All the animals of Champakvan were scared of at the speed with which the corona pandemic was spreading.
One morning, when Meeku mouse went to the market to buy some vegetables, he saw that everyone in the market was following social distancing while shopping and that they all wore masks.
Meeku always bought his vegetables from Blacky bear’s shop. He stood in the queue like everybody else. When it was his turn he handed over the list and his bag to Blacky and said, “Blacky, here is my list, please weigh the vegetables for me.”
“Right away,” said Blacky.
Blacky was weighing the vegetables when suddenly Meeku coughed.
Blacky stopped immediately and asked, “Meeku, you are coughing! Are you sure you’re not infected by coronavirus?”
“No, I am absolutely fine. Something just irritated my throat and so I coughed,” said Meeku, embarrassed as everyone was looking at him accusingly.
“How is that possible? I am sure it is coronavirus and you are hiding it. I cannot give you vegetables. You go to the hospital immediately and get yourself checked,” said Blacky, rudely.
Jumpy monkey and Damru donkey who were buying vegetables from the next shop moved away quickly. “Run, Meeku is infected by coronavirus. We will get infected too if we stay here,” Jumpy screamed.
“Yes, you are right. It is not safe to stay here,” shouted Damru, trotting away.
Soon, the entire market knew about Meeku coughing and all the shopkeepers started shutting their shops and ran.
Meeku was not able to understand what was happening around him. He tried to stop everybody. “Don’t run away from me, please stay,” he pleaded. “Could they be right, am I really infected?” he thought to himself. He became very upset and sat there and started to cry.
Dola deer was also visiting the market at the same time to buy vegetables. When she heard the noise and saw Jumpy, Damru and Blacky running away, she stopped them and asked, “Why are you all running? What is the problem?”
“Dola, Meeku is infected with coronavirus and if we stay here we will get infected too,” said Jumpy, out of breath.
“If you want to save yourselves you better run too,” Damru added.
Dola tried to calm them and asked, “First you all stop running and tell me who told you that Meeku has coronavirus?”
“I saw Meeku coughing,” said Blacky.
“Yes, we also saw him coughing,” Jumpy and Damru said in a chorus.
“Coughing does not necessarily mean that one is infected by coronavirus and treating Meeku like this based on your suspicion is not right after all he is also a member of our family,” Dola explained.
“Dola, we don’t know all that but we are very scared that we may get infected too,” said Jumpy fearfully.
Dola consoled him and said, “Don’t be scared, Jumpy. Only a doctor can say if Meeku is infected or not. Let us take him to the hospital.”
They all agreed with Dola and took Meeku to the hospital.
Doctor Jumbo elephant screened them all as they reached the hospital. He asked them to sit on the chairs placed at a distance and asked them, “What is it? Why do you all look so scared?”
“Doctor, Meeku has been infected with coronavirus. Please admit him in your hospital,” said Jumpy.
“But how do you know that he has been infected?” asked Doctor Jumbo.
“Meeku was coughing that’s how we know,” Jumpy replied.
Dola then explained the situation to Doctor Jumbo, “Actually Doctor, everybody doubts that Meeku was coughing because he is infected and that is why we have brought him here to know for sure.”
“You did the right thing by bringing him here. Let me check for his symptoms,” and Doctor Jumbo took Meeku inside for a check-up.
After taking a swab test and a full examination Doctor Jumbo came out and said, “The swab test report will take a few days to come. But I have physically examined Meeku and he is not infected by coronavirus. There is no need to hospitalise him.”
“Then why was he coughing? I have heard that Corona patients cough,” asked Blacky.
“Coughing alone does not mean that one is infected. High fever, breathlessness, headaches, diarrhoea, loss of taste and smell are some of the other symptoms of this disease. Meeku always uses a mask and he regularly sanitizes his hands. Also, he has not been in contact with any corona patients in the last few days. He does not have any symptoms,” said the doctor.
“Why was Meeku coughing then?” Damru wanted to know.
“Meeku drank cold water before leaving for the market as it was really hot and he had ice cream last night and that’s why he was coughing. I have given him medicines for his sore throat,” he explained.
Jumpy, Blacky and Damru were all embarrassed after finding out the truth from the doctor.
They all apologised to Meeku, “We accused you without any reason and took you to be a coronavirus patient. We ran away from you and treated you badly, please forgive us.”
Jumpy turned to Dola and said, “Had it not been for you we would have never got him to the hospital and known the truth.”
“Don’t be scared of coronavirus, just be alert. It can happen to anybody but a little precaution can prevent us from this disease. Wearing a mask while going out, washing our hands regularly, maintaining social distancing, covering our nose and mouth while coughing or sneezing are some of the things that can prevent us from this disease. Also, contact a doctor in a nearby hospital if you notice any symptoms. Most importantly, do not treat a coronavirus patient badly, try to help them instead,” advised Doctor Jumbo.
Meeku thanked doctor Jumbo and said, “I am thankful to you for giving us so much information about coronavirus. For a moment even I was scared but now I am no longer scared.” He also thanked Dola for her help.
Cheeku rabbit, Meeku mouse and Jumpy monkey were having lunch in their classroom.
“Wow Meeku! The kachoris you bought for lunch are tasty!” said Cheeku, munching on the piece.
“My mother cooked these. She packed enough for all of us,’’ said Meeku, delighted.
Just then Baddy fox passed that way. “What’s that aroma?” sniffed Baddy. He glanced in the direction of the trio. They quickly tried to hide their lunch boxes. But it was too late.
“Hey Meeku, don’t hide your lunch box. Kachoris are my favourite!” said the sly fox, quickly swooping into Meeku’s lunch box.
“Baddy! You cannot snatch someone’s lunch without asking first. It’s not good manners!” said Jumpy.
“Snatch?” mocked a shameless Baddy. “I would never use my strength against my dear friends.”
He dipped his paw into Meeku’s lunch box again for another helping of kachoris.
The three friends felt helpless and angry.
Baddy was a greedy fox. Often, he helped himself to the lunch of others. Yet, no one had the courage to utter a word to him.
Many of the students had complained about his behaviour to the school authorities. But he never tried to mend his ways. He was turning more troublesome by the day.
“Baddy’s behaviour is terrible. I find it rude!’’ said Cheeku.
“Yes, we have had enough of his bad behaviour,” said Jumpy, agreeing with Cheeku.“But, what can we do?”
“Let’s teach him a lesson,” said Jumpy.
He quickly gathered his friends around and whispered a plan.
The next day, they sat in class with their lunch boxes spread out in front. They waited for Baddy to walk into the trap.
As soon as they spotted Baddy approaching, Cheeku began munching a paratha. “Jumpy, this paratha is very tasty!” said Cheeku, between mouthfuls.
“Yes, this is the most delicious paratha I have tasted by far!” said Meeku as he licked his lips.
Hearing this, Baddy’s mouth started to water. He grabbed a paratha from Jumpy’s lunchbox. “Let me taste these delicious parathas too!” he said.
He gobbled up the first paratha and then reached for the second. That’s when things went crazy.
“Oh! It’s spicy! My tongue is on fire! Give me some water! Please!” begged Baddy. He had tears in his eyes.
“Here, Baddy,’’ replied Meeku, handing him a water bottle.
Baddy gulped the water. Little did he know that it was laced with chilli powder.
Now Baddy was huffing and puffing.
“What did you offer me?” said Baddy, panting heavily. “Someone please give me some water. My mouth is on fire!’’
“No, Baddy!” replied Cheeku, “You snatch our food without the least concern. Now, enjoy the fruits of your actions.’’
The rest of the class gathered around Cheeku and nodded in agreement.
“I am sorry! I promise to never take anyone’s lunch again!” cried Baddy.
Cheeku gave Baddy a box of sweets and a glass of chilled water. “You must stop snatching food from others, Baddy,” said Cheeku.
Baddy felt relieved after drinking the water and eating the sweets. He then apologised to his classmates.
He vowed never to take what did not belong to him.
From that day on, the three friends never had to worry about Baddy stealing their lunch again.
There was silence all around. Streets were deserted and parks, abandoned. No one could be seen on the roads. It seemed like all humans were holed up inside their houses.
The black smoke from the skies had disappeared and the air was less polluted. Rivers, too, were cleaner than before.
The animals of Champakvan couldn’t understand what was going on. They were called for a meeting by Blacky bear in the morning on the banks of Crysty River.
After greeting everyone, Blacky asked, “Where are the humans? What has caused this sudden change? Why do all the cities look deserted? What has caused the noise and air pollution to reduce?”
Blacky Bear asked many questions and looked at the other animals for answers.
“I have heard that a disease has taken over the cities, villages and towns. It is forcing the humans to stay in their houses,” said Jumpy monkey who had returned from the city last week.
“What kind of a disease? How can a disease cause the cities to shut down?” asked Jumbo elephant.
“I do not have much information. It is just something that I heard from somewhere,” replied Jumpy.
“Our water is cleaner too. It seems like nobody is working at the factories as the water is not as dirty as it used to be,” said Wooky alligator, popping his head out of the water.
“It surely means that something really serious has happened, otherwise humans don’t change so easily,” Elvy python added.
“Yes, Rocky rooster also told me that humans don’t come out of their houses even after the morning rooster call,” said Cheeku rabbit.
After listening to all of them, Blacky took some time to think and then said, “We should try and find out what is happening. I hope this silence is not a warning for some kind of danger approaching our forest. Let’s find out if this is a conspiracy against us. We should send someone from our forest to the city.”
“Meeku mouse can go. He is fast and small and can enter any house,” said Dumpy pig.
“Yes, I agree. Meeku will be good for this job,” added Dodo Peacock.
“Can you do it, Meeku?” asked Blacky. “Sure, I can. It will be my pleasure to be able to do something for our forest,” replied Meeku and left for the city immediately.
On reaching the city in the afternoon, he noticed that many shops were shut and very few people were on the roads wearing masks. He went inside one of the houses and saw a family watching television.
A news programme was announcing the rising number of cases and listing the precautions people should take. Meeku left from there and entered another house.
Here, the television was on but no one was watching. He heard the news host saying, “Coronavirus is spreading fast. Those who have symptoms like runny nose, cough or fever should report immediately. An infected person needs to maintain distance from others. People should stay at home and only step out to buy essentials.”
Meeku went into yet another house where he saw a little kid drawing and talking to his grandfather.
“Grandpa, how do you like my drawing?”
“Wow! Karan, this is lovely. You have shown how all the animals are roaming freely and humans are sitting at home,” said grandpa.
“It’s true, grandpa. Now, humans are locked in cages while the animals are merrily roaming outside. They are free and not afraid of any virus. When will this coronavirus leave us, grandpa?” asked Karan.
“My dear Karan, until we find a vaccine that can save our lives, we have to follow certain rules of maintaining social distance, washing our hands regularly and eating healthy food. We cannot stop the virus but we can stop it from spreading and hope that this pandemic gets over soon,” explained grandpa.
“Why is it called a pandemic, grandpa?” asked Karan.
“Because it is a disease that has spread to all the countries in the world,” replied grandpa.
Meeku understood the situation. He left the house and ran towards the forest. Another meeting was called in the forest where Meeku explained the whole situation to everybody in detail.
He told them, “Champakvan is not under any threat. It is the humans who are facing a threat from a disease called coronavirus. Let us hope they learn something from this situation.”
This eased the unknown fear that the animals of the forest felt. They hoped that the helplessness the humans faced goes away for good.