Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sounding Off: Something Rotten

Sudip Mallik

I am not a culture vulture, merely one of the winged variety. My chief concern is to fill my belly, not to peruse Art. And the current situation has me more concerned than either the Governor or Chief Minister.
“This place now has more cars than carrion,” I told my family finally. “I nearly got run over trying to get at a dead dog on the highway. At this rate we will have to migrate to Bihar.”
“The Biharis lack essential micronutrients,” demurred my wife, who is well read on such things. “Let’s go to Nandigram. I heard that it has plenty of carcasses and virtually no cars.”
“Nandigram is where the action is,” agreed my fledgling son. “My friend’s family is going there too. His mother wants to become a social activist.”
“I just want to be a well fed vulture,” said my wife practically. “I’ve had nothing but skin and bone for weeks.”
“I’m not sure we’ll be able to live off the fat of the land in Nandigram,” I cautioned doubtfully. “These Bengalis are even skinnier than the Biharis. We should aim for quantity rather than quality.”
So we flew down to Nandigram and found that we were not among the early birds.
“I migrated months ago,” informed an old friend. “It’s a great place if you take care not to get caught in the crossfire. Particularly if you like red meat.”
“You have put on weight,” I said enviously. “I’m starving. The way things are I’ve been seriously considering turning vegetarian.”
“Perish such thoughts,” he said heartily. “Just grab what you can get without fear of policing. It’s really free for all.”
“There are a lot of vultures around,” said my wife nervously. “Are you sure there is enough food for all? I’m not very good at fighting for my share.”
“There are fresh supplies every day,” he said cheerfully. “Though I’d rather wait until it begins to stink. I guess I’m a bureaucrat at heart.”
“The way to a vulture’s heart is through his stomach,” said my wife sententiously. “Personally I don’t have any mental blocks.”
“So long as I get my share of spoils I don’t care if it’s fresh or rotten,” I added. “Can we ally with you? We birds of a feather should flock together.”
“We can be coalition partners,” he said warmly. “This is the time for all good vultures to come to the party. Would you like me to show you around?”
We went around Nandigram and found humans merrily shooting each other.
“There seem to be a lot of bodies laid out ready to eat,” said my son impressed. “The administration here must be strongly pro-vulture.”
“This is nothing,” he said dismissively. “Come and see the body corporate. It was supposed to be a chemical hub but it’s been dead for months.”
“Smells nice,” I said appreciating the tourist attraction. “Rather like hydrogen sulphide. I’m tempted to go down for a quick snack.”
“I suggest you explore the menu first,” he advised. “The body isn’t going anywhere.”
“I can see a dead farm,” observed my wife excitedly. “As well as the farmer and his livestock with their belly up. This really is a vulture’s delight.”
“You’ll get used to such sights,” he said kindly. “Think of the farmlands of Nandigram as a large buffet. They have more corpses than crops.”
“I see many vultures hovering in the distance,” I pointed out eagerly winging my way ahead. “There must be something big and dead out there. I caught a whiff of the aroma and it’s wonderful.”
“That’s the state government headquarters in Calcutta,” he explained catching up. “But I wouldn’t try eating it if I were you. It’s too rotten even for a vulture.”