1. Why did the author feel that there was a need for N’Pongo to have a mate? Draw a comparison between N’Pongo and Nandy.
Ans. The author felt that there was a need for N’Pongo to have a mate because he did not want the gorilla to turn into a sad, depressed, and lonely creature. He disapproved of the zoos which treated animals merely as creatures to be exhibited. He wanted to treat them as a family. N’Pongo, as a baby, was about eighteen inches high, and was quite handsome and healthy looking. His fur was light-chocolate-coloured, thick and soft, and the skin on his hands, feet, and face was soft and glossy. His eyes were small and deep-set, twinkling like chips of coal. As a baby, he had grave and courteous manners. He was kept in the author’s guestroom before his cage got ready. The author and his mother were amazed to see N’Pongo behave appropriately. When N’Pongo became bored with lying on the sofa, he went around examining anything of interest. He paused to look at a picture, or stroke an ornament, but did it so gently that the author was captivated by his behaviour. The author observed that when N’Pongo was brought out of his cage and re-incarcerated, he did not put up a fight, unlike chimpanzees. He would try his best to make the authorities not do it, but would submit with good grace if he realized it was unavoidable. He grew into a strong adult gorilla, and became everyone’s darling due to his attractive appearance, good manners, and well-developed sense of humour. On the other hand, N’Pongo’s wife Nandy had large and lustrous eyes which seemed to be frightened. She had a glossy fur, was fat, and her skin had a sheen like satin. She had little experience of human beings when the author met her, but that was because she had been physically tortured (had been given a blow on the skull, with a machete) as a child. She had a sullen and anti-social attitude at this time, and was about half of N’Pongo’s size. Nandy took a long time to come out of her fear of human beings, and gradually reconciled with N’Pongo. She did not like it when N’Pongo mischievously pulled her hair. However, after some days she accepted him. Both the gorillas had different temperaments, but stayed together happily.
2. Discuss the theme of the story ‘A Gorilla in the Guest Room’.
Ans. The story clearly delineates the idea that human beings should make a conscious effort to make the world a better place to live in. They should conserve wildlife and create better environments for animals. The author was an animal lover, and could go to any extent to save animals. He was of the view that zoos should be turned into zoological parks to take better care of animals, and conserve threatened species. Zoos are not meant for animals to be exhibited. Animals have a world of their own, which must be respected. This was seen in his taking care of both N’Pongo and Nandy. He wanted to save these gorillas from extinction and help them reproduce. He faced a lot of financial difficulty in the process, but it did not deter him from his goals. Another theme in the story is the attitude of human beings towards animals. The author believes that we must love and care for animals. They have their own desires, and want mates when they grow up to a certain age. This can be seen in the author’s realization of N’Pongo need of a wife. He went to the extent of bringing Nandy on instalments. He did not want N’Pongo to become a sad and lonely creature. He also took care of the gorilla when it got afflicted with colitis. Even though he had arranged to spend three weeks in the south of France, for making a film about the life in Camargue, he did not leave N’Pongo’s side. He ensured that N’Pongo received the best medical treatment and was completely healthy before he left. He even got ready to cancel his appointment, if the gorilla did not recover. We should take inspiration from the author’s efforts, and strive towards animal rights and conservation. We must understand that animals too appreciate qualities like trust, friendship, companionship, and so on. They should be allowed to remain in their natural habitat, instead of being thrown into captivity.
3. What do you think about the narrator’s act of raising N’Pongo? What were the difficulties he faced while doing so?
Ans. By raising N’Pongo lovingly, the narrator proved that he cared for animals. He wanted to have a gorilla in his zoo, in order to save the threatened species. One day, he received a call from an animal dealer asking him if he wanted a baby gorilla, and asked for twelve hundred pounds. The narrator told the dealer that he will meet the gorilla at the London Airport. His wife was not in favour of his decision, and reminded him that he already had huge debts to pay to the bank. However, his mother seemed to be excited about the gorilla. The narrator then decided to call up all the rich people on the island, and called them one by one. He managed to procure money from them for the noble cause of conserving rare species. But along with this, the narrator was also apprehensive of the fact that the dealer might not know the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, and he might have to return home disappointed. However, he flew to the London Airport to meet the gorilla. It was about eighteen inches high, and was handsome and healthy looking. The gorilla did not have any fat on its body; it was all bone and muscle. The skin on its hands, feet, and face was soft and glossy. Its eyes were small and deep-set like chips of coal. The narrator kept the gorilla in the guestroom till the time its cagegot ready. He named it N’Pongo, and took care of it just like a family member. He provided N’Pongo with good food, good environment, and finally a mate to be with. The author faced a financial difficulty again when the dealer asked for fifteen hundred pounds for a female gorilla. He requested the dealer if he could pay the money in instalments, who agreed to the offer. Finally, after much efforts the female gorilla (named Nandy) reconciled with N’Pongo. The next difficulty which came in the narrator’s path was when N’Pongo fell sick with colitis. At this time, he had arranged to spend three weeks in the south of France for making a film about life in Camargue. It was almost a death-like situation for N’Pongo, and the author had to do every possible thing to nurse him back to health. But he did not leave until he received the news of N’Pongo being completely healthy. These humane efforts by the author need to be aroused in all human beings, so that the whole world lives together, in harmony with nature.
4. Do you think that zoos shouldn’t showcase wild animals?
Ans. The author says that they “must cease to be mere showplaces of animals and start to contribute something towards the conservation of wildlife.” Discuss. Zoos should definitely not treat animals as objects to be used for entertainment or showcase. Animals should be provided with their natural habitat, and a healthy environment. Just like human beings require the need of a home and a family, so do the animals. The author feels that zoos should contribute more towards the conservation of wildlife. People commonly perceive zoos to be places where they can go to see animals in captivity, and enjoy themselves. But no one ever cares to understand the trauma that these animals have to go through in captivity. They are not able to roam freely, like they can do in their natural environment; they are not fed or taken care of properly. They are not provided with mates, and are used merely for the purpose of display. Due to these reasons, the author wants all zoos to be converted to zoological parks, where the animals can be their own self, and be taken care of. He believes that such zoological parks should hold rare or endangered species. In this way, these animals will be under the care of the authorities, and might be saved from extinction. In the story, the narrator wants to take care of a gorilla, and manages to find one for a sum of twelve hundred pounds. He take care of the baby gorilla and names it N’Pongo. The baby is at first undernourished, and there is no fat on its body; just bone and muscle. It has a light-chocolate-coloured fur, and the skin on his hands, feet, and face is soft and glossy. The narrator gives it a banana to gorge on, and the gorilla happily eats it up. Under the care of the narrator, the baby grows into a strong adult gorilla, and loves all human beings around it, considering them to be friends. The narrator then provides him with a mate, and finds one for fifteen hundred pounds. He wishes to save the threatened species of gorillas by helping them to reproduce. He does everything to provide better living conditions and a healthier environment to both N’Pongo and Nandy. When N’Pongo falls sick, it is the narrator who ensures all the medical facilities for the gorilla, and does not leave until the latter starts feeling well. Hence, the narrator proves that with strong efforts we can do much better for animals.