The Adventures of Toto
By Ruskin Bond
About the Author
Image Reference: Edubilla.com
Ruskin Bond was born to Edith Clarke and Aubrey Alexender Bond, on 19 May, 1934 in Kasauli, Punjab States Agency, British India. He is an Indian author of British descent. He wrote his first novel, The Room on the Roof, when he was seventeen which won John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957. Since then he has written several novellas, over 500 short stories, as well as various essays and poems, all of which have established him as one of the best-loved and most admired chroniclers of contemporary India. In 1992 he received the Sahitya Akademi award for English writing. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1999 for contributions to children’s literature. He now lives with his adopted family in Landour near Mussoorie.
Text Reference: Wikipedia, scholastic.co.in
The story is based on the experiences of people who keep animals as pets. It shows that not all animals can adapt themselves to human way of life. It requires a great deal of patience and skill to train animals to acquire non-destructive behaviour.
The narrator’s grandfather was fond of keeping different kinds of pets. One day, he bought a baby monkey from a tonga-driver for rupees five. Its name was Toto. It was a mischievous small monkey. At first, his pranks were amusing. The family members enjoyed these pranks. But with the passage of time, his mischiefs became wilder. He broke many things in the house. At last, grandfather realized that he could not keep Toto at home any longer. So, he sold Toto back to the tonga-driver for three rupees.
Baby animals look cute and we are tempted to keep them as pets. Each animal has its own characteristics. Some animals, like monkeys, are very mischievous. They can cause a lot of damage if one is not careful with them. So, one should not keep animals as pets unless one has adequate information and skill to train and handle them. However, animals thrive better in their natural habitat.
The narrator’s grandfather bought Toto, a little red monkey from a tonga driver to add to his collection of animals in his private zoo. He was a pretty monkey with bright and mischievous eyes. He was so naughty that he would frighten people by showing his white-teeth. Toto looked cute but his presence was kept a secret from the narrator’s Grandmother because she did not approve of any new additions to the already existing pets. Consequently, Toto was put in a closet opening into the narrator’s bedroom wall and was tied to a peg fastened into the wall. However, the naughty monkey did not stay there for long. He tore off the ornamental wall-paper and pulled out the peg. He also tore the narrator’s school blazer in shreds.
After this it was decided that Toto would be transferred to the cage where other animals such as a tortoise, a pair of rabbits, a tame squirrel and, narrator’s pet goat lived amiably. But the mischievous monkey troubled all these animals at night and did not let them sleep. So, Grandfather decided to take him to Saharanpur with him where he had to go to collect his pension. He decided to take Toto along in a big canvas bag. Since there was no opening in the bag to allow his hands or face to come out, he would often jump inside the bag, making the bag look like as if there was a spirit in it.
As soon as the train reached Saharanpur, Toto scared the ticket-collector by popping his head out of the bag and grinning at him. The ticket-collector was annoyed at the discovery and asserted that the grandfather would have to pay for Toto’s fare. The ticket-collector assumed Toto to be a dog and would not listen to the grandfather’s argument that it was not a dog.
Finally, Toto was accepted as a pet by the narrator’s Grandmother and he was given a comfortable home in the stable. He was to stay there with the family donkey, Nana. However, on the first night of his stay, Toto hung on to the donkey’s long ears with his sharp teeth and never ever became friends with him.
Toto loved to take bath in hot water in winter in the same manner as the narrator would do. He would first check the hotness of water before jumping into the hot water bowl. One day, Toto nearly boiled himself alive by jumping into the large kitchen kettle that had been left on the fire to boil for tea. It was grandmother who came to his rescue and saved him. As days passed by, Toto’s mischievous activities troubled everyone in the house. Ultimately grandfather sold him back to the tonga-driver for three rupees and heaved a sigh of relief.
Q1. How does Toto come to grandfather’s private zoo?
Ans. Grandfather was fond of pets. He saw Toto in the captivity of a tonga owner. He thought that his private zoo would be a better place for Toto. So he purchased Toto from the tonga-owner for five rupees.
Q2. “Toto was a pretty monkey.” In what sense is Toto pretty?
Ans. Toto was a pretty monkey in the sense that his appearance was cute. His bright sparkling eyes, deep-set eyebrows, and pearly white teeth gave him a pretty look. Even Toto’s long tail added to his good looks.
Q3. Why does grandfather take Toto to Saharanpur and how? Why does the ticket collector insist on calling Toto a dog?
Ans. Grandfather decided to take Toto with him to Saharanpur in order to keep his presence in the house a secret from Grandmother. He decided to take Toto along in a big canvas bag.
The ticket collector was following his rule-books. As there seems to be no rule for fixing a monkey’s fare so he equated Toto with dog. Ticket collector’s ingenuity tried to categorize all pets of a certain size as dogs.
Q4. How does Toto take a bath? Where has he learnt to do this? How does Toto almost boil himself alive?
Ans. Toto takes bath in a tub of warm water. It puts its legs in the water one by one and applies soap as well. As monkeys are good at aping others, so Toto has learnt proper steps of bathing while watching the narrator doing same.
Toto is fond of bathing with warm water. So once having tested the warmth of water in the kettle Toto sits in the kettle. Probably he is not intelligent enough to understand the risk of boiling water so he pops his head up and down in the kettle.
Q5. Why does the author say, “Toto was not the sort of pet we could keep for long”?
Ans. Toto’s nuisance was increasing by days. It was destroying everything it could lay hands on. For a family of a middle class status buying dishes every day can be a costly affair. So keeping a naughty monkey like Toto can never be a pleasant experience for anybody.
Short Answer Type Questions
Q. How did Toto use his body parts to his advantage?
Ans. Toto used his bright eyes to display a mischievous glint. He used his pearly white teeth to smile in a way that would scare Anglo-Indian ladies. He used his fingers quickly and wickedly to pick up things. He used his tail, his third hand, to hang from branches or to pull something that was at a distance.
Q. Why did Grandfather hide Toto for some time when he brought him home?
Ans. Grandfather, who was fond of pets, would face resistance from Grandmother whenever he brought a new pet into the house. So, he hid Toto for some time and kept his entry a secret until Grandmother was in a good mood.
Q. How did Toto behave when he was kept with other pets of Grandfather?
Ans. Toto, the mischievous monkey, ill-treated the other pets of Grandfather. He did not let anyone sleep at night. He bit the long ears of the donkey, Nana, when he was given a place with him in the stable.
Q. “An exhibition attracted a curious crowd of onlookers at the Dehra Dun railway platform”. What was the cause of this exhibition?
Ans. The canvas kit-bag in which Toto had been placed did not allow the naughty animal to escape. Therefore, when he attempted to release himself, he would move inside frantically. The bag would then roll about on the floor and at times jump into the air thus attracting a crowd of curious onlookers at the platform.
Q. What did the ticket-collector classify Toto as? Why did he do so?
Ans. The railway ticket-collector classified Toto as a dog. Actually, the monkey had looked out of the bag to give the ticket-collector a wide grin. As a rule only a dog was allowed to travel by train and was charged for it. That is why Toto was termed as a dog.
Q. Why did Grandfather get annoyed at the Saharanpur station?
Ans. Grandfather got annoyed at the Saharanpur station because the ticket-collector insisted on calling Toto a dog. In addition he compelled the old man to pay three rupees as fare for carrying the animal with him.
Q. Who was Nana? How did Toto trouble him?
Ans. Nana was the narrator’s family donkey. Toto troubled Nana by clinging on to its long ears with his sharp teeth. He did so on the very first night that he shared the stable with the donkey.
Q. When and why would Toto refuse to take a bath?
Ans. Toto would refuse to take a bath if someone laughed at him as he rushed to the kitchen-fire to dry himself. He would feel hurt at being mocked in this manner.
Q. “The brain part devoted to mischief was far more developed in Toto”. Do you agree with this observation of the narrator? Support your answer with instances from the text.
Ans. Toto, although an intelligent monkey, used all his energy in playing mischief and that too of a destructive nature. He would tear and break things or trouble and irritate others. To make matters worse, he would enjoy his mischievous acts. That is why the narrator has made this remark about Toto.
Q. What incident led to Grandfather’s decision of not keeping Toto as a pet?
Ans. Toto was once caught stuffing ‘pullao’ during lunch-time. On being screamed at by Grandmother and the narrator’s aunt, Toto hurled a plate and a glass of water at them. After that he picked up the dish and escaped through the window in the branches of the jackfruit tree. He threw down and broke the dish after finishing the last grain of rice. This led Grandfather to decide against keeping him as a pet any longer.
Long Answer Type Questions
Q. Describe Toto and his adventures.
Ans. Toto is a baby monkey who is bought for five rupees from a tonga-driver by the narrator’s Grandfather. Toto is pretty to look at. He has bright eyes that sparkle with mischief. His eyebrows are deep-set. His pearly white teeth frighten the elderly Anglo-Indian ladies when he smiles. His hands are dried up as if they have been pickled under the sun. He is quick with his fingers and lifts things in a wicked manner. His tail adds to his beauty and acts as his third hand. He hangs from trees and scoops out goodies with his tail. He is playful and restless, that is why he cannot be kept under hiding for long. He is destructive too as he tears away the narrator’s blazer and wallpaper of the bedroom. He is a total misfit with other animals and does not let them sleep. He bites Nana, the donkey, and never becomes friends with him.
Toto is keenly observant as he imitates the narrator’s manner of taking bath. He loves warm baths in cold winters but is very sensitive if anyone laughs at his act of drying himself after a bath. He is curious by nature and lands in trouble because of this. The episode when he almost boils himself alive is an example. His mischievousness is the prime trait that makes it difficult to keep him as a pet. He causes a lot of damage by destroying or spoiling things. Still, his adventures are funny and make the reader laugh every time.
Q. Describe how Toto took a bath during winter evenings.
Ans. During winter evenings, Grandmother gave Toto a large bowl of warm water for his bath. Toto very cleverly tested the temperature of the water with his hand. He then gradually stepped into the bath. He would put first foot, then the other until he was into the water up to the neck. He then took the soap in his hands or feet. He rubbed himself all over with it. When the water became cold, he got out. Then he ran as quickly as he could to the kitchen fire. He dried himself there. Toto had seen the writer taking bath. Thus he had learnt to copy him accordingly.
Q. How did Toto nearly boil himself alive?
Ans. One day a large kitchen kettle had been left on the fire. It had water to boil for tea. Toto had nothing to do. He removed the lid. He found the water just warm enough for a bath. So he got inside. His head was sticking out from the open kettle. For a while, it was fine but soon the water began to boil. Toto raised himself a little. But it was cold outside. So he sat down again. He continued to hop up and down for some time. Then Grandmother arrived. She pulled him out of the kettle. Toto was nearly half-boiled.
Q. Describe Toto’s mischief at lunch-time. How did the author’s family get rid of Toto in the end?
Ans. One day, at lunch-time, a large dish of pullao was left in the centre of the dining-table. The writer and the members of his family entered the room. They found Toto stuffing himself with rice. Grandmother started screaming. Toto threw a plate at her. One of the writer’s aunts rushed forward. Toto threw a glass of water in her face. When Grandfather arrived, Toto picked up the dish of pullao and went out through a window. He stayed in the branches of the jack-fruit tree all afternoon. The dish was still in his arms. He ate slowly all the grains of rice in the dish. Then he threw the dish down from the tree. When the dish broke into pieces, he chattered with delight.
At last, grandfather realised that Toto could not be kept for long in the house. The family could not bear the frequent loss of dishes, clothes, curtains and wallpapers. At last, grandfather found the same Tonga driver. He sold Toto back for only three rupees.
Q. Describe the situation in which grandfather found himself at the Saharanpur railway station.
Ans. Toto’s presence had still not been disclosed to grandmother. The next day, grandfather had to go to Saharanpur to get his pension. He decided to take Toto along with him. He got a big black canvas bag and put Toto into it. The bag was too strong for Toto to bite or tear. Toto remained in the bag as far as Saharanpur. At the gate, as the ticket-collector was checking grandfather’s ticket, Toto put his head out of the bag and grinned at the ticket-collector. He told the grandfather that there was a dog with him. Grandfather told him that it was not a dog but a monkey. But the ticket-collector was adamant and charged three rupees extra. Then grandfather showed him his pet tortoise. The ticket-collector said that it was not a dog and hence there would be no ticket for it.
Q. How did Toto create problems for Grandfather on way to Saharanpur?
Ans. Grandfather had to zip up Toto in a big black canvas kit-bag for carrying him to Saharanpur from Dehra Dun. It was ensured that he could not escape or get his hands out or bite through the strong canvas once the bag was closed. However, Toto was so restless that he tried to come out of the bag by jumping inside it. This made the bag roll about on the floor and jump into the air. It drew the attention of onlookers at the Dehra Dun platform and it became quite difficult for Grandfather to keep his presence a secret. On reaching Saharanpur, Toto suddenly poked his head out of the bag and grinned widely at the ticket-collector. The secret of his presence got revealed and cost Grandfather three rupees that had to be paid as fare.
Q. What human values do you see in Grandmother after reading this story?
Ans. Grandmother appeared to be a tough woman. She always fussed when Grandfather brought home some new bird or animal but this fuss would disappear as soon as she would get into a good mood. That is why she accepted Toto as the new pet after a few days. When Toto tore the narrator’s school-blazer to shreds, the narrator’s first worry was what Grandmother would say. He thought so because she gave the impression of being a strict disciplinarian. However, her soft heart had compassion for all. Toto was mischievous and destructive since the day one; still Grandmother would overlook everything and give him a bowl of warm water to bathe. Again, it was Grandmother who rescued Toto from getting boiled in the kettle. Thus it can be clearly seen that Grandmother had a kind heart, although she appeared to be tough outwardly.