There are many animals around me: two-legged creatures that roam around wearing neatly ironed shirts and pants and well-polished boots or shiny leather shoes. They talk non-stop on their palm devices, keep clicking on buttons of screens that pop up images and motion pictures. In this jungle of concrete structures, I roam around aimlessly, being a slave of a bigger congregate of animals who command and instruct me. I might break my shackles but I cannot. It is not easy to find food here. Without their mercy and the few wads of crisp leaves – with symbols engraved on them – that they throw at me at the end of every month, I would go hungry and naked and die soon. So, I continue to labour for them, against my wishes, enchained by my own missteps.
I am a disciplined animal though. I have a daily routine that I strictly follow. I wake up early. I rub and scratch my teeth with a thin stick, wash myself with water and a substance that smells good and dress up wearing the neatest and most uncreative pair of clothes. But this discipline is not internal; it is not what I want. It is commandeered by a brain that is scared of the consequences of living a life otherwise.
I work in a big firm, they say. It is highly reputed. “You must be proud of it! If I had your job I would be taking full advantage of it!” A few friends and relatives exhort. I nod. I am good at nodding and saying, “Yes”. I am loyal slave, a loyal pet. My master feeds me well and reprimands me when I fumble at my job. I don’t love my master but I must pretend I do. That’s how it works.
Last week, my girlfriend called me. She was coming back from London. London is a bigger jungle. A much more orderly, calmer, cleaner, cooler, wetter jungle with white skinned animals. She is not white-skinned though. She had shifted to London 3 years ago when she landed upon the best opportunity of her life. She earned way more than I did back then. She still does.
She is shifting back to Mumbai now. Mumbai is a confusing jungle. It is like London but a little disorderly, noisier, dirtier and hotter. Here animals like me live in cramped dens and kennels they call chawls. I don’t live in a chawl but I live more or less like anybody who lives in a chawl. My girlfriend hates me for this. But in my defence I tell her that I never knew any other way of living.
She wants me to move away, to much cleaner caves where there is plenty of ventilation and from where I could watch the waves of the beautiful Arabian Sea crashing onto the shores. I point out that the sea in Mumbai is far from beautiful with all the floating plastic cans of Mazaa and Frooti and Pepsi. One day I found a dead cat with its head inside a pair of Levi’s Jeans floating and washing up the shore in South Bombay. That day I knew the Mumbai sea is quite interesting but far from beautiful.
My girlfriend and me, we had another fight. She said I need to be more ambitious. “Look for the stars!” She said, pointing at one of the brightest in the night sky, “That star there is the CEO star. You need to reach that star!” My girlfriend is a beautiful animal. Very well-endowed, she sure is being pursued by more virile and potent animals of our breed. I am slowly being conscious of the fact that I may not be the ideal mate for her. I pray to God she realises it too.
We will break-up soon; I can see my future. Day by day, I am moving away from the jungle, not physically but emotionally. I tried my best to be a part of it. But this jungle doesn’t suit me. Those animals that growl at me ferociously threaten me to stop feeding me my dose of wads of paper. They say I am losing my sting. That fire inside me is slowly dying. Or maybe I am just tired. Tired of seeing my dreams of a paradise – where I pictured myself flying between the clouds over the green pastures and crystal clear lakes – die a slow painful death. Maybe I never was born to hunt and kill but to slowly peck and dance when it rains. Maybe, I was, but I don’t know anymore.