The monkey dashes down a banyan tree, lifts his tail, and watches. His stiffened ears intercept the shrill cry of an eagle. Scampering over dry leaves, he pauses and sees the eagle glide low to roost on a treetop. The eagle has fed. It means no harm, for now.
Trucks and buses whiz by on the highway in a blur of red, orange, and black. Their rumble shakes the mossy soil and trees. They mow down intruders in their path, their tires spreading bloody streaks marking the road kill.
Pigeons and brown mynahs peck at shoots emerging from the soil. A flock of yellow-green butterflies flit in and out of the undergrowth.
A bulldozer rolls into the woods, its flame-yellow arm razing all in its way. Men clamber off and hack down trees. Jacarandas fall with a rustle of feathery leaves and violet blooms. A mango tree crashes with a groan. The monkey cowers behind gnarled roots waiting for the carnage to end. Then, he ventures to salvage half-ripened fruit. Parrots and mynahs fly around felled trees mourning their nests and young.
The sun rises and sets, and rises again above the clang and clatter of machines. Pigeons and mynahs seek shelter in distant trees. Trailing behind his fleeing tribe, the monkey lingers to see trees make way for fresh growth. Steel girders and concrete pillars surge from cement and rubble-encrusted soil. Workmen bustle like ants upon the rising structure drilling, hammering, and welding.
Man-nests sprout up and fill gaps between chopped trees. Construction workers and truck drivers flock to chatter at the roadside tea shop. Skinny children play behind thatched sheds and saris hanging from clotheslines. The monkey likes to make children laugh. He learns to prance and beg for food, but sometimes all he earns are sticks and curses
A colossal building rises from the earth. Its glass façade reflects fluffs of floating clouds. A solitary butterfly flings itself against the windows, its black and orange wings translucent against the sun. A pigeon tests the nook behind a drainpipe for a possible home.
More trucks rumble in from the city in a blur of fiery red, yellow, and black, carrying men with saws and axes. Parrots and mynahs cackle indignantly as their homes crash to the ground. A lone eagle whistles as it soars by the clouds.
Elegant people gather around a skyscraper with a red cross. A priest lights a lamp and prays. A girl in a sunny yellow dress cuts a red ribbon at the entrance.
The monkey braves the crowd to scurry across the manicured lawn. “Lord Hanuman has sent this monkey to bless our hospital,” says the priest. He chants mantras and offers the monkey bananas.
The monkey springs back, suspicious.
Fierce, monster trucks roar up and down the highway. A chocolate-brown boy, the one who shares his breakfast with the monkey, strays out from the shanties and onto the road. Dazed by speeding vehicles, he cries and stumbles. Brakes screech. A flaming orange truck pounces upon a car and crushes its gleaming silver body. The boy is tossed into the bushes by the wayside and people scream.
The monkey grabs a banana for the boy but cannot reach him through the turbulent crowd.
Sirens wailing, an ambulance picks up the injured and rolls into the new hospital. Stretchers with crumpled, bleeding people are carried up the ramp and through the doorway.
The people disperse. Banana in hand, the monkey waits and waits for his little playmate.
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