Of the little monkey that wanted to become big and strong. Or, the story.

S. is a sprightly kid, cute as a button. She is in the IInd grade.

We talk about her school often whenever I see her. I mostly catch her doing her homework assignments though. A good kid — does her assignments by herself, and then busies herself in her own games.

The other day, she came into my room asking if I would help her with her assignment. When I said yes, she placed her notebook in front of me. It was an English assignment.

The little monkey wanted to become big and strong.

State true or false.

That was the question she wanted an answer to. I smiled.

“Where’s your textbook?” I asked.

“In my bag,” she said.

She didn’t seem to understand that one would need the textbook to read the monkey’s story first in order to answer her question. But soon enough, she produced her textbook and the next thing I know, I was reading the monkey’s story out loud to her.

There was apparently a little monkey who wanted to become big and strong. A wise woman gives him a magic wand, with the help of which the monkey could become whatever he wanted. I don’t remember the correct order of events, but enamoured by other animals in the forest, the monkey with the help of his magic wand transforms himself into a creature that has an elephant’s trunk, a giraffe’s neck, a zebra’s body and so forth. And it then so happens that this ‘transformed’ monkey looks at his reflection in the river and cries out believing himself to be a monster. The monkey’s mother then pacifies him and makes him understand the futility of wanting to be someone else. The monkey with the help of his magic wand, becomes his usual monkey-self again.

That is the gist of story little S. had in her book. And now I (and you) know the answer to the question S. wanted help with. Both of us went through this and the remaining questions in her assignment, and that was the end of that.

Or, was it? Sometimes, I think, we too are like little S. here, looking only for the answer. The story remains forgotten. And without understanding the story, what good would those answers ever be to us?

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