In a busy town in south India was a zoo. In it lived a hippopotamus called Golu. Golu was a kind and gentle creature who loved children. However, the children always made fun of him and this made him very sad.
ï¿½See how ugly that creature is.ï¿½
ï¿½Yes, it has such a thick, oily skin and such a horrible face.ï¿½
ï¿½Isnï¿½t it slow, fat and stupid looking?ï¿½
The kids would yell to each other making faces at poor Golu. The hippopotamus would listen to all this and shed silent tears. He knew he was ugly. How he wished he was as majestic as the lion, or as swift as a cheetah. How he longed to have the beautiful feathers of a peacock or the tender skin of a rabbit.
One day he was sitting in his enclosure moping when he heard a young voice call out to him.
ï¿½Hey Hippo! Why are you looking so sad?ï¿½
Golu looked up. He saw an eight year old girl staring down at him. She was dark, with a flat nose and buck teeth. She had small eyes and her face was pock marked.
ï¿½My name is Golu,ï¿½ he replied seriously, he didnï¿½t quite like being called Hippo by a chit of a girl.
ï¿½I am Mala,ï¿½ she said cheerfully, waving her hand. ï¿½I live close by with my uncle and aunt.ï¿½
ï¿½Where are your parents?ï¿½
ï¿½They are dead.ï¿½
ï¿½Do you go to school?ï¿½
ï¿½No. My aunt makes me work the whole day in the house. I clean vessels, sweep the floor and wash clothes. My aunt has gone with my cousins to her motherï¿½s place. That is why I could come to the zoo. My uncle gave me five rupees to spend. Now tell me Golu, why are you looking so sad?ï¿½
Golu told her his tale of woe.
ï¿½Golu I know how you feel. Everyone makes fun of me too. They call me ï¿½buck tooth,ï¿½ ï¿½ugly face,ï¿½ ï¿½flat noseï¿½ and what not! I have no friends. Even my cousins donï¿½t take me out anywhere. They feel ashamed to be seen with someone as ugly as I am.ï¿½
ï¿½But I thing you are very sweet and gentle. You are the first person who has talked so kindly to me.ï¿½
ï¿½I thing you are cute too. And who says you are slow. My uncle once told me that you can run faster than a man.ï¿½
ï¿½Yes, that is true,ï¿½ Golu nodded.
ï¿½Will you be my friend?ï¿½ Mala asked.
ï¿½Yes, of course,ï¿½ Golu replied shaking his snout vigorously.
Form that day Mala and Golu became the best of friends.
Whenever Mala had time she would come over to the zoo and chat with Golu. Golu too eagerly waited for her visits and would tell her the latest gossip of the zoo.
One day Golu and Mala were chatting when they heard a commotion.
The noise seemed to be coming from the crocodile enclosure, which was right next to Goluï¿½s. Mala rushed ahead to find out. The enclosure had water all around with an island in the middle. A four-year-old boy had fallen into the enclosure and his mother was screaming for help. Luckily the boy had not fallen into the water but was hanging on to a pipe, a few feet above the water, precariously. It looked as if he would fall any moment into the water. There were around a dozen crocodiles lazing on the island. Hearing the noise one of the crocodiles raised it snout and glided into the water towards the boy.
Mala rushed back to Golu.
ï¿½Golu a small boy has fallen into the crocodile enclosure. Please do something.ï¿½
A thick wooden gate separated the two enclosures. Golu charged towards the gate and hurled himself at it with all his might.
The gate shook but did not break. Golu went back a few steps and charged again. This time the gate gave way and Golu barged straight into the crocodile enclosure. The boy was still hanging and just below him, with his jaws wide open, was a crocodile.
Golu rushed at the crocodile and rammed it. As it flew away at the impact Golu shouted to Mala.
ï¿½If you can swim jump down and climb on to my back. Then lift the child up and ask some one to pull him up.ï¿½
Mala hesitated for a few seconds and then dived into the water.
She had grown up in a village and was quite an expert swimmer.
She quickly climbed on to Goluï¿½s back. Golu immediately swam over to where the boy was hanging. Balancing herself on Goluï¿½s back Mala lifted the child up.
The boyï¿½s mother reached down but the gap between them was still too much. Just then one of the on lookers threw a rope. Mala asked the boy to hold her tightly as she clutched the rope. The boy held on and both of them were pulled up as the crowd of onlookers cheered enthusiastically. For Golu the danger was not over yet. The rest of the crocodiles had by now realised what was happing and had surrounded him.
They lunged at him biting his ears, tail and whatever else they could reach. He started bleeding and this excited the crocodiles even more as they rushed in for the kill.
Luckily at that moment the zoo staff reached the site and began throwing huge lumps of raw flesh into the enclosure to attract the crocodiles.
The ploy worked. They left Golu and rushed to grab the meat, fighting each other in the process.
ï¿½Quick Golu rush back to your enclosure,ï¿½ shouted Mala. Golu did as he was told. Since the gate between the crocodilesï¿½ and Goluï¿½s enclosures was damaged it was not safe for Golu to be kept in his usual home. The enclosure on the other side was empty. The zoo staff took Golu there and the doctor tended to his wounds.
By the next day everyone had come to know how Golu and Mala had saved Amit (that was the boyï¿½s name) from the jaws of death. Reporters took Mala's interview and her photographs sitting on top of Golu appeared in all newspapers. Mala and Golu had become famous!
Amitï¿½s father came and met Mala's uncle and made his request. Her uncle agreed and Amitï¿½s parents adopted Mala.
Mala now goes to school, gets tasty things to eat, beautiful clothes to wear and lovely toys to plays with. Though she is living happily with her new family, Mala has not forgotten her friend.
She comes in a car once a week with her kid brother Amit to chat with Golu.
Golu too is now very happy. No one calls him ugly or slow witted or ungainly. They now call him Golu the brave.