Tears of the 'Mangge'

Tears of the 'Mangge'

Hari, a lively boy of 11, lived with his parents in the sleepy fishing village of Kumbarjua in
Goa. Forever active, he was always landing in trouble for his butter fingered ways. Unable to
keep in check his awkward hands and legs, he preferred spending time in the mangrove
forests of Kumbarjua. Here he could walk barefoot in the silt, squishing through the maze of
breathing roots and nothing would snap or crash or fall. However, here in the quiet waters of
the Kumbarjua canal also lived ‘Mangge’, the freshwater crocodile that the villagers feared,
for he had dagger like teeth, a body covered with armour and was notorious for stealing the
village fish after which he was said to show false remorse by crying and shedding tears while
he contentedly fed on his prey.

The villagers felt that the Mangge only pretended to cry and was actually very happy about
stealing. They thought he was a hypocrite. “Don’t venture too close to the canal,” Hari’s
mother had warned, “The Mangge will snap you up and all we will be left with are his fake
tears”. Sitting in his favourite spot atop a thick root in the groves, Hari was just about
recalling what his mother had said, while absentmindedly drawing circles in the mud, when he
heard a loud plop. Looking up, he saw ripples in the water.

Wanting to investigate further, he stood up but before he could walk towards the water he
heard his mother call out to him, “Hari! Where are you? Come take this basket of fish to the
city market”. Bounding away and flailing his lanky arms like an overgrown monkey, Hari
raced home and barged into the door at full speed, causing a huge crash and spilling the entire
basket of fish over the floor. “Oh! Now look what you have done!” yelled his long-suffering
mother. “Can’t you do anything right, you silly boy? You belong to the those mangroves
itself, I don’t know what to do with you!” On hearing his mother’s words and seeing all the
spilt fish, Hari’s eyes welled up with tears. “Now don’t just stand there and cry like the
Mangge” said Mother, “just gather the fish in the basket and try not to drop anything”. But
trip he did. While walking on the edge of the canal bank, his muddy foot slipped and as he
attempted to break his fall, a few of the fish fell into the water. He watched the floating fish
bob up and down like plastic toys when suddenly they were snapped up by something.
Although he couldn’t see who the ‘snapper’ was, due to the murky water, he instinctively felt
that this had probably been his first encounter with the Mangge. Heart racing, Hari was
reluctant to leave, in case the ‘opportunist’ reappeared, but there was fish to be sold. ‘I can
always come back to the spot’, thought Hari, sprinting towards the market. “Looks to be a full
moon night today, it will be a good time to look out for this creature Mangge”.
Later that evening, after finishing his ‘fishy’ duties, Hari left for his small slice of paradise,
the mangroves, with a pocket full of fish that he had salvaged for the Mangge from the fish

With the full moon, the groves were bathed in a bright silver light and even the surface of the
creek was lit up. While Hari listened to the cicadas and the calls of the roosting birds, he
looked at his brightly lit village on the banks.

“I like this world more” he said loudly “the world of the mysterious Mangge”.
“Are you quite sure about that, little one?” asked a deep, disembodied voice.
“Who is that?” asked a startled Hari, now picking up a stick.

“It is I, the Mangge” said the voice. Straining his eyes to get a better look at the company he
had, Hari could only see stones and logs of wood when suddenly one of ‘logs’ moved.
“Mangge? I don’t believe you. Come out where I can see you!” said Hari standing atop his
vantage point of a breathing root, when he heard something shuffling towards him. As one of
the ‘logs’ moved closer, the moonlight caught the moving shape, which gave Hari his first
glimpse of the Mangge.

It was the most fascinating, out-of-the-world thing he had ever seen. Huge in size, green in
colour (though currently appearing black), with spikes all over his back, a thick scaly tail,
dagger like teeth (that required serious dentistry), short legs and eyes that glowed brightly in
the dark mangrove, the Mangge was indeed the stuff of legend.

As they stood facing each other, with the Mangge now fully bathed by the moonlight and
looking majestic, there was a loud rumbling sound. “Thunder?” exclaimed Hari, confused by
the sudden change in season.

 “No, dear boy, that isn’t thunder, it is me, the stomach of the Mangge that rumbles due to
hunger. I haven’t had a good meal in days. Alas! The fish and other water creatures seem to
have dried up, or rather fished right out by your people,” said Mangge, looking sad.

“Speaking of which, little one”, said Mangge brightening up, “I feel you are not alone, and
unless my sense of smell is deceiving me, I think you have some succulent fish on you!”

 “Oh yes! I completely forgot, I do have something for you which will help ease your hunger.
Here you are” said Hari as he flung the fish to the hungry Mangge. Hari could not help
thinking how wrong the villagers were about this creature who seemed anything but harmful
and was in fact, quite likable.

Settling down on his knees, he stared intently, watching the crocodile eat, who by now had
started huffing and hissing in sheer gastronomical pleasure. Suddenly, under the moonbeam
rays, Hari noticed a glistening, diamond like shape forming under Mangge’s eye. “What’s
that? A tear?” asked Hari. “The villagers were not wrong after all! You do feign sadness, as if
feeling remorse at eating another’s food, but as far as I can see you seem quite content eating
the fish you haven’t caught yourself!”

Mangge, who till now was looking at Hari from the corner of his eye, gave a loud burp and
licked his jowls. “Is that what the villagers think we do?” “Yes,” said Hari now a little less
certain of the spiked creature. “That’s interesting” huffed Mangge and asked, “Do humans

“Yes, of course we do, but not to feign sadness. We cry when we genuinely feel sorry about
something!” “And does it make you feel any better when you do?” asked Mangge adjusting
his huge tail. “Yes, most of the time it does lighten the heart and the mind,” said Hari
thoughtfully. “I believe we have hit common ground then, little one,” said Mangge “I don’t
understand,” said Hari, looking confused.

“Well, tearing helps us crocodiles to lighten up too. Let me explain. When we are on land for
long instead of in the water, it makes our eyes dry. So when we eat, tears automatically
develop to lubricate our dry eyes. We also produce tears to lose the excess salt in our food.
Thus, the tears of a ‘Mangge’ would either mean you have really dry eyes or you need to get
rid of the extra salt! It has nothing to do with insincerity”

Hari now understood. “Wow! And to think that the villagers were so wrong about you and
your kind Mangge!” “That’s all right my boy, at least you now know the secret of the
Mangge’s tears. You can always tell the villagers that the tears of a ‘Mangge’ are not false!

The meaning of the words ‘crocodile tears’ is not what you humans think”.

“Mangge, I most certainly will tell everybody. In the meantime, can we be friends?”

Swelling up with pleasure and with a tap of his tail, ‘Mangge’ nodded and said, “Yes my boy,
as long as we ‘Mangge’ exist in the Kumbarjua canal, we shall be friends.”

With the moonlight now completely shining upon the newly found friends, the two bid adieu
and while Hari melted into the thick mangroves to make his way home, a soft plop, a sigh of
happiness and a few ripples meant the Mangge too had returned to his aquatic realm.

Photo credit: www.animalstodraw.com 


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