The Fantabulous Fens
Gautam Sen

The Fens are a most unusual family. Father and Mother Fen are rather ordinary, but their children? First, there's Mumbo, an elephant; Baby Panda, a giant panda bear, Koala, a koala (of course), and Pinchu and Panchu who are very, very small.

When the Fens move into their new house, a curious neighbor drops in, and while the visit starts well enough, on spotting Mumbo, she faints. When she finally leaves, she makes it her job to make this gentle family public enemies. What will become of the Fens? Find out in this wonderful tale of this fantastic and fabulous family.

ISBN ebook: 978-1-926760-25-4
JUVENILE | Animals, Family
Word Count: 23,500
List Price: $4.99
Published: January 25, 2010


The Fens were the most unusual family in the world.

There was Father Fen, who (when he was not writing, for he was a writer) spent a good deal of his time sitting very upright and cross-legged on a folded blanket on his bed. He would close his eyes and remain that way for a long time. The more he remained that way, the more still his body seemed to become, but he did not fall asleep.

You cannot fall asleep with your body held so upright and your head erect. If you did fall asleep, your body would sag and your head would fall towards your chest, but no such thing happened to Father Fen; and when he opened his eyes at last, he seemed very peaceful and happy.

Everyone in the family knew that what Father Fen did at such times was to ‘meditate’, but no one really understood what ‘meditation’ meant. When Father Fen was asked whether it meant ‘to think deeply’, he said, “No, it’s not that. It’s difficult to explain what exactly it is - how can I tell you? But it makes me feel nice and peaceful; it makes me feel healthy; and it makes me a better man.”

That gave them some idea as to what meditation might be about, and they were happy that Father Fen meditated. They tried their best not to disturb him while he was at it. They tried their best not to make too much noise.

Mother Fen was the only member of the family who was not unusual. Or perhaps it would be more right to say that the only thing unusual about her was that, though she lived with her unusual husband and her five unusual children, she herself did not become unusual in any way. (We tend to become at least a little like the persons we live and mix with, don’t we?)

Mother Fen was a roly-poly and cheerful woman. Looking at her you might have thought that she led an easy and comfortable life, but actually she had a lot of work to do. She cooked, she washed, she cleaned up the house, and she looked after the children… and it was only at the end of it all that she found the time to sit before the TV set and watch her favorite serials.

When we come to the Fen children, it is difficult to decide whom to begin with because, though they were of various sizes, they were really quintuplets --- that is to say, they were all born together at the same time. In such cases, people try to be fair by following an alphabetical order, but the question is, are you necessarily being fair just because you are following the alphabetical order? Say a child’s name begins with z. Won’t it be mentioned last each and every time all the children are spoken of, and won’t this be hurtful to the child whose name begins with z?

So, instead of following the alphabetical order, I will do it the other way around --- I will talk first of the Fen child whose name is alphabetically last, and work my way up from the bottom.

But first I must tell you that, though quintuplets are very rare indeed, they normally resemble one another to some extent at least. Not so the Fen quintuplets. They were the exceptions that prove the rule. That is to say, they were not the usual quintuplets. They were born after Mr. and Mrs. Fen received the blessings of a saint, who told them, “May you have the most delightful children in the world!”

You must be wondering what Mr. and Mrs. Fen did to receive such a blessing. Well, at the risk of their own lives, they saved five little children from being carried away by a flood. When, therefore, five children were born to them not long after, and all together, each of whom was unusual in his own way, they knew it had happened because of the blessings of the saint.

Pinchu was two-and-a-half inches tall. That was the height he was born with, and that was the height he remained. Compared to his body, he had a big, oval head that contained a big brain, and because he was such a small fellow, he had to carry his head very carefully indeed. If he tilted his head too much to one side, or too much backward or forward, his body lost its balance, and he fell in the direction in which his head was pointed. That is why, if he had to pick up something from the floor, he did not bend forward to pick it; rather, he got down on his haunches, moved his eyes gently (moving his head as little as possible) to spot the object, and then picked it up in a somewhat gingerly fashion.

You may think this is very, very uncomfortable, but once you do something again and again you get so used to doing it that it stops being much of a problem, and that is exactly the way it was with Pinchu --- he grew comfortable with his uncomfortableness!

Pinchu had a single hair which was positioned just at the junction between the top and the back of his head, and was often curled like a question-mark; and indeed Pinchu had an inquisitive mind that always asked questions. He had a little laboratory made of wood and packing-case materials in one corner of a room, and it is here that he spent most of his time watching things under a tiny microscope and conducting experiments in test-tubes. Sometimes, during a meal, he would break off a little portion of this or that food and keep it at the side of his plate. When he had finished eating and washed his hands, he would put the tiny piece of food in a piece of paper and carry it enthusiastically to his laboratory.

Though Pinchu was a gentle child, absorbed mostly in his world of discovery, he had his moods like anybody else. Those who knew him well --- and that means everybody in the Fen family --- could read his mood at a particular moment just by looking at the state of his single hair: if it was in the shape of a question-mark, like it usually was, then he was in a fact-finding mood; if it stood up like the aerial of a radio, he was in a state of great excitement; and if it lay limp on the back of his head, he was feeling low. So the question of Pinchu being able to hide his mood never arose, like it sometimes arises in our own lives. Of course, he could try to hide his mood by wearing a hat or a cap, but this he never did; and even if he did do so, everyone in the Fen family would automatically suspect that he was trying to hide his real feelings, and then they would want him to take off his hat or cap!

Panchu was the same size as Pinchu and, like him, had not grown physically ever since his birth. That is not to say that he did not grow otherwise --- he grew in knowledge, in intelligence, in his ability to talk (of which he did a lot) and, most of all, in his naughtiness. You just had to look at his bright, shining, mischievous eyes to know that he was the naughtiest of the Fen children, and with every passing day he became a little naughtier.

Apart from his size, he was not like Pinchu at all. He had a round face and cheeks like apples, and the plentiful curls of black hair on his head were of such a light texture that the slightest whiff of air would ruffle it and undo whatever combing had been done. Then, with his hair scattered pell-mell all over his head, he looked at his naughtiest best.

As you will find out, Panchu’s main job in life was to act big. He did it with a lot of flair. Maybe he did it because, being very clever in a naughty kind of way, he realized it was not the easiest thing to be such a wee little fellow in a big, big world; he tried to make up for it by behaving as big as he could, and because everyone in the family loved him very much indeed, they pampered him and let him have his way.

Next we have Koala, who was called by that name because he looked like a koala though he was actually a human being, the first of his kind, (just like all his brothers, in their own unique way, were the first of their kind.) He smiled and he smiled, he was innocence itself, and what he liked most of all was to climb the rope that hung down from the ceiling of their play-room (it had been put there mainly for him) and the one mango and the two jack-fruit trees in their back-yard, or take a turn at the swing put up there.

Mumbo was a human child who looked like a baby elephant. However, he walked on his two feet (naturally, being a human being!). As you can expect, he was very strong, but he was not proud or vain about his strength. He was gentle, humble, and sweet-natured, and he had a tremendous laugh. All his brothers looked up to him for support when, for any reason, they were afraid, for they knew perfectly well that Mumbo was not only the strongest boy on earth, but also the bravest.

The last, but not the least, of the beautiful brothers was Baby Panda, who was so called (though he was a human being) only because he resembled the members of the Giant Panda species. Not surprisingly, he was a very cuddly child, and when he walked it was like a big white (with occasional black) ball rolling slowly down the floor. Baby Panda’s life centered on three things: eating, sleeping, and playing around with a big plastic ball that looked like his younger brother but was actually just a big plastic ball. Of course, Baby Panda dutifully did whatever studies he was supposed to do, and often more or less enjoyed it also, but it was not one of the main things of his life.

Mother Fen enjoyed cooking for all her children (can you imagine how much cooking she had to do?) but cooking for Baby Panda was the easiest and the most rewarding because he just about loved everything that was served to him, and ate it with such relish that watching him put down a meal was a joy in itself. Baby Panda loved sleeping, and once he fell asleep, no noise in the world could wake him up.

So that was the family of the Fens.