What Happened to the Reptiles – Summary

What Happened to the Reptiles is written by Zai Whitaker.

Short Summary

Pambupatti is a peaceful village, inhabited by a variety of people. Prem, the narrator of the story, flees his village under unfortunate conditions to reach Pambupatti by chance. An old resident of the village looks after him and tells him an interesting story. Very, very long ago, there were no animals in Pambupatti,only reptiles. They had a meeting every month. Their leader, Makara, would chair the meeting. Misusing his power, Makara ordered the tortoises and snakes to leave the forest. The lizards were also ordered to leave, and the whole forest now belonged to Makara and his group. The crocodiles faced unforeseen problems in the absence of their fellow reptiles. They soon realised that their happiness lay in their fellow creatures’ happiness and homecoming.


The narrator Prem lived in a village close to the jungle. There were all kinds of people in the village. They differed in faith, colour and size. They spoke different languages and had different eating habits.

Last year, the people went mad in the name of their religious faith. They fought with one another. They burnt temples and mosques. Prem’s house also went up in flames. With some money and clothes, he fled from the village. He travelled for two days and two nights. He reached a village called Pambupatti. He fainted near a well.

An old man took Prem under his care. So many people came to visit him. Prem was surprised to see such peace and harmony in the village. The old man then told him a story. He explained why the people in that village lived in peace.

The incident happened a long, long time ago. There were no schools then. People lived in caves. The forest had only panthers, elephants and reptiles, like snakes, crocodiles, lizards and tortoises.

The reptiles used to meet once a month. The meeting was presided over by the huge and powerful crocodile, called Makara. Nobody dared challenge his authority. They went along with him.

One day Makara decided to get rid of the tortoises. He wrote to them not to come to the meeting. He told the reptiles that tortoises were useless creatures. They were slow and stupid. But without tortoises, the forest was filled with the foul smell of rotting fruits and fishes.

Next month Makara drove all the snakes out because they were slippery and ugly looking. The rats multiplied in the absence of snakes. Then came the turn of insect-eating lizards. Now only the crocodiles lived in the forest. But the rats, frogs, insects and foul smell made their lives miserable.

It was a terrible time. The reptiles revolted against Makara. They called all the tortoises, lizards and snakes back. In a short time the forest was back to normal.

The people later on realised that all sorts of creatures played equally important roles in the world.

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