Little Loris lives on a bamboo tree far inside the green forest. Her eyes are like big saucers but she is as small as a coffee mug. Mama Loris thinks she has the most beautiful eyes. They are round and huge and bright. In the day, Little sleeps. At night, she wakes up and plays. She loves to find bright colourful little insects and eat them. She hits Mama with bamboo shoots and swings away, laughing as Mama comes to catch her.
One night, as she is eating a small shoot, there comes Big Man. He looks up high and sees Little Loris. Then he smiles and offers a thin long thing to her. Little Loris smiles too and offers Big Man a bamboo shoot. Then something sharp hits Little and she falls down.
When she wakes up, it’s dark but not as in the forest. It doesn’t smell like bamboo. It stinks of Death, like when her Uncle Loris fell from the trees. There are no sounds here. Everything is dead. The floor is hard and it hurts. Little is afraid. She tries to reach out to find a branch to cling to. But her hands are tied. She cannot move her hands. She cries and cries. She misses Mama and Papa Loris.
Some time later, a bright light shines. Little closes her eyes, scared. She opens them a little. Big Man looks down and smiles again. He gently takes her out and makes her sit on his palm.
‘I want Mama,’ Little tells Big Man. Big Man smiles again and takes her to Fat Man who sits next to Fire. She is afraid of Fire but trusts Big Man. He will take her back to her Mama, won’t he?
She hears the Fat Man smile.
‘Her eyes are huge,’ Fat Man says to Big Man. She remembers how Mama told her that her eyes are pretty. Fat Man is good too. He will take her back to the Forest.
Then Fat Man comes to her with a sharp knife. It glistens in the Fire. Big Man uses the knife to scoop out her big saucer shaped eyes. Her pretty eyes. She cries out as pain and blood shoot out. Then they peeled off her skin. There’s so much blood and so much pain.
He picks Little up and throws her in the Fire. She burns and burns. Then everything turns black and dead. She thinks she hears Big Man laugh.
Big Man sings with Fat Man
‘We will sell her skin to the Leather Man
To make pretty bags for rich women.
We will sell her eyes and meat to the Quack
To make magic medicine for the Unwise.
And then we will be rich, oh so rich
We smell the tempting bag of Money!’
Little Loris hopes she will meet Mama again. She wants to ask her what Money means.
Slender Loris is a small, nocturnal primate who lives in the Eastern Ghats. Native people believe that all parts of the Slender Loris have some medicinal or magical powers. Their body replaces voodoo dolls in black magic. Their skin is used to make expensive leather bags. This has contributed greatly to their decline in the state of Karnataka. Though it is illegal in India to catch a Slender Loris, the trade of catching them and using them for black magic, leather and pets is high. There is no counting of how many of these little primates have disappeared from the Ghats.
Forest Tales are a series of fiction loosely based on true stories I hear from wildlife conservationists. I am working on these to create awareness for a wildlife conservation NGO called Vanamitra (www.vanamitra.org) based in Bangalore. Please do share these stories.