One day the boy found himself outside what appeared to be a prison except that each cage contained different animals. ‘Why have they put you in these cages?” he asked, looking for a way to set them free. “Have you all done something very bad?”

“No, no,” they assured him.

“We are here for our own protection.” 

Animal prison? 

“So that people can come and admire us.”

“But you are all in a prison,” said the boy.

“You see.” explained a pink flamingo, We are the very last of our race. If we escape and die, who will remember us?’

The boy immediately wanted to tell them about the Garden, but he thought it might only make them unhappy.


“People come to see me roar and growl” said the caged tiger. “And when I roar and growl it makes them happy.”

‘The children draw pictures of me,” said the elephant, a heavy iron chain wrapped round his leg, “and climb on my back for rides.”

“They all say how human I look” said the orangutan, “And want to have their photos taken beside me.” 

Just like us

 “Do you know our names?” they asked the boy. “They gave us each a name,’ roared the lion. “My name,” added the orangutan. “means ‘people of the forest’ what is a forest?” he asked the boy. through the bars of his cage.

“A forest is trees,” the boy started to explain.

The animals nodded thoughtfully. “What is a tree?” asked a monkey cheekily.

So the more the boy tried to tell them about the forest the harder it became, They listened politely but it soon became obvious they disbelieved him.


“Sometimes we have dreams like that,” a very large fish told him, mouthing the words through a glass tank, “but my memory is so poor I can never remember them.’  

Love?

 Not far from the zoo, near where an old wooden ferry chugged across the river, crowded with women carrying vegetables to sell in the market, there rose a steep isolated hill. An ancient temple capped this hill and people came to light candles and make offerings and pray to the spirits of their ancestors. Beggars and the maimed and crippled lined the steps rising to the temple and they were invariably rewarded.


The boy and his friends often passed this way and they also benefited from the impulsive generosity of those who hoped their prayers would be answered.

“What do they pray for?” asked the boy. 

Please…

Why, for good luck and good beam. A winning lottery ticket and unexpected wealth,” said the boys. “Don’t you have anyone to pray to?”

“Yes, of course,” the boy answered but he did not want to tell them of the Black Swan. Sometimes the Garden seemed so remote and far away he wondered if he had just imagined it, and it had existed only in his dreams and the City was the only reality.  


As the boy struggled back, weighed down with his thoughts as much as his heavy sack, he recognised a familiar figure coming towards him. It was the foreign lady, but this time she was walking. The woman grinned, You were right. I do not need a bicycle.” And the smile they shared stayed with him all the way down the long and dusty road. 

Monsoon

 So far the weather had been very hot but now dark clouds blotted out the sky.

Rain fell in a daily deluge that turned the streets into rivers and the rivers into raging torrents that finally burst their banks, flooding all the low-lying land and making many families homeless. 


Using bamboo aid banana stems they lashed together makeshift rafts to float off household possessions aid livestock to temporary shelters on higher land. Bet even the homilies accepted their plight quite cheerfully As far the City - the whole population locked to the riverside to swim and gambol in the rain..

 

Moving house

      Usually the downpours cane in mid-afternoon and towards evening the sides cleared and the food sellers arrived in cyclos and spread out mats and small charcoal stoves. One of the moat popular snacks was duck eggs ready-to-hatch. This delicacy was swallowed at a gulp – feathers and all. Children dived into the flooded river from trees and of the steps of the Royal Pavilion. Once in the water a total equality reigned. Once striped off it made no difference who you were or what yaw background


All the children, rich and poor alike, enjoyed themselves together. The City was sited where two rivers met. The bigger river flowed onwards to the sea but the smaller river came out of a shallow inland lake a hundred miles upstream. At this season the surge of water in the big river pushed upstream into the smaller tributary and re-filled the inland lake. 

?... 

The boy didn’t know the reason for it. He just watched in amazement one day as the river started flowing backwards. It flowed very fast and when he swam, as he was carried along, he remembered the monk’s story of the Guru. “If I may find enlightenment let this bowl flow upstream.”

“Will I ever find enlightenment?” he wondered. “And what will that be like?”

 

 
 

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9

 
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