It was the year 1792. One morning, in the port city of Surat, I was swinging from branch to branch doing my morning exercises. I gave a really long jump, whoosh, and went flying through the treetops. I climbed to the top of a mango tree and settled down to relax and enjoy the view. I loved sitting way up high watching the silver-grey dolphins dip and fly over the blue-black waters of the Arabian Sea. You see, while I am a champion at so many sports, I can’t swim. I watched the dolphins playing and wondered if one day, the dolphins will give me a ride on their backs. They would have to promise not to plunge underwater while I am out at sea with them!

The dolphins swam away. A large ship with many decks and billowing white sails came gliding through the waves. It made its way to the dock right next to me. I scampered closer to get a better view. I watched ships dock in the busy port to see what kind of people visited my town. I made it my business to know what was going on so I could tell the other monkeys what the humans were up to.

That day I saw a tall man aboard this big ship. He stood out from all the others. He was wearing a maroon and gold turban that was elegantly tied. His robes were long and flowing. Many servants followed him. I knew he must be an important person, and certainly very rich. I heard people call him Shalome. I scratched my head. Tick tick – no! I had never heard that name before. I swung down to a lower branch to get a better look at him.

Tick tick tick and a tock. My brain whirred and circled. I, Chanchal, an amazing, brilliant monkey, most respected across many monkey kingdoms, knew I would be a friend and great partner for Shalome. I could teach him a lot about my home, Surat, and about life in this part of the world – after all, everyone needs a monkeyspective! And perhaps Shalome could teach me a thing or two. With him, I would live a life of comfort.

My arms and legs sprang from tree to tree as fast as they possibly could to keep up with his horse carriage as it raced to the town. My monkey friends started following me. They, too, wanted to know why I was moving like a flash of lightning through the trees.

Shalome’s carriage stopped at the home of a wealthy merchant who, like him, was dressed in robes and a turban. I sat in a banyan tree figuring out my plan of action. Tick tick and one lick my brain was spinning as fast as a top in high speed. Screech! When it spins at great speed, I know something VERY important will happen – and it sure did!

I heard Shalome and his friends speaking in Arabic. They were in high spirits. They cracked roasted sunflower seeds noisily between their teeth as they sat on carpets in a large garden which had a marble fountain. Shalome told them many stories and he laughed a lot. Music was playing and there was lots of food. A woman danced while balancing a bottle on her head as the musicians played faster and faster. Whee! The dance, the music, the sound of the falling water, and the fragrance of flowers put me in an excellent mood. My plan was in place.

Tick, tick, tick. Swoosh! I jumped from the tall tree and landed right in front of Shalome. It was a dramatic entry, even if I say so myself!

I bowed and did a couple of backflips and somersaults. Then after three cartwheels, I landed on my tippy toes. The party was clearly impressed. I picked up some branches and danced the Dandiya Raas. It is the most wondrous dance of my country, and I dance it perfectly. I had learned all the complicated steps from a monkguru of dance who lived in Baroda. Here was my chance to display my talents. My sticks clicked in perfect rhythm.

Shalome had never seen anything like me before. He was clearly very impressed and clapped loudly. The others joined in and shouted “Shabash!” “Mah’ShAllah!” I knew everyone was monkily impressed. They clapped even louder than they had for the lady who danced balancing the bottle on her head. Tick, tick, tick. I seized the moment. I made my way in dainty steps to Shalome. I curled my long, beautiful, golden furry tail around his arm like a bracelet. Then I looked up at him with my adoring, big, liquid eyes. His dark brown eyes looked back at me admiringly. Then he stroked my beautiful golden fur and said to his friends, “This is a very clever dancing monkey. I am sure she knows many more dances and tricks! And, she is lovely, too.” I took a deep curtsy, and my head bobbed from side to side in agreement. I laid my dancing sticks at his feet.

“My name is Shalome Aaron Obadiah ha Cohen,” he told me. From that moment on, just as I had planned, we became friends. I was sure that our monkership would last till the very end.

Excerpted with permission from Shalome Rides a Royal Elephant: The Story of the First Jews of Calcutta, Jael Silliman, Talking Cub.