Bedtime Story: The Monkey and the Crocodile

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The story of the monkey and the crocodile is from the Panchatantra, an ancient collection of fables from India. It is made up of five books, all packed with moral lessons.  Its stories are fun, light, and appropriate for kids of all ages.

The Monkey and the Crocodile

There was once a monkey who lived on a tree by the river. He was alone, but he was happy. One day, a crocodile swam up from the river and onto the tree looking for food. He was very hungry. The monkey offered him some fruits that grew on his tree. The crocodile thanked him and soon, they became good friends.

The crocodile began visiting his friend, the monkey, every day. They shared fruits and lots of fruits. The crocodile told the monkey about his wife, who lived on the other side of the river. The monkey, generously gave more fruits to the crocodile to bring home to his wife.

The crocodile’s wife was thankful for the fruits and loved them, however, she began growing jealous of the friendship between her husband and the monkey. She pretended she did not believe that crocodiles and monkeys could be friends! She thought to herself if the monkey only eats the sweet fruit he sends, then he could be a delicious dinner!

One day, she asked her husband to invite his friend over for dinner so she could meet him too. The crocodile did not like the idea. So, the wife pretended to be sick, and told the crocodile that the doctor said the only thing that could heal her is a monkey’s heart— if her husband wanted to save her, he needs to bring his friend, the monkey’s heart.

The crocodile was foolish, so he believed his wife. Though he did not want to harm his friend, he did not want his wife to die too. He was very upset about the decision he had to make.

The crocodile swam up the river onto the tree and invited his friend home to meet his wife. The monkey climbed on his back, and they made their way across the river. When they reached the middle of the river, the crocodile started sinking. The monkey was terrified. He asked the crocodile why this was happening. The foolish crocodile told him that he needs his heart to save his wife. The monkey was sad but he needed a plan to save himself.

He told the crocodile that he would happily give his heart to the crocodile’s wife, but he forgot his heart in his tree. He then told the crocodile that they needed to go back to fetch it. The crocodile was happy that the monkey was very kind and generous, he was happy he did not have to choose between his friend and his wife.

As they reached the tree, the monkey quickly climbed up the tree where the crocodile could not reach him. He then told to crocodile to go away, to go home to his wife and tell her how foolish her husband is to believe her words and believe his too.

Photography by: Annie Spratt

This summary is from Tell A Tale. The book can be purchased online on Amazon and Flipkart.

Bonjour Bollywood!

Reading Time: 2 minutesBollywood, a combination of Bombay, currently known as Mumbai, and “Hollywood,” is an integral part of the Indian culture.

The name was coined in the 70s by a gossip journalist. Nevertheless, the industry goes back to 1913, with the movie Raja Harishchandra, by Dadasaheb Phalke— the father of Indian cinema. In 1931, the first Indian sound film was released, and by that time, the industry was producing around 200 films per year!

Now, if you’re European like me, you probably think that Bollywood is filled with outrageously exaggerated action scenes, special effects, and cheesy love stories! And you’re probably right, about 30 years ago!

>In fact, I thought the same until I came to India and watched a Bollywood movie. Today they are modern and highly influenced by its American counterpart to adapt to the younger generation and keep up with trends. However, their storyline still carries the profoundness goes well with the European taste. 

Films are not only entertaining, but they are also reflective of society— even more accurate with India. During the 1920s and 30s, Bollywood films were among the boldest in terms of love scenes. However, after the independence and the emergence of Hindu nationalists, Bollywood became very conservative.

Let’s take Chennai Express, a famous Bollywood action movie and comedy, and the first Bollywood movie I’ve ever seen. I heard about it through my colleagues and looked it up on Netflix, out of curiosity and a desire to socialize too. However, 10 minutes down the movie, I was laughing as if I was watching Le Dîner de Cons, one of my favourite French comedy. The train scene, when the protagonist meets his beloved, was hilarious! But more than that, the characters were charming and the story, very entertaining. Cliché scenes with both slow and fast motions were still present, but were more subtle and looked almost like a parody. The only negative point for me was the ever-present song numbers, lasting about five minutes each! However, this a very personal opinion and broadly speaking, I genuinely loved the movie. Another aspect to mention though could be the duration of the films in India; nonetheless, I don’t think any of us complained about the length of the Avengers: Endgame! 

Films are not only entertaining, but they are also reflective of society— even more accurate with India. During the 1920s and 30s, Bollywood films were among the boldest in terms of love scenes. However, after the independence and the emergence of Hindu nationalists, Bollywood became very conservative. Intimate scenes such as kissing were replaced by metaphors such as the intertwining of dandelions! India had to wait for the late 70s to see the reappearance of romantic scenes in Bollywood movies. Nowadays, these scenes can be compared to those displayed in American movies! 

Another example of the evolution of the Bollywood industry is the movie Dostana in 2008,  celebrating a same-sex couple. In this case, it reflected a more progressive society. But as the Indian culture shifts toward the western lifestyle, my concern is that Bollywood will become a feeble representation of Hollywood and lose all its unique nature.

Nevertheless, Bollywood remains a must for an expat who tries to understand the Indian culture.

Delhi: My streets, my supermarket.

Reading Time: 2 minutesThe thing about Delhi is, we cannot miss its lively streets even if we wanted to!  Unlike European cities, where we see shops closing down, one after the other, with the arrival of larger chains; Delhi is filled with tiny local stalls. Everything can be bought for a song here!

The first few shops I noticed when I arrived in Delhi and which seems to be ever-present are ice-cream vendors! After choosing your favourite ice cream, the seller will rummage through his pushcart freezer to find you your ice-cream of choice. This is refreshing on a hot Indian day, and it will cost you only around Rs. 30.

Other stalls you’ll see often are corns cooked in charcoal, called the masala corn, similar to the American version, but of course, with an Indian touch. Fresh sugarcane juice and lemonade stalls are also easily available, and perfect for the weather!

Chai stalls, or chai ki tapri, are also found in almost every corner, with other Indian snacks, sodas, and cigarettes.

If you want fresh and healthy food, there are fruit and vegetable stalls throughout the city! You’ll always have different varieties, but the most common one is the mango, also considered to be the national fruit of India. It is juicy and sweet and is everything compared to the ones we find in the West. As for vegetables, I was surprised to see a few ones I did not recognize, or have even tried— Indian marrows and bitter melon!

For all other purchases, convenient stores are easily accessible; they are small but have everything from household products, toiletries, and even food! I’m pretty sure you’ve already noticed that meat is a little more challenging to find, but not impossible! You can find them at international supermarkets or a local butcher selling chicken, lamb, and sometimes, pork.

The local stalls for me are a better experience because it gave me more contact with the locals than big supermarkets. They are very much a part of India’s spirit. Even though I was skeptical about hygiene, in the beginning, I’ve never felt sick so far. These places fed so much more than my curiosity and were useful for my daily life!

Metro or auto-rickshaw, the choice is yours.

Reading Time: 3 minutesNew Delhi, the capital of India, the next city closest to me— though I’m not sure whether that last point is necessary or not. However, if you live in India, I’m pretty sure you’ve been to Delhi or will visit the city at least once during your stay here.

The city is huge and overflowing with things to experience in almost every corner. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean you just walk down the road, and you have ten things to see! It’s more like walk down the road, grab a ride, and then walk some more!

As for me, I had to use three different means of transportation to go to Delhi and explore it. I began with what I think is the most comfortable one, the metro! I have to say though, the metro here is very different from the ones I’m familiar with back in France. Paris’ subways have foul smells, a dirty ground, narrow hallways, people jumping over the control gates, and lots of homeless beggars but Delhi has none of this!

The metros here are larger in size and can contain hundreds of people; you realize that even more, when the platform is empty. I’m pretty sure that there is enough space to play cricket! Moreover, it’s always clean! It’s because a sweeper is always on the platform and because eating and spiting is strictly forbidden! You should not try it unless you want to be fined 200 rupees, trust me on this. But besides that, my journey from Gurgaon to Delhi was quite enjoyable, the temperature inside was fresh, and you can see the rest of the city!

There are two types of tickets to use the metro, the token and a rechargeable card. The best option, according to me, is the rechargeable card, because if you change your mind midway as I did, you can still use your card. However, the token does not give you that freedom. I genuinely think the metro is the best way to explore Delhi, it’s fast, easily accessible, and affordable!

Now, if you want to cover a distance of 3 to 5 kilometres, the auto-rickshaw is your best solution! Auto-rickshaws are everywhere in Delhi, you can’t spend a minute in the street without seeing, hearing, or smelling one of them! The empty ones will usually navigate towards you and try to get you in their vehicle. But because I want to pay the right amount, I always choose to grab an auto through Uber— hassle-free!

The auto-rickshaw is also more comfortable than it seems like, and even without air-conditioning, the temperature is still tolerable due to the breeze. Not to mention, it’s super fast too! I find this ride really fun because it satisfies my need for speed and wind at the same time!

Wheels are not necessarily the only convenient means of transportation, though, you still have you— at least, when you don’t have a lot of kilometers to walk! I sincerely believe that walking is the best way to enjoy a new place, a new city. In fact, you will find spots that you would have never discovered if you simply relied on the metro or the auto-rickshaw! I found that it was the best way to explore Delhi even if I was exhausted at the end of the day.

I love being able to observe things, especially animals! Delhi has different species of birds, frogs in the parks, small squirrels, and even the monkeys, who were staring at me even more I did! They also followed me through the trees for a while!

Just make sure to watch out where you place your feet to avoid holes, big puddles and the other pitfalls on your way.

Whatever means of transportation you use, I am sure that you will enjoy roaming Delhi.