Monu the mongoose crawled out of the ditch in the back garden. His mother was already out with his three little brothers. They had long bodies with short legs. They had bushy tails and tiny ears. And they had bright eyes, which shone like beads.
They did things fast. They were already good hunters like their mother. But Monu was not smart like his brothers. He didn’t like chasing mice and garden rats like they did. He didn’t even like to go for frogs and lizards. And he disliked snakes most of all! His brothers laughed at him. “Little coward!” they teased, “Poor frightened baby!”
Monu did not mind chasing grasshoppers. They were fun. It was also fun to climb up trees and peep into birds’ nests. Monu liked the taste of birds’ eggs. And he liked eating roots and berries. But his brothers said that it was a disgrace to be so ‘tame’. They fought with snakes and often killed them.
Monu’s brothers liked meat best. All of them had sharp blade-like teeth. It was very useful for tearing meat and cutting them up into pieces. They did it when they attacked rats, mice and frogs.
“Ma, why do you keep chasing rats and mice like a cat?” Monu asked one day. “I don’t,” said his mother firmly. “The cat attacks mice on the sly. WE don’t! We always attack creatures openly and directly. Why ask? All you ever do is suck eggs and eat berries. You should have been a bird and not a mongoose!” said Monu’s brothers.
Monu’s eyes filled with tears. He couldn’t help being different! He was sure there were other mongooses like him. Unfortunately, he didn’t know any!
“Don’t tease him,” said their mother. “He is very young yet. I’m sure he, too, will catch a snake some day and we’ll all be proud of him.”
“Monu catch a snake!” laughed the others, “He hasn’t even killed a teeny weeny mouse as yet!”
Monu’s brothers were agile. He often watched them play with snakes. They never got bitten by them. To them it was an exciting game. The hair on their body bristled whenever they were excited. And it made them look much larger than they actually were.
Monu was sure that the snakes got baffled by this. Then, just as the snake lowered its head to strike, one of his brothers would snap the back of the snake’s head, killing it. It was really clever.
The gardener did not chase the mongoose family. He left them alone. Monu once heard him telling his son that they were very useful because they killed rats, mice, snakes, insects and scorpions.
Monu liked the gardener’s son. He often gave him nuts and berries. And he called Monu his friend. Monu’s brothers did not like human beings. They teased Monu about his human friend.
One afternoon Monu was all alone in the garden. The gardener’s son was fast asleep under a tree. Monu suddenly saw a snake crawling near by. It looked like a cobra.
It was very close to the gardener’s son. Would it bite him? Monu jumped up and was on top of the snake like a streak of lightning. He snapped the back of its head just like he had seen his brothers do. Taken by surprise, the snake died on the spot. Monu looked as if he couldn’t believe his eyes.
Just then Monu’s mother rushed into the garden. “Monu, have you killed this cobra?” she cried excitedly, “I’m proud of you!”
“Hurrah for Monu,” cried his brothers, “You have beaten us all. None of us have killed a cobra yet!”
Monu smiled happily. He had made his mark at last. And he had saved his friend from being bitten.