Concert at the Sunderbans


No one could hear the fiddler crabs playing — were the monkeys fooling everyone or were they really deaf?

One of most curious creatures of the world is the fiddler crab. The male of the species seem to practise on the ‘fiddle’ for many hours a day. Of his two pincers, one is large and other rather short. The short one goes up and down as if he were playing on a fiddle. Could he really be making music? The animals of the Sunderbans delta thought so but the Hoppers of the detective agency did not.

Bright idea

It all happened one monsoon season. Asadu, Achchu and Pichchu, the most innovative rhesus monkeys in the Sunderbans delta couldn’t find enough food. Mangoes and bananas, lychees and chickkus, fish and eggs were hard to find. As usual Asadu came up with a harebrained idea.

“Hey, listen! I have a brilliant idea on how to fill our food basket!” he yelled to his friends. Achchu and Pichchu were all ears. Asadu’s plan was simple. He was going to place four tiny red fiddler crabs on a raised mudflat. All the animals of the delta could listen to the band playing for a small fee of fruits or nuts which they would drop into Asadu’s food basket.

“Asadu, you are a born leader,” cried Achchu and Pichchu in admiration.

The three monkeys informed the animals about the concert that was to take place the next full-moon night. A big enthusiastic crowd gathered on the banks of the channels to hear the music of the fiddler band. With his basket full of fruits and nuts, the monkeys too settled in to enjoy the ‘music’. The fiddlers began their first piece. There was an expectant hush in the crowd. Though the crabs played their ‘violins’ with gusto, no one could hear their music.

A Royal Bengal tiger roared in anger. “Shouldn’t there have been a sound system? Wait till I sink my claws into Asadu.” The three monkeys trembled in fear.

“Ah, we hear the music well. It’s Beethoven’s ah… umm…you know what I mean. How come you guys don’t hear it? Are you all deaf?” asked Asadu in a trembling voice.

“Nonsense, we are not deaf. We are going to solve this mystery by calling in the Hoppers.”

It was with alacrity that Rock, a rock-hopper penguin, Rana, a frog and Let-it-be, a grasshopper responded to the tiger’s call. They interviewed a Bengal jackal, a chital, a croc, a long-eared rabbit, a mynah, a peacock and a crow. They tested their hearing.

“They are all okay but why can’t they hear the fiddlers’ music?” asked Rock.

Let-it-be suggested that they listen to the crabs. What a shock awaited them! They too couldn’t hear the music. It was Rana who crept up on the crabs to see what was going on. His big bally eyes noted that the crabs were playing no music but eating. They were picking up clumps of soil that had decaying leaves and other organic matter. They used their big pincers to wave to their friends.

Rana hopped back to his friends in delight. “I have solved the mystery,” he claimed with pride. He called the tiger and his friends to explain the mystery of the ‘silent concert’. While all the animals were relieved, the tiger was still furious.

“Those little rascals! I am going to have them for dinner tonight.”

That is only if he could catch them.

Published as part of a series titled Open and Shut Cases in Young World, The Hindu on August 28, 2015.


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