The schools of life


Here’s another short story written by Koka of Class XI (2018) about how animals would view our world, if they could express themselves.

(First part of this story called ‘A Strange New Society’ is also available in the blog) 

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Humans had always been a distant mysterious creature to me. Living in the forest, I had come across many stories about them, mostly about their cruelty. In the past few months, the cases of animal deaths had suddenly skyrocketed, all of which were being linked to the increasing number of human visits to the forest.

Scary though they sounded, I had never had the opportunity to see a human for myself. It made me wonder; what exactly was it that had made them such threatening creatures.

This was the case until yesterday….

As I was making my way through the forest, I felt a tall, colourful creature cross the path ahead and disappear behind a tree. I had never encountered such a creature before and it piqued my curiosity, as I approached it and asked, “What animal are you?”

“I am a human. Please don’t kill me!” It said rather fearfully.

A human? What is so sinister about this creature? It doesn’t look as big and powerful and an elephant. Neither does it look as fierce as a lion. On the contrary, it seemed more frightened of me!

“Don’t worry! I am not going to eat you. But you’ll also have to return my favour.”

“Anything…. I’ll do anything for you!”

But what could I ask for from a human?

Then an idea struck….

“I am really intrigued by the thought of humans and would like to know more about them. Could you take me to your society?”

 

***

Early morning today the human and I got out of my cave to head towards the city.

My guide led the way and I followed him. Upon entering the city I immediately understood that today was a special occasion. A large crowd of humans were gathered around a single man covered in garlands who was speaking and making exaggerated gestures at the same time.

I asked my guide who he was. My guide replied that he was the leader of the people.

“So, how is this person chosen?” I asked, “Do you organise fights within your community and then declare the winner as the leader?” In the forest the leader of a pack was chosen by a fight among the competing wolves. Due to this very efficient way of choosing leaders, naturally the best wolf in the pack became leader.

“No!”, my guide replied, “Every few years the people competing to become the leader hold rallies like this and try to convince others that they are the best. Then the people choose who they would like as their leader.”

So just by speaking, people can become leaders. It’s strange that the humans don’t check whether he is actually good at what he’s claiming.

Of the torrent of words escaping his mouth, the two most frequently occurring ones were ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’. It seemed that he was arguing vehemently against the Muslims.

I asked my guide who were these ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’. Are they like tiger and deer, one predator one prey?

“No.” My guide replied, “They are both humans.”

“So,” I wondered aloud, “they must be like two packs who are having a territorial dispute.”

“No,” the human said, “both Hindus and Muslims live in this city.”

So Hindus and Muslims were of the same species and they were not different packs fighting over territory. I couldn’t understand what exactly their fight was about.

Suddenly the leader’s arguments became even more vehement.“We will bury them!” He screamed. “If Pakistan throws one bomb at India, we will bombard them with ten. We will prove ourselves to be a stronger nation.”

I asked my guide what a ‘nation’ was.

“A nation is the piece of land that we live on.” He replied.

“So, how can you make a piece of land stronger?” I fired back.

My question was met with a look of bewilderment on my guide’s face.

“And what are ‘India’ and ‘Pakistan’?”

“The nation that we live in is India, Pakistan is our neighbouring nation.”

“So what are the differences between different nations? Are they different habitats like forests and deserts? Or are they places with totally different climates from one another?”

My guide seemed very puzzled at these questions; perhaps he had always accepted these things as the truth and never found them to be unnatural.

Now he replied, “I have never been to Pakistan but I have heard that it is pretty much the same as India.”

So why was the leader differentiating between Pakistan and India? Why was he inciting people against a very similar place where similar people lived? Not wishing to confuse my guide any further, I kept these questions to myself.

Not being able to bear the rally anymore, I asked my guide to take me to some other place. In the process of asking my guide, I saw several identical human beings crossing the road. Instantly my curiosity was piqued.

“Who are these?” I asked.

“These are students. They all study in a school.”

“But why do they all look the same?”

“All students have to wear the same clothes so that they can be identified with their school.”

“What’s the point of that?”

But my guide seemed to be in no better position to answer my question.

I demanded to be taken to a school to see the what happened inside. So my guide led me to the nearest school.

Inside I saw a woman showing the children pictures of various kinds of soil and speaking. I asked my guide what she was doing.

“She is teaching geography. In this particular class she is teaching them where all in India minerals are found under the ground.”

“Oh” I said, “so these children are all going to dig the ground for these minerals when they grow up.”

“No, most of them won’t.”

“So why are they filling their heads up with things that they are never going to see outside this class room?”

My guide was completely stumped by this question. Probably he had also learnt about minerals under the ground.

Remembering the true purpose of the visit I asked my guide to take me to some place more entertaining.

He replied, “I have been planning to take you to a movie since the beginning, if you want we can go there.”

Intrigued by this thing called the movie I agreed. My guide then led the way to the theatre, the place where the movie was supposed to be screened.

On the way to the theatre I saw a large poster in which there was a picture of a car and a woman beside it. Since the woman did not seem to have anything to do with the car, I asked my guide what this poster was.

“It is the advertisement of a car,” he replied, “Using this the makers of the car try to sell the car to people like me.”

“What about the woman? Do you get the woman as well when you buy that car?”

“No obviously not!” The human exclaimed.

“So why is the woman there beside the car?”

“I don’t know why, but the woman makes me feel like buying the car even more.”

Not fully satisfied but seeing that my guide was unable to provide a better explanation, I moved on.

The movie theatre was a large building with a long queue of humans in front of it. My guide stood in the queue and bought tickets for both of us. Before the movie started there was a deluge of advertisements similar to the one that I saw in the poster outside. After almost half an hour the movie started. After watching for a while, the only thing that I was able to understand was that a fair person seemed to be outwitting a dark skinned person at every step and beating him up during any confrontation.

In the forest the skin colour of the animals did not matter at all. In fact, I was dark skinned myself, and I seemed to be doing fine! No white wolf was coming and beating me up every once in a while.

I looked at my guide with questions in my eyes, but he was too enthralled with the movie to look at me.

I slipped outside silently. The city terrified me. However, the artificial laws which suffocated me seemed to sustain these humans. They found differences when there were none, discriminated arbitrarily, and filled the heads of their children with information they were never going to use.

I thanked my fortune that I had the option of living in a place far more simple and authentic. I ran towards it.

One thought on “The schools of life

  1. Anonymous February 6, 2019 / 12:10 PM

    what a beautiful writing.
    I just loved it.

    Like

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