Rham is a vegan who dabbles in writing fiction and poems. She co-founded Penmancy, a writing platform for amateur poets/fiction writers.
“Run, run, be free; Escape to a new me”
My job was simple, a repetition of check, twist, pull, drop, and collect. But these procedures needed careful attention, for mistakes had grave repercussions.
I had lost count as to how many tender coconuts I had plucked since dawn, but by the look of my Master, I knew it was not enough. My hands were sore, my belly was growling and my neck was swollen from the chain around it. Food, if Master remembered, would only be served if I had satisfied his demands.
After hours of climbing from one tree to another, Master Raju told me to collect all the coconuts and load them into the cart. This was my cue. The sooner this part got done, the earlier I would get food. I made it sure that not one coconut was left unloaded. Failure to do so would mean a few lashes and empty belly that day.
Tethering me to the sideboard of the cart, Master Raju bargained with the owner of the farm. He always did that. When the price was settled, we left. On the way to the city, Master Raju gave me a banana and some water. But it was not enough. I pleaded for more, but he refused to listen.
‘Maybe later,’ I thought.
We reached the city and stopped at the usual place. I knew my routine. I unloaded coconuts while Master Raju arranged them on the sidewalk. By and by, a few people stopped to drink and eat. I watched their eyes glow as the cold and sweet water ran down their throats. I gulped. I was thirsty. But I was tied.
My eyes automatically scanned my hands remembering those times when they were beaten in an attempt to claim what was rightfully mine. The pain was excruciating. Every plan to take anything from my Master without his consent remained only in my head since then. All I did was wait and pray for mercy.
Indeed, mercy was granted that day.
A couple got down from their car and ordered two coconuts. As Master Raju sliced off a portion of the husk, the woman approached me.
“Hello!” she said. I cowered, thinking she would hit me. My experience taught me humans were indifferent towards me or appeared nice at first only to turn violent the next moment. But the woman smiled and said, ‘Sshh, I’m not going to hurt you.”
When I relaxed, her hand touched my head, gently scratching it. It felt nice.
“Careful, Katu will bite!” Master Raju cautioned her.
“He looks harmless,” the woman answered.
“Stop doing that, Miss. You’re going to spoil him,” Master Raju warned.
I sensed the woman’s hesitation. But the man she was with urged her to stop.
When their coconuts were ready, the man asked Master Raju to prepare another. He handed one to the woman and then gave his share to me. I was taken aback. I didn’t expect his gesture. Some humans before offered me food only to retrieve it the moment I tried to take it. I had learned my lesson. So I kept my hands folded. But he was insistent.
“Come on, take it. It’s yours!" he said.
My eyes turned to Master Raju.
“He’s asking your permission,” said the man.
“Yeah, yeah. You can take it. He’s paying for it anyway.” Master Raju chuckled.
I took the coconut and moved a little farther away from Master Raju.
“He has done his job. One coconut is nothing for him. He looks malnourished.” I heard the man telling Master Raju.
It was the first time I experienced kindness. I didn’t know the couple; they didn’t know me, but they showed me affection. All my life with Master Raju, I only knew violence. That incident made me realize that not all humans were cruel. If only they had convinced Master Raju to set me free. But they had not. I figured I had to do it myself. But there was no way.
One morning, he left me tethered to a tree and starving. He came back hours later with a half-emptied bottle of rum. He unfastened the chain hooked to my collar, grabbed my neck, and dragged me inside the house. But before he could close the door, he tripped, letting me go. Seeing an opportunity to escape, I dashed out. I ran as fast as I could, determined to leave the place that had only brought me pain and sorrow. But Master Raju was fast. He was gaining on me. There were two paths ahead; I chose the left. For a brief moment, I couldn’t see him anywhere. I felt relieved. I slowed down. I was still catching my breath when he turned up on my right side. He almost caught my tail if not for the bull who came in between us, giving me a head up. The bull seemed to know my plight. He cocked his head as though telling me to bolt.
I fled. A village appeared. I climbed the first house and reached the balcony. “Shoo," said an old man. He was about to hit me with his stick when a dog jumped and grabbed his arm. He missed. I vowed not to climb on people’s houses and took the road instead. But Master Raju had not given up.
This time, he rode a bike. Without looking back, I ran, I leapt, I jumped. In the distance, children were cheering.
“Go, monkey! Go!”
As though they knew my plight, they quickly formed a line holding hands together blocking Master Raju’s path. He screamed at them, demanding to clear the way. But the children did not pay heed to his menacing command. They kept cheering, “Go, monkey! Go!"
He maneuvered the bike to an alley and disappeared. I knew he had not given up yet. I wished to be as far away from him as possible.
I was at the end of the village now. On my left was a fenced coconut farm. Beyond it was the beginning of a forest. My refuge. There, I would be safe from Master Raju or from anyone who would try to catch and enslave me. I was exhausted. My throat was parched, but there was no time to find water.
I jumped over the fence, but Master Raju was already waiting for me on the other side, holding a net trap. Caught off guard, I stepped back. There was enough distance between us. I still had a chance to run. I didn’t lose eye contact with him. Part of my brain suggested me to climb the coconut tree next to me. But the next nearest tree was too far for me to jump. I would be trapped.
Master Raju positioned his net. He was about to launch it on me when a coconut fell on his head. He collapsed with a thud. I looked up. A man was giving me a thumbs up.
The children came running.
“Go, monkey! Go!”
One of them informed the village doctor. A few minutes later, Master Raju was taken to the hospital.
From that day onward, I was free. My family tells the tale of my great escape to this very day.
© 2019 Rham Dhel