The large Bengal tiger, Aharsi, was contemplating something. He was still getting used to the sensation of ice on his paw pads because it was winter. He shuddered slightly as he thought about the warm ooze of mangrove muck.
Many things were missing for Aharsi. He didn’t see how the midday sun turned his coat a regal orange colour or how his black stripes were so bold and menacing, like black lightning bolts.
He missed taking a nap in the sweltering heat of the evening and seeing the last rays of sunlight pierce the jungle vines. He questioned whether he would ever hear Doyel birds chirping in the trees or smell delicious mangoes on the breeze again.
The Bengal tiger was desperately attempting to visualise these short, heartbreaking moments in his thoughts. Aharsi yearned for his house.
The starlings who were nibbling at the frozen ground fled up into the grey sky as he let out a loud sigh, his whiskers bristling.
Three hours had passed, and despite his best efforts, the tiger could only recall hazy half-images of mangoes and mangroves. He was concerned that he was losing all memory of his former residence.
Everything was very thrilling when Aharsi and his parents first arrived at the zoo in England. He ate it all up, jumping from tree to tree, sniffing each bloom, and pawing at each little insect with his curious amber eyes.
His mother used to tell him, “Aharsi, just calm down.” You have made great progress. You have lots of time to explore, but for now you need to relax.
But the baby tiger was too preoccupied to sleep. There were new creatures to encounter and trees to scale. There was so much about his new home to discover.
On the first day, Aharsi had circled every animal’s cage before dusk fell, asking them a series of questions while taking in the bizarre exotic hues of the paradise birds and inhaling the sweet and peculiar aroma of the hay in the rhino stalls.
Aharsi discovered, however, that his new abode was very different from his previous one as he continued to investigate.
The young tiger was now concerned that he had lost all of his priceless memories of his own area. He feared that he had completely lost what it meant to be a Bengal tiger.
Aharsi purposefully flicked his tail from side to side while squeezing his eyes shut. He reminded himself to “remember.” Try to think more clearly!
The day grew shorter as the hours went by, and the remaining creatures began to retire for the evening. Aharsi eventually sensed someone staring at him. He opened one eye, trying to recall, just trying to remember, with all of his concentration. Zody the Leopard was there.
What are you doing, I ask. a rich, purring voice was heard.
I’m recalling, Aharsi replied. Now, if it’s okay with you… Aharsi strained even harder to focus as he closed his eye once again.
Remembering?” questioned Zody.
‘Yes. I’ve forgotten everything about being a Bengal tiger and my origins, so I’m making an effort to recall it before it’s lost forever. Now, if that’s okay.
Aharsi squeezed his eyes shut once more while attempting to conjure up pictures of his own country.
You won’t travel very far with your eyes closed, Zody remarked.
Aharsi looked pretty irritated as he opened his eyes widely. If you don’t give me some space to think, I won’t go anywhere, he yelled. You aren’t even a tiger, let alone a Bengal tiger, so you wouldn’t understand anyhow! You’re a leopard, I say.
Zody laughed hysterically and exclaimed, “You silly beast!” Look over there! She indicated a gleaming, slippery patch of ice on the hard surface.
Aharsi gave Zody a bewildered look in return. He remarked, “I think you might have gone a little crazy, Zody,” just as he was about to chuckle.
‘If you want to remember how to be a tiiiger, just look,’ Zody added in a sympathetic tone.
“Okay, if you’ll just leave me alone, I’ll look,” she said.
Aharsi cocked his neck slightly and gazed into the ground-level glassy ice mirror. Zody purred from behind him.
What lovely stripes you have, she remarked. “I can see my spots when I look in the mirror.” I have spots that are unique to myself.
All the way back to my great-great-great-grandma, who prowled the South African grasses, my mother, her mother, and her mother’s mother all had spots!
As Zody imagined the sun-baked savanna and lush green rainforests of her birthplace, Aharsi saw Zody’s eyes growing brighter.
She continued, “When I see my spots, I see my entire history. I’ll always have my spots, too. She gave Aharsi a wink. A leopard never changes its spots, she argued, so what does it matter?
But you never feel homesick or depressed, right? The little tiger meowed a question. “Everything here is so different.”
Zody pawed at the ice and said, “We all get homesick, yet look here at our reflections. We don’t really vary all that much.
Despite the fact that I am from Africa and you are from Bengal, we have the same whiskers. And look here.
Zody’s razor-sharp claws made an astonishing jagged line in the ice before she elevated them so they sparkled in the waning light. With a smile, she remarked, “We both have theeese.”
The elephant enclosure in the east section of the zoo suddenly started trumpeting loudly.
That’s not all that fantastic, Aharsi said. “We are both felines.” But aren’t I not anything like those elephants over there?
Zody chuckled. They may have different appearances and sounds, but I suppose even elephants experience homesickness. You share something with me in that regard.
Aharsi appeared uncertain because he believed that elephants were far too enormous and powerful to ever be sorrow. He remarked, “I think they can still recall where they came from.” According to my mum, an elephant never forgets.
Zody laughed, snarled, and rolled about on the rough surface. That’s true, she proclaimed. Elephants never forget, they say.
“And I wager that the zebras aren’t alarmed,” Still a little grumpy, but beginning to smile at his friend’s antics, Aharsi continued.
Have you not noticed them fleeing the zookeeper’s tractor? queried Zody.
And the crocodiles, too? Are they also frightened and depressed? Aharsi enquired.
Have you noticed where they are hiding beneath the water? Zody responded while giving her companion a friendly nose bump.
We all miss our homes occasionally, Aharsi. But this explains why we all have various looks. We differ from one another so that we can remember.
Observe me. I have a gorgeous tail that serves as a constant reminder that leopards are the greatest at balancing in tall trees.
Aharsi quickly started to rumble with a deep purr after feeling much better. And I’ll always be able to hide in the long grass with my stripes. The best hunters in Bengal are us tigers.
Zody smiled and added, “Your stripes travel wherever you go, Aharsi.”
The elephants can recall that they are the best at splashing in the water by looking at their trunks when they are feeling down, according to Aharsi.
“And the crocodiles can remember that they are the swiftest in the river when they feel depressed or afraid by looking at their webbed feet…”
The young tiger lost some of his momentum, his eyelids grew weary, and he unconsciously yawned. The zoo was alive with the crooning calls of innumerable creatures as it became later in the day.
Some had stripes, while others had spots. They were all different from one another. Even though all the creatures were different, Aharsi came to understand that occasionally they all felt the same when night fell and a million stars covered the sky.
He realised at that point that he would never be alone and that he would always carry his home in his heart.