Chub was a baby elephant. One day, he saw his reflection in the forest lake and became sad. He had been trying for weeks and still remained the same, maybe a size hundred! He shook his head and turned around to see his tribe.
They all were the same. The fat, bulky, larger than life shapes floated in front of his eyes, making him feel disgusted to the core. It was all in his genes. His genetic makeup was such that even if he tried, he could never get rid of the pathetically fat and gigantic figure of an elephant.
He felt ashamed when he met Chinku and Gulel, his other animal friends, who had their fill and did not worry about their shape.
“Look at me!” he whined at his reflection. “I am only four years old and even then, I can’t see myself completely! I guess the others see me in installments.”
“What happened baby? Why are you whining? Are your hungry?” a female elephant ran towards Chub. That was his mother.
Chub turned around and shot a loathing look at his mother.
“Oh be quiet mother! Can’t you think of anything other than food?”
“Oh dear, don’t be so angry,” she said calmly. “Eating is not wrong. Don’t bother much about this fad diet. These don’t work, at least not on us.”
“Oh please mom!” Chub said rolling his eyes. “Did anyone of you ever try it? All you do is eat and eat. Look at us mom, we are far more than obese by human standards!”
“Oh don’t you worry about what those silly two footed animals think we are”, his mother replied in frustration. “They don’t look at themselves before they eat and they have the audacity to comment on us! At least we were meant to be this way and so have to eat to maintain ourselves, but what about them? They were not supposed to look like us, but now when you look at some of them, it seems we have some tough competition!”
“Oh mother, why can’t you understand? It’s not just about the humans. It’s also with other animals. No one is like … like…” he paused and then burst out “Us”.
His mother closed her eyes and shook her head, her trunk swaying a little.
“Can we just forget all this and eat? I guess we’re here to eat, so please stop wasting your time on thinking about all this nonsense”, and she walked away leaving Chub alone in his own world.
“Maybe, I should start eating what Chinku and Gulel eat!” he thought out aloud. “Maybe then I will reduce!” Glad to have hit upon something substantial, he walked to his friends, who lived in the jungle.
Chinku and Gulel were busy playing hop scotch. Chinku was a timid looking brown monkey, who loved to play all day with his squirrel friend Gulel and Chub. They were busy playing, when a loud thunder made them halt and they looked up.
“Chub! What a coincidence!” Chinku said cheerily. “I knew it was you from those strong vibrations. You almost made the earth move!”
“Uhm, thanks”, Chub said without looking up. “Was that a compliment or were you taunting me about my weight?” Chub asked looking hurt.
Chub stood against a tree trunk and rubbed himself against it, before slipping on the ground with a hard thump.
Gulel who eyed Chinku with anger, rushed to Chub’s rescue. “Oh no dear!” he squealed in his thin tiny voice. “Since he sees you so often that now he knows the signs of your arrival. Wasn’t it Chinku?” he asked grinding his teeth.
Chinku understood, but was lost for words and simply nodded his head vigorously.
“But hey, what’s wrong, why are looking so lost?” Gulel quickly diverted the issue.
Chub looked up at his two friends, but said nothing. He opened his mouth and closed it.
Chinku came forward and touched his trunk. “What’s wrong buddy? You can tell us, we’re friends, remember?
“I want to be like you!” Chub blurted out.
“You mean jump around the trees? Well that can be a little difficult, because you see with your weight… Ow!” Chinku cried out in pain. Gulel had thrown a small stone at his bald head.
Chinku looked at a glaring Gulel, who was signaling him to stop and then back at Chub. “Why do you want to be us?” he asked rubbing his head.
“Because you eat less, stay thin and remain active, whereas I eat so much, am fat and do nothing except for loitering around all day”, Chub complained.
“You don’t loiter, you play with us and that’s work!” assured Gulel. He knew that Chub had been into dieting for the past two weeks.
“Whatever it is, I am fat and you guys are thin. If someday enemies attack us, I will be caught in no time!”
“It will not happen dear, at least not when we are there”, Gulel replied confidently.
“I know, but still I want to reduce my weight and I need you guys to help me.”
“And how should it be?”
“Well, maybe I should eat what you guys eat. Maybe if I eat less, then I can reduce and become like….you.”
“You mean a squirrel?” and suddenly Chinku burst into laughter. He rolled on the ground, laughing crazily. “Imagine an elephant who wants to become a puny little squirrel!” he laughed shaking his head.
Gulel stared at him and spoke grimly, “When you stop, maybe we can talk something substantial!”
Chinku stopped, but he couldn’t help. He quickly sat in a proper position and tried to control his laughter, but broke into uncontrollable smirks every now and then.
“It won’t help Chub,” Gulel turned to face his elephant friend. “You and your family were always meant to look like this and so you eat more, whereas we eat less cause we are small in size.”
“Yes, but I am tired of looking fat”, and he broke into sobs. Gulel pitied him. “Ok, then let’s put you on our diet and see. From now on, only a few nuts are all you will get and…” he looked at Chinku “Maybe a few bananas as well, but mind you only a few.”
Chub’s face lit up. “Oh yes, I can do it, in fact I will do it!” Chub said wiping tears with his trunk and hugging his squirrel friend.
“It’s ok dear, but mind you it will be not easy as you guess.”
“I am ready to do anything. In fact, last week I even tried skipping my meals and was happy to stay alive with just one meal a day.”
“No you need not skip meals, but eat 4-5 times a day like us.” Gulel looked at Chinku, who looked dazed.
He looked as if he watched some tennis match. His head moved from Chub to Gulel and back to Chub.
“We’re done Chinku. Chub will eat whatever we eat.”
Chinku looked dumbfounded. “Are you mad, how will he survive? His one meal is more than what we eat throughout the day”, he said.
“That’s the trick buddy, I will eat less and be happy and slim like you. Can you imagine how I would be like?” and he drifted to his imaginary world before he looked up at Chinku.
“No, I fail to imagine”, Chinku said looking lost. “It will be nothing less than hilarious.” He was about to break into his peals of laughter, when he caught Gulel watching him.
Gulel glared at Chinku as he spoke, “The idea is to try it out. If he gets thin without feeling weak and strained then well and good or else he goes back to his old self.”
“What? No..!” Chub cried out in alarm. “I need to become thin.”
“Ok …ok, we’ll put you on this diet for two weeks. I am sure you will be able to give some feedback about it after that”, said Gulel as a matter-of-factly.
Chub shrugged his shoulders and so did Chinku.
The plan started and soon Chub was eating no more than two peanuts, two bananas for a meal. He was happy initially as he ate it for three-four times a day. Day one went brilliantly and Chub was seen moving around and playing in excitement. The same routine followed a couple of days later.
By sixth day, he grew bored. Every time, he saw his family having a hearty lunch or dinner, his heart and stomach ached.
On the seventh day, Chinku fell ill, so he lost his appetite and stuck to just three bananas throughout the day, making the same amount go into Chub’s food diary as well. Chub groaned, moaned in hunger, but he continued to stick to his diet, overlooking the pleas of his family members.
By the twelfth day, his stomach was in a perpetual state of rumble. “GROWL!” it sounded one day in front of his mother.
“Can’t you just get over it?” his mother scolded him. “I am tired of this silly behavior of yours. No matter how much you diet, you will just grow weak and not thin for sure.”
Chub’s face flushed. “I am becoming thin. Gulel said I was losing weight!” he shot back accusingly.
Chub’s mother sighed and got back to work. More than his mom’s comments, it was Chub’s state of food deprivation that made him lose his temper. He stumped his foot and walked out, straight to his friends.
“Am I not losing weight?” he asked puffing heavily as he sat down next to his friends.
“Yeah, of course, from somewhere I guess”, Chinku said trying to control his laughter.
Gulel poked him in his rib cage. “No you are losing weight!”
“Is it?” Chub asked with wondrous eyes. “Maybe then I should stick onto it for another two weeks!”
Gulel looked baffled. This wasn’t his plan. He was about to say something, when he stopped. A brilliant idea dawned and he decided to stay quiet.
The scheduled two weeks were over and Chub was following it for another two weeks. Another week went by, but his stomach rumbling did not stop. Chub tried to ignore it, but it pained and caused trouble. Chub’s family members were going concerned, but could not stop Chub. The baby elephant had grown weak and tired in just a few weeks of dieting. He refused to eat anything but just two nuts and one banana for all of his three meals.
Then one day something happened. Chub was walking down the jungle when he heard his dad shout.
“Help, help!” Chub heard him. He ran and looked through the foliage and saw his father surrounded by some humans. He had been caught in a trap. Chub’s dad struggled hard to get out of the heavy barricaded box, but couldn’t. He looked around for help and saw his son, Chub standing close by. He made a loud trumpet call for help again, but Chub did not move an inch.
Chub became nervous. He wanted to fight with the humans, but felt very weak and tired. He didn’t even have the courage and confidence to call for help as well.
However, soon Chinku and Gulel came from nowhere. They recognized Chub’s dad and rushed to help. Immediately, Gulel and Chinku created a racket by throwing stones on the humans. The commotion coupled with Chub’s father’s loud trumpets made his other family members run to the spot. They soon scared the humans away.
After a lot of difficulty, Chub’s dad came out feeling relieved. He looked at his son, still camouflaged under the dense foliage. Their eyes met, but his father turned away and walked back towards home, with the rest of the tribe at his tail. Chinku and Gulel knew what was wrong and dashed towards the spot, where Chub had hidden himself, but they couldn’t find him. They ran around looking for him, till they found him going towards the lake.
Chub came and flopped near the bank. His friends joined him.
“What have I done?” he cried. “I couldn’t save my own father from enemies? He cried for me, but I simply stared doing nothing!”
Gulel and Chinku looked at each other.
“I couldn’t help my father. I left him alone. Had it not been for you two or my family, he would have been taken away, maybe even killed! ”, he closed his eyes and tears rolled down his face.
“I cannot go home, look into my father’s eyes or say anything to him now. I am sure he wouldn’t like a loser for a son, a son who couldn’t even stand up or fight for his own dad”, he shook his head and broke into fresh sobs.
“I hope now you know why it is important to be yourself and not be me or Chinku or anybody else?” asked Gulel softly.
Chub nodded and looked up. “I was stupid to ruin my body, my strength. I was happy thinking I was losing weight, but….” He stopped and gazed at his tear stained reflection on the lake waters. “Look at the way I look now, weak, dull and useless.”
“Well, it’s never too late Chub. Just call it quits and be happy with the way you are. God made you this way so that you could use your strength and power for good things, for helping and saving the less fortunate ones. How many of us our powerful against enemies, not many I guess, but you are, so why ruin your strength?” Gulel explained as Chinku nodded his approval.
Chub wiped his tears, looking at his reflection and slowly got up. “But what will I say to dad? I broke his heart. I disappointed him, betrayed him”, he wailed.
“Not exactly son!”
Chub turned around to face his father. A huge grey colored elephant towered in front of the trio. Chinku hid behind Chub and stared at the bigger version of his friend.
“Dad!” Chub hugged his father’s trunk and sobbed. “I am sorry dad, I disappointed you. I couldn’t help you when you wanted me to!”
“Yes, but still I forgive you. You were not strong enough to help me. You need to help yourself first and then help others. You need to give up this dieting and eat well, only then will you be able to live and work towards our goals, which require a lot of strength dear.”
Chub watched his father soft expression. “Oh, I promise you dad I will. No more diets for me, I will eat well. I don’t care if I am fat. I like to be fat and most importantly fit, to fight for my family and friends!”
They both hugged each other. Gulel and Chinku looked happy and hugged each other as well.
“Let’s go home and celebrate son!” Chub’s father was about to walk away, when he turned to face the little animals. “Won’t your friends join us for an early dinner? After all, it was they who helped the others track me!”
“Oh yes dad, they will!” and Chub hugged his friends, who looked happy and thrilled.
Gulel rolled in laughter as Chinku bowed his head in gratitude to Chub’s father. Chub laughed as he hoisted the little monkey and the squirrel on his back and walked on, with the royal gait of an elephant.