Lorikins the Slender Loris – Short Story
I am a Slender Loris – comatose by nature, as are those of us, of the Loris family. I was born one placid morn, in the deep forest of the Western Ghats in South India.
I remember the sunlight streamed like thin golden ribbons, through the rustling leaves where I grew amidst trees with foliage of yellow, brown, orange and green. I loved clinging to the branches of the rose chest nut tree that was my place of birth, as it were. I was surrounded by gulmohar, teak, peepal, mango, iron wood, Persian lilac and tulip trees (to name a few) that were indigenous to these areas.
As I grew, I drifted away from my parents, being mature enough to tend to myself. I am basically a loner, unlike my counterparts, who enjoyed playing with each other and the infants of the loris family. They got especially active at dawn or dusk, indulging in arboreal fun play. All I ever did was watch and wonder as I silently grew to adulthood.
Once on my own, I ventured into the obscurity of the South Indian thickets, which were never known to repudiate the creatures of its mysterious womb. Birds nestled in the forked limbs and large crevices of the trees. The jungle’s heart beat were the song of the birds.
I watched bush quails, lapwings, cuckoos, swifts, bulbuls in gray, white and yellow, along with blue robins and parakeets, starlings and sunbirds chirp and sing merrily, flying from tree to tree like fragments of rainbow hues. They greeted me, with merry twitters of, “Hello loris!”
And I slowly responded with a wave of my thin hands or waving a twig with tender leaves that I had been nibbling serenely. The birds being very friendly dropped me a fruit or nut as they flew by. The squirrels scampering up and down trees did likewise and stopped by to gossip.
The world of insects consisted of the forest musicians, twittering and tweeting incessantly. Unless I really troubled myself to seek them out (they made a substantial part of my diet as well) their presence was fairly unknown. Crickets grass hoppers, beetles of varied colours and species orchestrated the singing birds, flying between the many coloured orchids, ferns and lichens which clung to the tree trunks in abundance. They populated the thick undergrowth.
Far beneath, between thick lush fodder that constituted the floor of the forest, ran a gurgling stream, carrying fragrant petals and leaves for rides upon its silver, bubbly back.
Yet what did I do all day, except cling like an Australian Koala, to the smooth limbs of verdant trees, grabbing and munching unwary acacia ants, or moths that happened by. When I was not dozing off, I feasted tirelessly on slugs, earthworms and snails, chewed on berries and nuts, swaying to the cicada beats. I loved the wind’s whisper as its coolness ruffled my short fur.
When the forest hushed the diurnal creatures to sleep, we Lorises woke to the sable softness of night and its eternal mysteries. Then I dropped lightly to the spongy windrow of rustling crisp brown leaves. The gentle and lithe stags, chittals, spotted deer and sambars, whispered secrets demurely as they masticated the succulent fodder. They nodded as I passed them by and began moving away to shelter for the night.
Inceptively, I had never been a socialiser. I love swathing myself with the silence of my solitude. Unlike the rest of the lorises, I sleep at night and hunt at day time. Many a rabbit and fox have scurried away in fear, when I come upon them in the undergrowth, for my eyes are startling.
My eyes are indubitably immense, and therefore a fright. The fur on my forearm, hands and feet are short and red brown. My pride is my pointed nose ending in a heart shaped snout. I have a shadowy dark brown patch of fur surrounding my eyes as though I have a binocular permanently fixed to my face. The top of my nose has a patch of white running down it. My short fingers are tipped in digits. My vestigial tail is the final extension of me, and there I end.
In spite of my peculiar looks, tiny stature, and dilatory manner, the cuckoos and butterflies befriended me. The cuckoo sang me songs that filled my daylight hours. The butterflies flitted and danced about me. The Red Helens and Blue Mormons showered me with dust from their wings in play. I was lonely when they migrated to the Silent valley in wildly coloured, brilliant swarms. I took to watching the buzzing bees build hives up trees. I loved the sweet honey they left upon my heart shaped snout, by way of a kiss.
One cool breezy evening a flock of the Babblers above called, “Follow us, Lorikins! Follow us!” And slow as I was, my curiosity egged me on to unexplored parts of the forest. I was terribly frightened when I first heard the thunderous waterfall. It leapt off a high rock and sprinkled me with its sprays! I was awed by the cascading water that fell like long strips of white clouds, into a silver green pool crystal clear, below.
Around the pool was a profusion of plants with enormous leaves and gorgeous flowers, in yellow, red, purple, blue and pink. Amidst this riot of colours were mossy wet rocks. I sauntered to a large green rock and sat warily, peering into the pool where fish of different hues greeted me and gobbled the algae upon the water surface. They swam away speedily, perhaps frightened at the sight of my huge eyes.
I ventured to dip my pencil thin, spindly arms into the pool. I scooped some chill water as best I could and quenched my thirst. I moved on slowly, since I was quite mesmerized by the sights and sounds around me and humming a tune under my timid loris breath, walked aimlessly through unknown regions.
Presently I was surprised to see the forest end abruptly. I had come to a clearing where stood conical structures from on top of which emerged curls of smoke. Through the rectangular openings in the sides the strangest creatures emerged or disappeared. It was my first ever glimpse of human beings.
I was baffled by their size, for they far exceeded me in height. As you must know, we lorises (even at the extremity of adulthood) measured up only to twenty five centimetres. They were similar to the primates except for the shocks of thick hair growing upon their heads in various lengths and in colours of black white and grey.
I watched the buzz of activity from my vantage point up a tree. Most of them were actively engaged and I watched in fascinations till night crept softly into the weariness of day. I reluctantly returned to the interiors of the forest with laden steps but was restless.
The next day, I sought a grove of emerald trees where resided a sapient Slow Loris. He lived for most of his life as far as anyone knew, upon a stately jacaranda. His wisdom was of wide renown. The sun blushed secretly through bleached clouds. He studied me with wide granite eyes as I sat down hungrily to a meal of bird’s egg, nuts and berries, which the aged loris had spread before me.
At length I queried with caution, “O Wise Loris! Do tell me, who those lovely creatures might be, walking on hind legs straight as ramrods, beyond the silver waterfalls?
The aged loris seemed to have not heard, busying himself with chewing on some nuts and tender bamboo shoots. I clung to a slender bark and waited with pondering eyes.
As though awoken from a trance the Slow Loris said, “They are Human Beings. Beware, do not get too close to them lest you come to harm! And with that he rolled himself into a ball with his head between his thighs and slept off like any other loris.
I blinked for a while and slowly moved away muttering, “Human Beings? Human Beings?” I liked the sound of that word ‘Human Beings’ and rolled the word around my tongue, repeating it often. I even tried whistling the word through my thin pointed snout.
So while all the lorises of the forest slept (as is the natural order of things) I slumped sloppily towards the clearing. Climbing a tree, I viewed them hustling and bustling about, engaged now in various activities. And of course much more active than any anthropoid I’ve ever seen. They really were a fascinating sight.
I watched them sit in groups or loiter singly or in pairs. I found them in assorted shapes and sizes, and there were midgets scooting around as though in play, making loud happy sounds that drifted through the stillness of the thickets beyond.
The more I watched the more I longed to be with them. You already know I lead a fairly lonely life. Before I knew it, I found I had slid from the safety of the tree and stood uncertainly upon the grass below.
A small group of runts had spotted me and they came running to me. They stood around me and looked down on me in amazement. They kept a safe distance from me, while I stood there demure with my wide eyes getting wider.
“O how cute!”
“What is it?”
“How tiny and cocky he is!”
“O how ugly! Is it a monkey?”
“Not a monkey! He hardly has a tail! Ha-ha! Short tail!” they said, pointing to my sad rear, which could only boast of a tiny tail.
“It must be a bear!”
“Look at his pointed snout! He is really cute!”
“Ugh! He is ugly! What a weird face! Look at his eyes! Like big black balls!”
I stood naively as this torrent of words fell around me. There wasn’t much I could say or do, anyway.
However, one child put out his hand to me in a friendly gesture and I responded by stepping forward to accept the offered hand. No sooner had I done so, than the child squealed,
“Ugh! What ugly hands! Like a spider’s!” He instantly withdrew his hands.
Dumb struck by his rudeness I stood undecided and torn with loneliness. My enormous eyes were on the verge of enormous tears.
Suddenly there was a loud yell. The children dispersed like wind- blown seeds. A young man had come up to see what held the children’s interest. And he saw me there, a woe be gone thing, with my black thin hands still outstretched. He was taken aback for an instant. When he recognised I was only a Slender Loris gone astray, he moved closer and bent low to pat my furry head.
He examined me for a while and said, “So you’re a Slender Loris! Ooh, Look at your eyes! And your perky face!”
With that he gave my black heart shaped snout a gentle pull. “Have you lost your way, Lorikins?”
Even while he spoke, giving me my new name he walked on towards his abode. I followed slowly at a distance until he stopped to scoop me up as if I were a cuddly toy.
I loved the feel of the black coarse fur he had on his chest (the human beings called it hair) and I clung to his strong biceps. He wore a short silver chain around his neck with a tint pendant that had a lady bird etched upon it. As he strode toward his home the villagers watched in wide eyed curiosity at this unusual spectacle and called to him about his new found friend. He waved to them and showed me off, holding me easily, high over his head for I hardly weighed above three hundred and fifty grams, even in my adult state!
His shack stood a little away from the village.
“Will you live with me, Lorikins?” he said, talking non stop, for he had been chattering like a monkey all along the way.
“O how under nourished you look, you poor thing!”
He hugged me close and said, “I’ll look after you, Lorikins!
He gave me a saucer of ground nuts and a ripe banana that I gobbled away, since the occurrences of the day had made me quite hungry. There was no way he could possibly know how happy I was to live with him, so I cuddled closer.
That was how I came to live with Humakins – as I had named him. Though he found me a cane basket to sleep in, I slept better either clinging to his rickety bed posts, or rolled into bed with him among the linen sheets.
His shack had an entire wall of books that he read often. Some days all he ever did was write in a book. I noticed most of the villagers kept away from him except for the cook, dhoby and cleaning maid. They went about their work, with very little conversation lest they disturb him. They soon got used to seeing me around and treated me as though I was a domestic cat or dog.
Humakins peered through his binoculars at the birds and butterflies drifting through the forest. He scribbled away at his pad. He chatted with me continuously, asking me questions I could never answer. He winked, joked and laughed aloud when in a lighter frame of mind.
At times he was sulky and moody, terribly withdrawn and stared vacantly into space. He hardly noticed me except when he laid my bowl of berries, fruits or nuts before me. He fuzzed my fur, then and gave me an empty smile.
At times such as these I sat very close to him and wished with all my heart that he were a slender loris like me. Or at least I was a human being like him! It made me very miserable indeed that we were both of two different species.
I moved around unhappily in the shack and nibbled at object that were all new to me. Most of them, like his eraser, pencil, waste paper, bunch of keys or a rubber slipper were hardly edible, and distasteful. Humakins shooed me off, until I prodded off to doze in my favourite corner. I watched people walking outside, as I sat hunched up on his wide window sill. My ardent wish was to please him, and though I didn’t know how, I did know in my own slow loris way, that I was falling in love with him.
My silent passion spent its waking hours designing ways to express myself to him. So I would wander into the forest and gather berries, wild fruits, succulent stems and tender barks of trees for him. I would offer these gifts to Humakins , who was aghast as he eyed my hand, sticky with the juice of berries. But he would smile and say,
“Wow! Are these for me Lorikins? Look at your sticky red hands! Let’s wash up!” And he would whisk me off to the water where my hands were thoroughly scrubbed, the gifts having been carefully deposited in a bowl.
He would laugh as he picked off the stems, insects and tender barks I had brought him along with the collection of nuts and berries and say,
“O, I can’t possibly eat THESE, Lorikins, you funny thing!”
With that he gave my pointed snout a gentle twitch accompanied by the warmest hug. And I thought in a fever of love,
“O my! How I LOVE Humakins! I MUST make him my own!”
That night sleep evaded me as I tossed and turned until Humakins dealt me a small whack to keep me still. I was sick with love for him and waves of longing pounded the secret desires of my heart. I was wide awake as I clung awhile to his bed post, and then sat upon the window sill gazing at the stars in the inky sky. O, how I languished! The stars above seemed to sense my misery and beckoned me.
I moved slowly towards the floor. The moon beam shed its beautiful glow there and I stood bathed in its liquid flow of light. The night was magical as the crescent moon descended and tilted low. I climbed upon its silver edge. I sailed upon the moon on cloud tossed skies. I peered below to see if I could spot Humakins and though I had moved beyond his ken, I was sure he slept in his bed like a hushed babe.
The stars and moon observing my despondent look, queried, “What ails you, Loris?”
At this I wept bitterly and shed large tears of pain. When I stopped crying, I softly told them of my love for Humakins and how hopeless it all seemed, since we were of two different species. The moon delved into a silvery glow of thoughts. The stars mused, and dimmed to dull spots for the sadness they felt at my grief.
The moon then said softly, “Perhaps I will concoct a portion of Magic Love Dust for you, loris. It usually works for human beings. Anyway, give it a try!”
The stars hearing the moon, immediately switched on their bright sparkle again, and I felt the sprinkle of tiny star flakes all around me. A dent on the moon’s surface soon filled with star dust and the old lady on the moon who had been keenly listening to our sombre exchange of conversation, stepped forward and dropped glittering strands of rainbow into the hollow. She began churning the mixture until a fine powder of sparkling concoction appeared.
I was truly fascinated by what I witnessed, and stood there, very humbly, indeed, watching the procedure.
“Take” boomed my host the moon, with utter generosity.
“Help yourself!” chimed the stars in chorus sparkling the more for the joy they felt.
“Take all you want, Lorikins,” crackled the crone waving her bony fingers.
I ripped off, in a jiffy, the green scarf that Humakins had playfully tied round my neck that noon. I filled my scarf with the Magic Love Dust and secured it into a fat bundle with clever little knots.
“Thank you, thank you,” I blurted, overwhelmed by the kindness of the moon, the old lady and humming stars. Meteors flashed around me like harbingers of good times and the sky seemed a display of fireworks, as it were.
“Smear the Magic Love Dust over Humakin’s body until he dazzles like the very sun. Then push him down a milky water fall .He will then change into a slender Loris like you!” said the lady on the moon.
I was shocked for an instant because this sounded really preposterous. Then composing myself, I bowed my head, waved to the moon, the old lady and the stars, and said, “Thank you and good bye!” again and again since my vocabulary had dwindled to those two words for want of anything else left to say!
Holding the precious bundle securely I managed to slide down a smooth moon beam and landed clumsily upon the floor of the shack.
I immediately set about smearing Humakins with the Magic Love Dust with all gentleness, lest he awoke while I was still half way through the dabbing. He slept fitfully like a log, and when I was done, I gently woke him up, very unsure of how he would react.
He woke with a start and realising I had smeared him with some weird substance, jumped with a start and exclaimed,
“What have you done, you naughty Lorikins! O no! I’m all aglitter, you prankster! What have you done! Now I MUST bathe, you ras*al!”
And it was then that I started to run. We lorises are slow mover, by nature. But I found an unearthly energy that set my feet on the wings of the wind! And I ran out of the shack into the fiery green forest that sparkled with the dance of fireflies.
I fled to the paradise where I had first seen the thundering waterfall and the icy pool. I knew Lorikins was in full pursuit, so I sped with tremendous joy and speed.
Once I reached the waterfall, I now proceeded to climb up to the top of the waterfall which was really not too high. Yet it was a colossal task for me, so I puffed and panted as I climbed and poor Humakins followed too, though tirelessly.
“I will catch you YET, you scalawag!” he yelled half angry and half laughing to see me speed. Once atop the water fall, I waded to the middle as Humakins watched, aghast. The torrent was fierce, but I bravely held a clump of drift wood, that had lodged itself in a crack and stared wide eyed as always, at Humakins. Not to be out done he braved the torrent to get to me hopping from rock to rock with sprightly quicksilver feet.
“I will catch you yet, Lorikins!” yelled he, over the roar of the waterfall.
I waited with my heart beating frantically till it hurt. I stood waiting for this moment, when Humakins would finally reach me.
“Aha!” he said, his body glowing the fiercer with joy, in a breathless voice. And I stood there strangely calm and when I had him close enough, I reached for him as though in a trance, held his hand, and then, skilfully tipped him over the edge of the cascading waters.
I will never forget the savage look of fear his eyes held as poor Humakins went down, down, the thundering waterfall.
For a while I was terrified and began crying large drops of tears. I leaned over in fear to see the outcome of this drastic deed. There was nothing to be seen below. A fine mist of spray obscured everything from sight.
And yet I stared, my eyes unwavering.
After what seemed an eternity, the soft blue green ripples still spread wide and far where Humakins had fallen.
It was then that I saw my miracle emerge!
I first spied a fuzzy head, brown and wet with two round ears. Upon the sopping head were a pair of eyes, the most beautiful black saucer like eyes, I had ever seen!
They ogled at me so! My heart was elated beyond measure. His two hands, spindly thin and black, emerged in a swimming motion and soon the loris of my dreams stood beside me in the wonder of love.
We rubbed each other’s heart shaped snouts, and embraced. We ambled through the foliage of the undergrowth, where butterflies and fireflies greeted us. The insects and birds sang us the ditties of dawn.
“Our friend the loris has found a mate!” said they, and bustled on since daybreak had broken the spell of night. Many of the fauna, like the rabbits, deer, monkeys and squirrels on their way to the trickling runnels for their morning drink, cheered us merrily.
“Good morning lorises! Wish you luck!”
When we reached the shack, we stood still outside, staring at each other. Then we plodded in. We feasted on the nuts and fruits, jumped on the rafts and bedposts in play. We messed up the shack and Humakin’s books, papers and stationary lay everywhere.
Villagers peeped in and said, “Why does he ALLOW these creatures in here? Look at the mess! WHERE is he? This new loris…..it’s even wearing his ladybird silver chain!”
And the milk man, dhoby, cooking and cleaning maid, they all wondered where Humakins could be. And what was that new loris doing with his silver chain around its neck, said they! They all went away exasperated and indignant!
Presently we both returned to the depths of the emerald forests to live normal loris lives, visiting the waterfall often to bathe in the coolness of the pool. We prance on tree tops till exhaustion slows us and swathes us to sleep. Thus we spent the days of our lives.
Shouldn’t we be the happiest lorises alive?
By –Jayashree Jayapaul