It rained relentlessly for 4 months, 4 days, 4 nights and 4 hours. There were periods of drizzle where the people living in the blue metal roof houses came out to clean the shed of their buffaloes. Other times, the sky crumbled into fury storms and out of the east came hailstones thundering and banging on their roofs. A plague of lethargy took hold in the health of their legs from sitting, and damp eyes from looking at the rain so much. It was useless to manage time eventually when one could do nothing but contemplate the rain. Time passed until there were only 4 potatoes left in their sacks.
When September came, the monsoon clouds finally dissipated. The landscape had turned to all imaginable shades of green – olive, avocado, bitter gourd, lime, cucumber, mint, emerald, jade, moss and sea.
Big A and Little A, desperate for a comforting sweetness to drown their monotonous palate of the daily dahl baht begged their uncle, Shanibarbie, if he could get them a Gummy bear.
He was the sort of uncle that took pleasure in spoiling his nephews so he took some time off from the city and went about his search at the Nagarjun forest. Shanibarbie, who had been growing a beard for the last 4 years, could pass off as a shaggy bear of some sort and it wasn’t too difficult for him to lure one on his back. Soon enough, Big A and Little A saw him trotting up towards Astam with a Himalayan black bear.
The grumpy sound of a tired motor engine at its mightiness echoed through the meandering road. The bear which was happily distracted with a piece of honeycomb in its mouth, therefore, sat quite contently on the passenger seat of the red scooter, arms wrapped around Shanibarbie’s waist. Unfortunately, Big A and Little A shook their heads and informed him that it wasn’t a Gummy bear.
Undeterred by his mistaken choice of bear, Shanibarbie left the Himalayan black bear at Oh-No Valley and took off for the foreign mountainous regions of Western China. He found himself in the dense bamboo forests of Sichuan where he managed to haul a sleeping docile giant panda which was oblivious to his dislocation. Officials nodded their heads in approval at the Tibetan border and assumed that it was a very large soft toy buckled on his back – a gift for his nephews. Shanibarbie rode skilfully up the hill with the front wheel of his scooter taking flight and balancing only on the back wheel that was sustaining the 89 kg bundle of fur and himself. Once again, Big A and Little A turned their heads side-to-side in unison, assuring him that it was not a Gummy bear. Their inverted smiles did not flutter well in his heart so Shanibarbie left the giant panda, still asleep, at Oh-No Valley with the Himalayan black bear. He re-tuned his GPS on his mobile phone and headed south west towards Laos.
This time, in the warmer tropics, he had the misfortune of crossing path with a network of aggressive poachers at the intersection between Laos and Myanmar. He had almost crossed their line of fire aimed at a family of Moon bears that were just getting comfortable for bed. This incident had somehow brought a twist of fate for the orphaned baby bear, the only survivor of the horrid massacre. Shanibarbie rescued the terrified creature with such haste and desperation that the poachers did not even notice him. On his way back through India, he stopped at a tea station on the hills of Sikkim to ask for directions. Whilst he was in conversation, the baby Moon bear grazed on a trail of termites that were eating their way into the forest. The bear followed the trail and diverged to another that was led by a familiar smell. It was the smell of dripping milk from a Mama Sun bear which was in deep slumber after losing her own babies to the forces of nature. She was unconscious the whole time to the suckling of the hungry baby Moon bear which had curled himself into the recess of her nourishing chest. When Shanibarbie discovered the touching scenario, he was compelled to bring both bears back with him to Astam.
Unbeknownst to him, he had brought with him, yet again, a situation where the Moon bear and the Sun bear promptly found themselves in the Oh-No Valley as they did not quite fit the description of a Gummy bear.
Big opportunities are fleeting. When two Russian men were directed to Shanibarbie, a travel economist then, for a low-budget route to return to their homeland, Shanibarbie carved out a brilliant circuit, as cheap as two months worth of dhal baht.
As a result, within the next couple of weeks, Sharnibarbie leaped into a heightened state of mind and decided to accompany the two Russians home. He would then traverse across Alaska from Chukotka via the mythical route – the Bering Strait – where at its narrowest point of 85 km, it is possible for a mad person to walk or ski across its permafrost and ice desert in winter. Shanibarbie was convinced he was mad enough.
When he studied the map, he was reassured that all he needed to sustain himself in such a harsh terrain was with a rug sack of enchanting spinach, preserved and pickled in flaming chillies, lime, sugar cane juice and rock salt. Off he went, better prepared for an adventure larger than his wits. He skied across the Bering Strait, reached Alaska miraculously in one piece after piercing through the ferocious winds and violent waves. He trailed across the border of Alaska and Canada and found a hypnotic looking female grizzly bear with a flower placed behind her ear. Shanibarbie lured her with a bunch of wild flowers and she immediately took an immense liking to him. She followed him with adoration, trailing behind him and the flowers that he scattered as he trekked back towards the Bering Strait.
His ambitions had magnified. This time he was in search for a polar bear with a grizzly bear in tow. With iciness in his bones almost reaching a point of brittleness and just before his bones gave way, he managed to haul a bear drifting from a chunk of ice, seeking a ride from one continent to another continent, and which had just finished a meal of salmon and was too contented to be bothered by Shanibarbie. Back he went with two bears in a dusty jeep that looked as old as the wrinkles of the ancient man he attained from in Vladivostok, in exchange for his last container of enchanting spinach. With an ice block strapped on the polar bear’s head to keep him cool and a female grizzly bear adorned with wildflowers behind both her ears, they managed to reach Astam.
Little A and Big A greeted him in glee at seeing the magnificence of the white furry mammal and the adorned grizzly bear but swayed their heads when they replied that Gummy bears did not come in whites or browns. Left in confusion, Shanibarbie led the polar bear on the higher peaks of Oh-No Valley where the temperature was more pleasing for the arctic mammal. The grizzly bear was only too happy intoxicating herself with berry notes in the valley.
The people living in the blue metal roofs were beginning to report unusual sightings of bears that they have never encountered before.
The 73 chickens that have created a permanent roosting home for themselves in the fields of the enchanting spinach were delighted in their new abode and were only too happy to have 6 furry neighbours sharing their fields. They took great effort to help the bears build their own home.
By this time, Shanibarbie was beginning to feel very tired from his bear adventures and decided to take a break. He took a long warm bath and did not leave his bed for 2 months, except when he needed the washroom. Baby A, Shanibarbie’s young son was ecstatic to have his father at home after a long absence. He spent every afternoon by his side, plaiting and re-plaiting his father’s beard in all imaginable fashion. One afternoon, Baby A toddled to his father’s bed with a mouthful of sweetness and an extra handful of sweetness to share with him. He instructed his father to open his mouth. Shanibarbie took the handful of sweetness from his son’s hand and to his amusement, saw little colourful bears in yellow, orange, red, green and beige.
Shanibarbie gasped, his mind slowly piecing the puzzle together. Baby A observed his father’s face, his expressions taking him to unusual places.
Suddenly he burst out into a roaring, thunderous belly laugh. He laughed and laughed. And rolled out of bed with a loud thud that brought his wife, Shanimarmie, running into the bedroom in bewilderment. On seeing her husband on the floor, clutching his belly in rapturous uncontrollable hysterics, the packet of sweetness left her grip. The colourful bears showered all over him like blessings from the skies. And for the very first time, as Shanibarbie lifted his head, he saw the imprinted words *Gummy Bears* on the packet.