The Flying Rhino
A couple of bookworms down south should be held responsible for this post. Their fancy for bound volumes of the printed word put my time machine on the reverse. I read but not a lot, atleast not nowadays. Traversing back in time, the earliest book that I could recollect reading apart from the ones in my kindergarten reading list was The Flying Rhino. A gift from my parents on one of my initial single digit birthdays. I loved the artwork. The story went something like this:

The Flying Rhino
In India
In the thick Jungle of Assam
With his parents
And his friends
Happy and cheerful
A little rhino
Lived by a pond.

One day
While he was enjoying
His breakfast of leaves
A pretty yellow butterfly
Flew past in the breeze
The rhino looked up and began to wonder

The Flying Rhino
“The butterfly has wings
The fly has wings
All birds have wings
I’m a rhino
So what?
I must also have wings.”

The little happy rhino
Soon became sad
Tears rolled down his cheeks
That indeed was very bad.

Mummy papa and all his friends
Asked him
What the matter was
But the little rhino
Could not tell the cause
He did not laugh
Nor did he eat
He didn’t go to the water
Despite the terrible heat.

Then one summer night
When no one was awake
He quietly left
And walked away.

After quite some time
The little sad rhino
Stood under a tree
And cried bitterly.

The Flying Rhino
A mother sparrow
Whose nest was just above
Looked down from her perch
“Who are you?
And what’s wrong with you?”
Now the little rhino
Sobbed more bitterly.

The sparrow
Left her nest
She saw tears
In rhino’s eyes
Her heart melted
With her feathers
Softly and lovingly
She wiped
His flowing tears
“Open your heart to me
I shall help you
Oh, my dear.”

The Flying Rhino
The rhino coughed twice
Kind words had touched him
His voice was choked
He managed somehow
“Please help me get two wings”
And he couldn’t say more.

The sparrow first laughed
Then became serious
“A funny
I must say, a funny wish
Let me see dear
I may be able to help you
But my dear
Till I’m back
You have to be here.”

The Flying Rhino
In the dark summer night
The sparrow flew up
High in the sky
The sun rose up
It went overhead
The rhino waited eagerly
And of course very anxiously

After full four hours
His alert ears
Heard the flutter
Of the sparrow’s wings
The sparrow was in sight
She cried out happily
“Good news my dear!
In the ruins near Tezpur
There is a wishing goddess
Just walk to her
To pray and to wish.

Walk to the North
Then to the East
Walk again North
And you’d be there.”

The Flying Rhino
The helpful sparrow
The sat on the rhino’s nose
And wished him all the best.

Now the little rhino
Walked two days
And two nights
Without rest
He reached the ruins of Tezpur
Just before sunset.

The Flying Rhino
He plucked plenty of leaves
And also some fruits
Offered the wishing goddess
Then with a great effort
Sat down cross-legged
Closed his eyes
And prayed hard
For twenty days
And twenty nights.

The Flying Rhino
One fine morning
The birds were chattering
Before the sun was up
He felt tickled
In his sides
He opened his eyes
He found two wings
To his surprise.

The rhino was thrilled
He jumped with joy
Then he went round and round
Around the wishing goddess
And thanked her many times.

Then he flapped his wings
Like the fly
And yellow butterfly
He was in the air.

He floated above the clouds
He tried to dive
For some time
He tried many feats.

The Flying Rhino
The he thought of the sparrow
And flew to her tree
In just one hour
He called her loud
“My firend, oh my friend
Here I am
The big rhino
Your old old friend.”

His voice was horse
And it was scaring
The birds
The squirells
The rabbits,
Even the sparrow,
Hid themselves.

The Flying Rhino
Since the rhino
Didn’t see
The sparrow
He landed on the tree
The tree fell down
With a thud

With the tree
The rhino fell
Hard on the ground
The birds and the sparrow
The squirrel
And the rabbits
Pecked and bit heard
On his nose
On his ears
And everywhere
With great difficulty
The rhino flapped his wings
Flew up in the air.

Sad and sorry
He crossed the clouds
Flew for many hours
But his little eyes
Had betrayed him this time –
He landed on the ground
On ant hills without sound

The Flying RhinoThe ants didn’t spare him
Bit him hard everywhere
Swollen face rhino
Soon took to his wings.

He flew high
Up in the sky
The sun was overhead
He flew for many miles.

Crossed the clouds
Dived down again
And saw a pond
He was overjoyed
He landed down there
Splish and splash
And he turned around

The Flying Rhino
A huge crocod
Was ready to swallow him up
The rhino wasted no time
He flapped his wings
And he was in the sky.

The Flying Rhino
He was sad again
“No place in the air
No place on the tree
No place on the land
No place in the water
But why?
Because of my wings?”
So tired
So thirsty
So hungry
So lonely.

The Flying RhinoHe flew up again
Two days and two nights
To the same ruins of Tezpur
To the same wishing goddess
Fell down at her feet
Washed them with tears
Sat down cross-legged
For full one year.

Then one fine morning
He heard a tiny vo9ice
“You silly rhino
No more foolishness
No more.”

Now the big rhino
When he opened his eyes
His two heavy wings
Were not there any more

He felt light and nice
Then thanked the wishing goddess
One thousand times.

The Flying RhinoHe walked many days
And of course many nights
Reached his home
That cool and nice pond
His mummy
And all his friends
Gave him a warm welcome
On his happy return.

By Manorama Jafa
Illustrations: BG Verma

© Children’s Book Trust, 1977

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