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Adi & Praja 120

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Adi and Praja

Chapter 9

Issue 120: New brother

and then he had murmured ‘Shano’ and that is how he was henceforward called. People didn’t even know whether that was his actual name, or just some murmured word, but they had never heard that name. It didn’t matter. A strange boy could have a strange name also. And nobody loved him less for it.


(moimoi’s new brother)

Apart from his handicap he grew like all other children. He seemed not even to realize at that age that he had a handicap. He had always been like that. He was just he. He was clever, and always interested in everything. He managed to kind of crawl around, pulling himself forth on his two arms, and reached enough speed to be a worry for his mother. He went to every ‘house’ and every family, and talked a lot. He understood everything a child can understand. If he saw somebody doing some type of work he wanted to do that also, in his own childish way. So he learned, or rather imitated, to make twined baskets from the women, and he made his own mini-boat of a piece of wood. He looked with amazement how some specialized men cut trees of the hardest wood of dark green or dark red color – the hardest material except granite stone from the upper river. And with more amazement how these men, with infinite patience made long strips of this wood, chipping it off inch by inch, until it had become a long bent and bendable strip of that hard wood. He wanted to do that also, but his hands were not forceful enough yet to chip off even the smallest piece of the wood. He didn’t know what it was for, but it captivated him as nothing else. The strip of wood was at least four times as tall as Shano himself. Then he saw that the men took a long string of some strange material which they had brought from another village and fixed it to both ends of the strip. That was really an expert job – and the maker needed much muscle to do it. The string was fixed in such a way that the wood kept always bent more than was its natural bend. And then suddenly he understood: it was a bow. Others brought arrows (the skill of making them he watched the next day). And one of the man took the bow and the string, looked high up in a tree, pulled the bow backwards, his biceps doubling in size and tension … and then let go. A squeak – and before he realized what had happened, Shano saw the arrow with a pierced bird fall down from between the leaves. It was amazing. It was so amazing. He wanted that also. He wanted to become a hunter. Though somewhere deep within he felt pity for the bird. He didn’t realize then that his handicap would make it forever impossible.

In this way he studied every skill one can learn in a forest. Nobody in the forest could read or write. They didn’t even know that something like that can exist. So everything that one had to keep in one’s mind had to be heard from someone else and stored in one’s memory. Then, once one knew all that could be known about a certain subject, information could be added, names invented, and knowledge extended for the use of future generations.

I must tell you that in a large tropical forest the number of different kinds of trees is tremendous. If you see one tree, the next one is usually of a different species – not like in an oak forest, where almost every tree is an oak. Every tree stem belonged to another type of tree. The leaves and flowers and fruits of the trees were high above the people’s heads, so it was in most cases impossible to know what tree stood in front of you, and of what use its fruits or leaves or flowers could be. The only thing you actually saw was the stems of the trees down in the forest. In many cases the only way to recognize a tree is to recognize its bark: color, texture, structure, and what is just below the bark if you cut in it: what color of wood, and what type of fluid would be bleeding once you hit it. This knowledge can only be gained by transfer of knowledge from teacher to pupil, and is accumulated over generations. The only opportunity to study such things is when you climb the tree to the top – and that’s not easy, or when a tree has naturally fallen. Still there were experts in the forest who knew all these things, and their species determination on was as reliable as that of a modern botanist in our time. It was very useful to predict which fruits would come available in what part of the forest, so that one could go to collect them – or hunt the animals which were attracted by the fruits. Sometimes these experts would even recognize more than one species where modern science recognizes only one: just because the bark or the structure under the bark is a bit different. Well, of course this was immediately a challenge for Shano when he heard about this. It was in another village though that such an expert lived – and Shano could not walk. It meant he had to be carried. He had to wait a year before some people went there and could take him while sitting on a mat between poles. He was twelve then. He went there, and stayed. His teacher was kind enough to cut and bring him pieces of wood and bark, together with fallen fruits, flowers or leaves. Sometimes he would help Shano to go to places himself – but not over long distances of course. Within a few months he had learned all that is to be learned about this subject. He memorized everything perfectly, and of every tree he knew the bark – how it looked, who it felt, how it smelt, and the leaves, flowers, and fruits belonging to that same tree, as well as the color, feeling, the smell (and taste) of the wood under the bark. When he went back to his own village he was a tree expert, and people brought pieces of wood and bark and other forest items to him to tell them what it was. He even discovered some new species or subspecies – as we would call them in our time.

Now he found it a nuisance that he couldn’t walk, and many professions and activities would be beyond his reach. He was ashamed that he was always dependent on others to bring him to places. But having become quite a wood carver now, he made himself some crutches to support himself under his armpits and long enough to lift himself just a little bit above the ground. Soon he could ‘walk’. He had power enough in his ‘legs’ to use them as a kind of cushion, and in no time he covered distances hopping like a frog with crutches. This gave him more freedom. Now he could even reach the open savannah, the river and the next village independently. And he kept discovering new plants, herbs, shrubs, saplings of trees. Intriguing for him were flowering plants growing on rocks in the middle of a wild streaming river. At the place at the river where his mother, brothers and Moimoi used to take him, the river was broad and flowing slowly – an excellent place to swim, for those who could swim. He could at least sit in the river till it reached his chin, but once he almost got drowned when a sudden storm came up and made the river wild. His brothers saved him just in time. But about a mile up the river it was different: he used to go there alone. There were cataracts and big granite stones, and vortices of wildly moving water. Impossible to enter for Shano – or even for a fit person. Therefore he was intrigued to see that on the stones in the middle of the river, where the water was very wild, flowers where blooming. How could these plants stand that pull and continuously in that wild water, and apparently even relish it?

Above the river and the creeks tree crowns and branches were hanging over, and the branches were full of plants growing on the branches. Some has tiny blue gray leaves (nowadays called Tillandsias) and were hanging down like beards above the creeks, and others had the most exotic flowers, yellow with red dots and white and purple and blue spotted ones of diverse sizes and forms. These where what nowadays we call orchids. Shano wished he could fly and go to these ‘orchids’ close-by. But he could not even walk – let alone fly. Moreover there were many plants growing high up on branches, such as bromeliads and ferns. It was really frustrating. He wished he were a bird or bat or a bumblebee.

Shano was someone who had a lot of good ideas, was a patient listeners and could tell nice stories himself – he didn’t even know where his stories came from – maybe they where just fantasies. Sometimes he talked about mountains and open fields of which nobody had even imagined the existence. And he talked about animals nobody had ever seen. He himself had also never seen them, but they just popped up in his mind. He was very kind-hearted and patient, and would listen to everyone’s problems, play with many friends who all loved him and helped him, and give many wise, but childish advices – but sometimes really helpful even for grown-ups.

Most of his time he spent at home, with Moimoi, the twin boys and their mother. Father was still hunting on a daily basis, and often came home late. But then Shano and ‘father’ could talk about a hundred adventures.

The only bad property of Shano was that he could not stand it if someone was better in something than he himself, as far as he could have done it better regarding his handicap. He could shoot arrows from where he sat – but if he missed while a standing friend hit, his was really in a bad mood. But he didn’t show that – only in the evening he would behave stubborn towards Moimoi.

Moimoi was fifteen now, and she showed all the female features. She developed beautiful breasts and hips, and …

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