The Lion, the Lamb, and the absent Monkey

You may have heard of the story about the two cats and the monkey.

Two friendly young cats came across a delicious looking cake (or loaf of bread, depending on the version you’ve heard), and they started to argue over who would share it in halves by cutting the cake (or breaking the bread).

Then, along came a monkey. The hungry monkey decided to help the poor innocent cats by intervening. He instantly divided the cake bread into two, but the halves were uneven. They all agreed that the monkey could level it out by taking a bite out of the larger half. But of course, the hungry monkey took a larger bite than necessary, and now the other half was larger. He (eagerly) repeated the process, until there was no cake bread left and quickly disappeared out of sight. The cats were left standing without even a morsel and only a memory of a delicious looking cake. The irony is, they had forgotten how that had even happened and eventually they convinced themselves it was only a make-believe story that they were playing.

Fast forward a cycle and we come to a new version of the story about a lion and a lamb, who were brothers.  They respected each other’s uniqueness, even though they were quite the opposite, and they decided to build a home together. This attracted the other animals who came for a visit, some even stayed with them.

With all these newcomers, the lion and lamb had to sustain them somehow. The lion’s milk was a powerful tonic, but it had a bitter taste. The lamb was sweet as sugar, but he had no milk. So, they decided to work together to create something delicious for everyone to enjoy. After some experimenting, the lion decided that the only way to remove the bitterness from his milk was to purify it before producing it.

Let me pause here and tell you about how my mother makes milk into yoghurt. First, the milk is purified with heat. Then it is cooled down to room temperature before a new culture is adopted into it. Then it is a process that only time can dictate, within a controlled environment. During this time the liquid mixture is stabilised into a delicious yoghurt.

After removing the bitterness from the milk, the lion passes it to the lamb. The lamb then adds some sweetness to the milk and passes it back to the lion. In a stirring action, the lion blends the sweetness into the milk so that they can never be separated again.

Let me pause here again and tell you about how my mother makes shrikhand (sweetened yoghurt). After making the yoghurt, it is spooned into the middle of a thin muslin cloth laid over a bowl. The ends of the cloth are brought together and tied off, squeezing the yoghurt into a tight bundle so that the excess whey is released. The small bundle is then left hanging in the fridge overnight. After the whey is drained, granular sugar is added to the curd and herein starts a process of magic. The curd is rubbed back and forth against the muslin cloth, and as the sugar dissolves into the curd, shrikhand emerges on the underside of the cloth, falling into the empty vessel below.

After mixing in the sweetness, the lion passes it back to the lamb. The lamb then tops it with some shreds of nuts, cardamon and saffron and passes it back to the lion. The lion looks at the dish and sees a creation that would not have been possible without his dear brother the lamb, and with glistening eyes, he opens his mouth and calls out. All the children come running to the table.

Opposites attract and opposites create. But only if they leave their desires at the door and dissolve the hate.

So, out of those mentioned above, who are you? The cat, the monkey, the lion or the lamb, in this world of a zoo?

PS: If the lamb had decided to add a little more heat to his contemplation to produce nectar, the process of making shrikhand would have been oh so much faster! Alas, we cannot always avoid a hungry monkey in a lamb’s skin.

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