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  Opinion   Columnists  25 Sep 2021  Kulbir Kaur | Animal spirits and the limits of vocabulary

Kulbir Kaur | Animal spirits and the limits of vocabulary

Kulbir Kaur teaches sociology at Shyama Prasad Mukherji College, Delhi University
Published : Sep 26, 2021, 1:10 am IST
Updated : Sep 26, 2021, 1:10 am IST

Humans have only one outstanding trait — to consume. Consume, consume and consume more — that’s all we are really capable of


The blood of grasshopper is green and so is its appearance. Strange, right? Not like us humans, who have so many shades inside and out that sometimes one wonders if the thesaurus should be modified to include as synonym of “insaan” chameleon; now that’s a cross-cultural one, never mind. Almost to the last man, we are all “nakabposh”, our true face covered with invisible masks, though now the “upparwala” had bestowed us with palpable ones, in various colours, material and styles.

But the more I, as a sentience, interact with Homo sapiens, the more bewildered I am. Sometimes, I want to scream with anger, and ask — how dare you denigrate animals? Why call anyone a “donkey”, “bandar”, “haathi ka bachcha”, “ullu” and, what seems to be the favourite of every Hindustani, ‘kutte ka bachcha” pejoratively? If animals could speak, they would turn around and challenge you: “Look mister, you don’t have the aukaat to be as cute and loyal as a dog and as hardworking as a donkey. You will never come close to owning a fraction of the elephant’s Herculean strength. For your information, Insaanji, you don’t even qualify to be one of us, now, do you?” No wonder, the thinker George Orwell once said: “Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough; he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits... Man serves the interests of no creature except himself.”

Humans have only one outstanding trait — to consume. Consume, consume and consume more — that’s all we are really capable of. Assuming the form of the divine spirit, he claims earth, water and sky with three greedy steps, chews the bones of all types of bird and animal, fashions the skin of snakes and crocodiles into showy, expensive bags and belts, slaughters millions of hapless species to flaunt their statuses, and if that were not enough, sacrifices innocent animal children to appease the “real” gods all with the objective to fulfil his infinite desires. If only animals could file a case against the “greeders, breeders and leaders” who are out to gulp every inch of nature, they would win hands down. The Almighty Nature would pronounce, “You, yes, you, ‘insaan ka bachcha’, you are that stubborn taint that no Rin, Surf and Ghadi detergent can wash off this planet.”

Indeed, to be perfectly candid, the news of a New York City restaurant putting human flesh on its menu two years back had come to this writer as one hell of a eureka moment. It was almost a vindication of her take on the human’s basest instincts. Ab aaya mazaa, she had pronounced. But it proved to be a hoax, a bubble of satire or of jhaagwala toothpaste only. But it also reminded her of an innocent question a friend’s child posed when they visited the zoo for the first time. Seeing animals and birds in cages, big and small, they thought they were in prison. What have they done that is wrong, mommy, they had asked their parent. If War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, and Ignorance Is Strength, as Orwell once wrote (1984), should we put humans in the zoo instead? Just an experiment.
Laughable as it is, what takes the cake is mankind’s claim to be the best creation of God. In reality, all they are hungry for are the 3P’s only — paisa, power and praise. Of this the last is not the least. It is perhaps the most potent of the P’s. Despite their greedy and destructive nature, human beings want credit for every little thing. They are inflicted with this disease of “praisum” or “Praise Me”, chanting this mantra over and over again on the social media, “Ek like to de de Baba.”

Now the question is, about what to do. The entire species is only following its khadi-clad, Ray Ban wearing, narcissistic netalog. And these netas, they are not only our leaders in the guise of sevak, but are superheroes, and great magicians to boot. Abracadabra — and deaths due to lack of oxygen turn into success stories, mortgages is independence (“Atma Nirbhar”) and, what’s more, one must be thankful. The masses are always so grateful for this great gift of blinders, just like the hens of Animal Farm, where one would be heard remarking to another, “Under the guidance of our Leader, I have laid five eggs in six days”. Two cows enjoying a drink by the pool would exclaim, “Thanks to the leadership, how excellent this water tastes!” I, for myself, wish I could unleash iRobot Roomba i3 vacuum cleaner on these men, and women, cleaning every nook and cranny of the political arena and throwing all of them parasites out into the Indian Ocean.

We have our own quota of mythological tales, the Panchatantra stories. These annotate and applaud the special attributes of each animal, not to mention the vehicles of our deities. But that’s about it! When it comes to reality, treating them with love and kindness, and providing them with their due share of habitat in the form of jungle, we prefer to look the other way. We chase them, burn them, trap them if they dare enter into our so-called “human” real estate built on land that earlier belonged to them. Where should they go?

This earth belongs to no one, much less we, humans. So we must learn to share its bounty, give our brothers their due.

Tags: kulbir kaur, homo sapiens, george orwell