The humans are in trouble. They've been attacked by a Virus.
What happens to the animals who depend on them?
The Crows? The Dogs? And The Cats?
Nitin Sathe's short story set in the times of the coronavirus.
Illustrations: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
Office of the UHA (Union of the Homely Animals, Domesticated)
Minutes of the Extraordinary Emergency Meeting conducted on the fourth day of the full moon of the month prior to the rains at the Garbage Dump, Noisy Crossroad, Concrete Nagar.
- Mr Wow Bow, chairman and director
- Ms Pussyfoot, deputy chairman and managing trustee
- Mr Kao Kao, treasurer and public relations
- Mr Bushy Tail, security and strategic advisor
- Mr Wriggly Hisser, security advisor
- Ms Milky White, external affairs
- Mr Lock Jaw, human relations
Also attending from various family groups:-
16 Crows plus many friends from the flying fraternity (Total approx 100)
- 05 Snakes
- 18 Dogs
- 13 Cats
- 7 Squirrels, 4 Lizards
- Other miscellaneous entrants as permitted by the undersigned.
The meeting began with a welcome address by Mr Kao Kao who managed a quick head count before he handed the loudhailer mike to the chairman who began the proceedings.
A stern and visibility disturbed Mr Wow Bow began speaking in his signature drawl; his speech is reproduced below:
"Ladies and gentleanimals, welcome to this extraordinary meeting which I have called due to some strange happenings in our surrounding area.
"This is directly and indirectly going to have an impact on our lives in the near and distant future.
"For those of you lazy ones who haven't had the time to go through the agenda, I shall read it out after I tell you why we have gathered here today.
"You are to disseminate the same to those members of your family who haven't been able to attend this meeting due to some silly reason.
"Over the past few days, you would have noticed strange behaviour on the part of our best friends and providers -- the humans with whom we co-habit in this beautiful colony of Concrete Nagar.
"They have suddenly become very quiet and have started staying indoors, which is against their nature.
"I have heard some of the boys who play with me say that there is some bad organism called Viru -- or is it Virus, I can't quite remember -- but we shall call him Viru for the time being.
"Well, many, many millions of Virus have decided to attack humanity; many of our friends are dead and many are dying -- and the worst part of it is that there doesn't seem to be a cure for it in sight as I speak.
"This has made our friends remain within the confines of their homes.
"They appear tense, don't speak to anyone outside and cover their faces in shame for some reason.
"It appears to be a terrifying experience for them, something we haven't seen in our lifetime with these creatures -- they are always so sure and confident of themselves.
"You would have also noticed that many of the shops are closed, so are restaurants and schools; and these people have all of a sudden become so clean and frugal in their lifestyles.
"See this dump? It used to be a pigs's delight earlier; today, it is so clean and doesn't have its characteristic smell that we all like.
"With the above in mind, this meeting will discuss the following agenda points:-
- Most importantly, how are we going to survive with little or no food?
- How do we make the humans be kind to us and provide some food?
- Can we do something to get them out into the streets again so that their life becomes normal?
- Can we show solidarity with them by fighting the Viru for them?
- What are the short/long term implications? Where do we go from here if things don't improve?"
With a big growl and a thump of his tail, Mr Wow Bow asked members to speak their minds.
The summary of what was expressed by the members is given below.
Mr Wise Crow was the first one to get up and comment.
He said that there had been difficulties in finding food for the past few days.
One had to fly around much more before finding morsels to eat and that left most of the flying fraternity tired by the end of the day.
Mr Puffy Feather, Ms Chew Chew and most members of the flying fraternity were in agreement of the same.
However, Mr Big Meat from the Vulture family swooped by in the middle of the proceedings to say he did not quite agree with the Crow and other fliers.
He advised that they (the birds) should fly higher and see things from a different perspective.
A lot of food was available and one had to have adequate wind beneath their wings and a keen eye to find it.
Mr Woofer was the next to comment.
He said that there had been no problem in finding food till now since a lot of kind-hearted humans were getting more than what was needed and distributing the same every morning and evening.
At this juncture, Mr Wriggly Hisser from the snake family joined in the discussion.
He did not agree that the humans were kind.
He told the house that the humans nowadays had nothing much to do and had therefore noticed some of his clan sunning themselves in the backyards of their homes.
Barring dumping unwanted stuff there, no human had ever had the time to notice what was happening in their backyard, he added.
Having seen them, some of them had come and attempted to kill the Snakes with sticks and stones, he said with tears in his eyes.
He also showed the marks of physical abuse on his body to support his statement.
This led to an argument between the two groups and the chairman had to intervene to stop the needless banter.
He asked the meeting to maintain order and requested Mr Hisser to finish his comments.
Mr Hisser added that he had seen members of the Woofers fighting amongst themselves for food everyday, leading to a disturbing atmosphere all over.
He had also seen a pack of hungry dogs attack a Swiggy driver and forcibly take the pizza he was trying to deliver.
All this was getting annoying the already troubled humans and informed sources had revealed that a dog squad was being called to pick up those who weren't following the norms of peaceful living.
Hearing this comment from the security in-charge, Mr Woofer agreed to control his clan and advise them against indulging in such nefarious activities which brought a bad name for all.
Ms Soft Fur from the Kitty family was the next to raise her paw to comment.
She was bold enough to acknowledge that there had been fights over food in their clan too and the problem was now nipped in the bud by having a new system of food distribution.
All were to get the food found to a central place where it was distributed equally depending on their weight/age category.
This system had proved successful and there had been a reduction in street fights over food, she added.
Normal bickering over petty matters was still a cause for concern and they were looking at ways to stop the same.
Mr Young Bore from the Piggy family was next.
He was aghast at the way humans were clean nowadays and expressed his anguish at the huge reduction in waste being thrown into the dump.
It was a bad sign for them and the Vultures; a point he wanted recorded.
He also opined that someone should research and get the stink back into the dump.
"A dump without the stink is like a cat without fur," he said.
Mr Small Head from the Sparrow family agreed to put in maximum beaks on the job to find a solution to this vexing smelly problem.
The chairman again reminded the meeting of the problem at hand and asked the speakers to stick to the agenda points and not lead the meeting into nowhere from where it would be difficult to get somewhere.
He asked the human relations experts to find out a way to get them (the humans) back into the streets and into their daily routines.
To this, Mr Lock Jaw had an answer.
He said it was difficult to kill t he millions of Virus at once.
He and his team of Cats and Dogs were willing to go all to the societies in the vicinity and squirt their special marking spray, which was sure to keep the Virus away.
He said that sufficient experiments had proven that the stench can keep the best of creatures away, except their own, and was confident that this would work.
He also asked some of the brains of the community to get their heads and beaks together to find out some more ways to counter the threat to the humans.
Another member (Ms Slimy Lizzie) suggested that the snakes shed their skins and give their impermeable membrane to the humans to wear over their clothes.
This wouldn't allow Viru or his kind to make a dent on the humans, he said.
Hearing this, some members of the Snake family almost lost their shirts but finally refused to comment since this issue was too painful to discuss.
The chairman was enraged that the meeting wasn't going anywhere and no solutions were emerging.
He ordered his deputy to speak her mind.
The same is quoted verbatim below:
"Friends, we have spent many a generation here and have gotten so used to getting our daily bread from these humans.
"But if you look at our history, how did our great-great-grandparents survive?
"Well, they knew how to 'live off the land', find wild berries, nuts, fruits and the like and survive on what they found, an art which we have forgotten.
"We decided to become dependent on these guys instead of moving back into our natural habitats.
"We have become lazy and want our food served to us without having to move our backsides.
"With this, we have lost our independence of thought and action.
"What we need to do NOW is to shake ourselves out of this slumber and try learning our old ways again.
"If we don't learn, and learn fast, we are doomed."
She added, "We need to be strict and frugal about all aspects of life; this is the need of the hour.
"Everyone needs to understand that the good days of plenty and surplus are over.
"PRO to please note and take action as deemed necessary."
She further directed the secretary to send a copy of the proceedings to the chairman of the Human Society of Concrete Nagar for his information and necessary action.
In his closing address, the chairman thumped his tail in anger and said, 'I thank you for being part of the meeting.
"What pains me most is that we seem to have gotten into this problem due to our own fault and we don't seem to have any solution in sight.
"Let the humans in hiding be... and let's see how we can survive!!"
There being no further points, the meeting came to a close closer to tiffin time for the dogs.
This day of the bug, Year of the dragon
|Copy to :||Animal Associations of Concrete Nagar|
|Human Societies of Concrete Nagar|