift to the bride was a roll of cello tape.
Every time your husband feels the urge to sing, you can use this gift to tape his mouth. That is the only way to keep you from going mad,” the King declared and everyone roared with laughter.