Unity Is Strength

Champakvan forest was quiet and peaceful. The animals and birds lived happily. They shared and helped each other in times of need.

A few days ago, a group of hunters came inside the forest and started hunting birds and animals, using guns. The animals were scared and cried over the loss of their friends. The fear of being hunted down troubled them the most.

They all decided to go and meet the king of the forest, Shersingh. King Shersingh heard them patiently and said, “I too am worried about your safety. But these hunters are armed with guns. Even I am afraid of guns. We will have to find a way to fight these hunters,” said Shersingh.

Honey hippo who was listening quietly said, “Your Majesty, I have a plan that can drive the hunters away from the forest.”

“What is you plan Honey?” asked Shersingh “Your Majesty, we must all stand together and fight these hunters. We must show – Unity is Strength,’’ said Honey.

“But even if we stand united, we can’t fight them. They have guns to shoot us,” said Lamboo giraffe.

“I know. We must plan cleverly before we act. My thick skin makes it difficult for the bullet difficult to pierce through it. I will go towards the hunters and distract them by walking towards them and the rest of you can attack from behind,” said Honey.

“If I get hurt, Dr Damru needs to be there to quickly remove the bullet from my body,” said Honey.

“You are putting your life at risk. Let us hope we don’t fail you,” said king Shersingh.

As planned, the next day, the crow took up the duty of a spy. He found out the camping spot of the hunters and passed the message to king Shersingh. All the animals hid in different places as planned by Honey.

Lamboo giraffe hid behind a tree, Fatty elephant hid behind a cluster of tall trees and Jumpy hid behind the bunch of bushy leaves. Cheeku rabbit took cover inside a bush. His Majesty, King Shersingh concealed himself behind a big mound.

The hunters were walking with guns in their hands. They looked alert and ready to shoot at the slightest sound.

As planned, Honey came before the hunters, then turned back and started running in the direction of his friend’s hiding places.

The hunters chased Honey, but Honey quickly gave them an escape and hid between the tall grasses.

One of the hunters reached the mound, where king Shersingh was hiding. As he climbed onto the mound to take a better look, his gaze fell on Shersingh. A chill ran down his spine. He dropped the gun and fell down rolling over the mound. The hunter managed to run away. Seeing the plight of the hunter, King Shersingh could not control his laughter.

The other hunters too were shaken when they saw their friend running. Taking charge of the situation, all the animals came out of their hiding places and attacked the hunters. In the chaos that followed, the hunters dropped their guns and ran away. The animals chased them out of the forest.

When the animals returned back to the forest, they saw the guns lying there on the ground. Jumpy collected all the guns and started imitating the hunters. He held a gun in his hands and by mistake pulled the trigger. The animals were in for a shock when they heard the sound of the gun shot. King Shersingh hid himself in a pit.

All the animals started laughing when they found out the reason behind the gun shot. Lamboo said, “We too have guns to fight now and need not be afraid of anyone.”

But Shersingh was lost in his thoughts. He thought about what could have happened if Jumpy had shot anyone.

He said, “We don’t need these guns that take the lives of others. I don’t want any of us to be killed by a gun shot. Let’s not create a situation where someone thinks they are more powerful because they have a gun. It’s better to dump them in the lake.”

Everyone agreed with Shersingh and they collected and threw the guns deep into the lake.

Greeting Card

Champakvan had an orphanage devoted to the care of orphans. It was home to a lot of children. The boarding, lodging and studies of these children was completely undertaken by King Shersingh.

Shanno cat was employed as the caretaker of the orphanage.

King Shersingh visited the orphanage once a month.

One Sunday, when Shersingh reached the orphanage, Shanno was waiting for him at the gates to welcome him.

“Shanno, I hope the kids are well taken care of?” asked Shersingh.

“Yes, my King! I take care of them like my own kids. I am at their service throughout the day. I am always concerned about them,” replied Shanno.

“My King, I request you to come and see for yourself how well these kids are taken care of,” she continued taking Shersingh to the kitchen.

Lunch was being prepared in the kitchen. There was chapati, rice, dal, vegetables and rice pudding on the menu.

“This food smells good here!’ said Shersingh, taking in the aromas of the food.

“Yes, my king! We serve tasty and nutritious food to the kids every day. They are also served milk, nuts and fruits in the morning,” Shanno added.

“That is excellent! I wish that these kids never face any inconvenience while they are here. Let me know if you need any help,” offered Shersingh.

Then, Shersingh visited the kids in their rooms. Cheeku rabbit, Meeku mouse, Jumpy monkey and the other kids greeted the King.

“Children, are you all comfortable here?” asked Shersingh.

“Yes!” said the kids and nodded.

“My King, like I said, the kids here do not have any problems. We care for them like our own kids. Each and every need of theirs is taken care of,” Shanno added quickly.

As soon as Shersingh got up to leave, Cheeku interrupted and said, “My king, we have made a greeting card for you and we would like to present it to you.”

Shersingh happily accepted their request and said, “Yes, of course! Bring it quickly. I want to see what my lovely children have made for me.”

Meeku brought the card and presented it to Shersingh.

Shersingh opened the greeting card and smiled and said, “It is a very beautiful card. I have never been presented with anything like this before. I will always treasure it.”

“Shanno, you are working really hard to help these kids. You deserve a reward for your efforts. I will return soon,” said Shersingh as he left.

That night Shersingh visited the orphanage with Inspector Tommy Dog and his team.

Shanno was surprised to see Shersingh with the police. She came out quickly and asked, “What is it Inspector? Is there a thief here?” 

“Yes, we are here to catch a criminal. A crime has been happening for many days and now we have the proof for it,” said Inspector Tommy and hand-cuffed Shanno.

“Why are you taking me in, Inspector? What crime have I committed? I look after the kids in the orphanage. I am not a thief,” cried Shanno.

“You should be ashamed of yourself! I trusted you and you took advantage of my trust. Now you will spend the rest of your life in prison,” roared Shersingh, his eyes red with anger.

“My King, there is some misunderstanding. I have not done anything. Please leave me!” pleaded Shanno.

“There is no misunderstanding. The children of the orphanage gifted me the card and it mentioned all the details of your wrong doings. You have been torturing these little children by hitting them and threatening them. How you fed them stale food that too, just once a day. 

All the food that was being prepared was just to fool me. You have been keeping all the money that was sent for the welfare of the kids, for yourself. Your misdeeds have finally come to light now,” Shersingh growled.

Seeing his rage, Shanno admitted to her crimes. Shersingh demanded a tough punishment for Shanno.

Then Shersingh praised Cheeku, Meeku and Jumpy for their presence of mind and said, “We were able to uncover Shanno’s wrongdoings due to your intelligent thinking. I assure you, that you will never face such a problem again. You will all be looked after well!”

Shanno was sent to prison and the children lived happily with another caretaker.

Big Dome of Lucknow

The students of Champakvan School were excited. Their teacher, Dena deer, had informed them that for their annual trip they would be visiting the ‘City of Nawabs–Lucknow’.

Cheeku rabbit, Meeku mouse, Damru donkey, Roco hen, Sally squirrel, Jumpy monkey, Jumbo elephant, Blacky bear along with their teacher Dena deer boarded the Shatabdi train to Lucknow.

As soon as they reached the Charbagh railway station, the station’s building gave them a clue of the kind of architecture they would get to see in Lucknow.

After checking into their hotel room and freshening up, all the students sat around their teacher. She told them about the places they would visit each day.

“First we will visit the famous Imambara of Lucknow. It is also known as the Asfi Imambara,” she said.

Sally squirrel could not control her excitement and said, “Can we first go and see the Bhul-Bhulaiya or the famous maze of Lucknow. I have heard that it is a lot of fun and most tourists lose their way in it.”

“Just like you have lost patience here Sally,’’ smiled Dena deer. “The maze is a narrow ladder-like path inside the Imambara that leads us to the big dome.”

The others laughed when they heard this and though Sally was embarrassed for not knowing that the maze was inside the Imambara, she was happy because they were first going to the place she really wanted to visit.

Next morning, the students wore colourful clothes and took the city bus with Dena Ma’am towards old Lucknow. Bara Imambara stood close to river Gomti.

Once they reached the Bara Imambara, Dena Ma’am met guide Gogo Giraffe who was going to show them the buildings in old Lucknow. He helped them get the entry tickets to the Bara Imambara.

Sally, in her traditional skirt, was super excited to see the maze. She walked ahead of everyone holding her skirt.

Gogo guide took them on the zig-zag stairways that led to the Imambara. He told them there were 84 steps in all. Sally ran ahead to reach the top. Gogo guide walked behind her. The stairs then branched into a fork that led to two passages—one that went upstairs and the other down.

Sally took the stairs that went up, since they were going up, but as soon as she went further that passage was blocked by a wall. She was confused.

Gogo guide explained, “Yes, this is why it is called a maze. It was built to confuse the enemy. We have to go down from here before we climb up and then we can reach the top of the Imambara. This fork confuses anybody new to this place, just like Sally.”

Sally was embarrassed yet again while the others laughed.

Gogo guide took them upstairs through the correct path. “Now, I will show you the amazing craftsmanship of this building. I suggest you all walk about 50 metres to the other end with your teacher. and I will tear a piece of paper at this end. You will be surprised at how clearly you can hear the sound of the tearing paper.”

The students excitedly walked to the other end with Dena Ma’am to experience the magic.

As Gogo guide tore the paper, they all could hear the sound. They were amazed at how that could happen.

Gogo guide told them that the building had been constructed in a way that even a whisper was clearly audible from far.

Gogo guide pointed towards the windows on the upper floors and said, “Those windows have been constructed in such a manner that anyone coming through the main gate is visible to those standing at the window but those coming in cannot see who is at the window.”

Everyone peeped out of the windows to see.

After this Gogo guide took them down the stairs towards the front of the Imambara.

“This is the main building of the Bara Imambara. It is based on Persian architecture.”

He took them inside the building, and everyone was amazed to see the magnificent structure.

“Mr Gogo, who built this beautiful and amazing place?” asked Cheeku rabbit eagerly.

“This was built by the Nawab of Awadh, Asaf-ud-Daula in the year 1784. It was built in the memory of the Late Hussain Ali, a saint, but the main reason behind building it was something else.”

“What was the reason?” asked Jumbo elephant waving his trunk.

“Awadh faced a terrible drought in 1784. The people of Awadh didn’t have any means to earn. In those days, the people of Awadh lived with pride and didn’t accept charity. But when many started to die of hunger, Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula started the construction of the Imambara, to provide the people with a source of employment. The poor population of the city worked during the day while the well to-do worked at night.”

“Does that mean that construction took place during the day as well the night and that a lot of people worked here? The expenses of building it must have been very high too,” said Jumpy monkey.

“Almost 20,000 people were employed for the construction of the Imambara and about INR 10 lakh, a huge amount in those days, was spent on its construction.”

“This means that Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula was a very kind ruler who helped many people,” said Blacky bear.

“Yes, and that is why during that times it was said that ‘One who doesn’t receive from God receives from Asaf-ud-Daula’,” said Gogo Giraffe.

“There must have been an architect who designed this amazing building. Who is he?” asked Meeku mouse, showing his big teeth.

“The architect of the Imambara was Kifayat Ullah. The Nawab was impressed with his design and the Imambara was built under his guidance.”

“The biggest speciality of this building is that best quality bricks and limestone were used in its construction. And no wood, iron or cement was used.”

The animals could not believe that a ceiling that big could be made without iron, wood or cement.

After this, Gogo took them to see the well and the mosque in the Imambara compound. They also went to see other buildings in old Lucknow, close to the Imambara.

They thanked Gogo giraffe for showing them around, went back to their hotel to rest so that they could go back to Champakvan the next day.