Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Science Fiction > Life of Pi > Chapter 8
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】
Chapter 8
We commonly say in the trade that the most dangerousanimal in a zoo is Man. In a general way we mean how ourspecies' excessive predatoriness has made the entire planet ourprey. More specifically, we have in mind the people who feedfishhooks to the otters, razors to the bears, apples with smallnails in them to the elephants and hardware variations on thetheme: ballpoint pens, paper clips, safety pins, rubber bands,combs, coffee spoons, horseshoes, pieces of broken glass, rings,brooches and other jewellery (and not just cheap plasticbangles: gold wedding bands, too), drinking straws, plasticcutlery, ping-pong balls, tennis balls and so on. The obituary ofzoo animals that have died from being fed foreign bodies wouldinclude gorillas, bison, storks, rheas, ostriches, seals, sea lions,big cats, bears, camels, elephants, monkeys, and most everyvariety of deer, ruminant and songbird. Among zookeepers,Goliath's death is famous; he was a bull elephant seal, a greatbig venerable beast of two tons, star of his European zoo,loved by all visitors. He died of internal bleeding after someonefed him a broken beer bottle.
The cruelty is often more active and direct. The literaturecontains reports on the many torments inflicted upon zooanimals: a shoebill dying of shock after having its beaksmashed with a hammer; a moose stag losing its beard, alongwith a strip of flesh the size of an index finger, to a visitor'sknife (this same moose was poisoned six months later); amonkey's arm broken after reaching out for proffered nuts; adeer's antlers attacked with a hacksaw; a zebra stabbed with asword; and other assaults on other animals, with walking sticks,umbrellas, hairpins, knitting needles, scissors and whatnot, oftenwith an aim to taking an eye out or to injuring sexual parts.
Animals are also poisoned. And there are indecencies evenmore bizarre: onanists breaking a sweat on monkeys, ponies,birds; a religious freak who cut a snake's head off; a derangedman who took to urinating in an elk's mouth.
At Pondicherry we were relatively fortunate. We were sparedthe sadists who plied European and American zoos.
Nonetheless, our golden agouti vanished, stolen by someonewho ate it, Father suspected. Various birds – pheasants,peacocks, macaws – lost feathers to people greedy for theirbeauty. We caught a man with a knife climbing into the penfor mouse deer; he said he was going to punish evil Ravana(who in the Ramayana took the form of a deer when hekidnapped Sita, Rama's consort). Another man was nabbed inthe process of stealing a cobra. He was a snake charmerwhose own snake had died. Both were saved: the cobra froma life of servitude and bad music, and the man from apossible death bite. We had to deal on occasion with stonethrowers, who found the animals too placid and wanted areaction. And we had the lady whose sari was caught by alion. She spun like a yo-yo, choosing mortal embarrassmentover mortal end. The thing was, it wasn't even an accident.
She had leaned over, thrust her hand in the cage and wavedthe end of her sari in the lion's face, with what intent wenever figured out. She was not injured; there were manyfascinated men who came to her assistance. Her flusteredexplanation to Father was, "Whoever heard of a lion eating acotton sari? I thought lions were carnivores." Our worsttroublemakers were the visitors who gave food to the animals.
Despite our vigilance, Dr. Atal, the zoo veterinarian, could tellby the number of animals with digestive disturbances which hadbeen the busy days at the zoo. He called "tidbit-itis" the casesof enteritis or gastritis due to too many carbohydrates,especially sugar. Sometimes we wished people had stuck tosweets. People have a notion that animals can eat anythingwithout the least consequence to their health. Not so. One ofour sloth bears became seriously ill with severe hemorrhagicenteritis after being given fish that had gone putrid by , a manwho was convinced he was doing a good deed.
Just beyond the ticket booth Father had had painted on awall in bright red letters the question:
DO YOU KNOW WHICH IS THE MOSTDANGEROUS ANIMAL IN THE ZOO?
An arrow pointed to a small curtain. There were so manyeager, curious hands that pulled at the curtain that we had toreplace it regularly. Behind it was a mirror.
But I learned at my expense that Father believed there wasanother animal even more dangerous than us, and one thatwas extremely common, too, found on every continent, in everyhabitat: the redoubtable species Animalus anthropomorphicus,the animal as seen through human eyes. We've all met one,perhaps even owned one. It is an animal that is "cute","friendly", "loving", "devoted", "merry", "under-standing". Theseanimals lie in ambush in every toy store and children's zoo.
Countless stories are told of them. They are the pendants ofthose "vicious", "bloodthirsty", "depraved" animals that inflamethe ire of the maniacs I have just mentioned, who vent theirspite on them with walking sticks and umbrellas. In both caseswe look at an animal and see a mirror. The obsession withputting ourselves at the centre of everything is the bane notonly of theologians but also of zoologists.
I learned the lesson that an animal is an animal, essentiallyand practically removed from us, twice: once with Father andonce with Richard Parker.
It was on a Sunday morning. I was quietly playing on myown. Father called out.
"Children, come here."Something was wrong. His tone of voice set off a smallalarm bell in my head. I quickly reviewed my conscience. Itwas clear. Ravi must be in trouble again. I wondered what hehad done this time. I walked into the living room. Mother wasthere. That was unusual. The disciplining of children, like thetending of animals, was generally left to Father. Ravi walked inlast, guilt written all over his criminal face.
"Ravi, Piscine, I have a very important lesson for you today.""Oh really, is this necessary?" interrupted Mother. Her facewas flushed.
I swallowed. If Mother, normally so unruffled, so calm, wasworried, even upset, it meant we were in serious trouble. Iexchanged glances with Ravi.
"Yes, it is," said Father, annoyed. "It may very well savetheir lives."Save our lives! It was no longer a small alarm bell thatwas ringing in my head – they were big bells now, like theones we heard from Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, not farfrom the zoo.
"But Piscine? He's only eight," Mother insisted.
"He's the one who worries me the most.""I'm innocent!" I burst out. "It's Ravi's fault, whatever it is.
He did it!""What?" said Ravi. "I haven't done anything wrong." Hegave me the evil eye.
"Shush!" said Father, raising his hand. He was looking atMother. "Gita, you've seen Piscine. He's at that age when boysrun around and poke their noses everywhere."Me? A run-arounder? An everywhere-nose-poker? Not so,not so! Defend me, Mother, defend me, I implored in myheart. But she only sighed and nodded, a signal that theterrible business could proceed.
"Come with me," said Father.
We set out like prisoners off to their execution.
We left the house, went through the gate, entered the zoo.
It was early and the zoo hadn't opened yet to the public.
Animal keepers and groundskeepers were going about theirwork. I noticed Sitaram, who oversaw the orang-utans, myfavourite keeper. He paused to watch us go by. We passedbirds, bears, apes, monkeys, ungulates, the terrarium house, therhinos, the elephants, the giraffes.
We came to the big cats, our tigers, lions and leopards.
Babu, their keeper, was waiting for us. We went round anddown the path, and he unlocked the door to the cat house,which was at the centre of a moated island. We entered. Itwas a vast and dim cement cavern, circular in shape, warmand humid, and smelling of cat urine. All around were greatbig cages divided up. by thick, green, iron bars. A yellowishlight filtered down from the skylights. Through the cage exitswe could see the vegetation of the surrounding island, floodedwith sunlight. The cages were empty – save one: Mahisha, ourBengal tiger patriarch, a lanky, hulking beast of 550 pounds,had been detained. As soon as we stepped in, he loped up tothe bars of his cage and set off a full-throated snarl, ears flatagainst his skull and round eyes fixed on Babu. The soundwas so loud and fierce it seemed to shake the whole cathouse. My knees started quaking. I got close to Mother. Shewas trembling, too. Even Father seemed to pause and steadyhimself. Only Babu was indifferent to the outburst and to thesearing stare that bored into him like a drill. He had a testedtrust in iron bars. Mahisha started pacing to and fro againstthe limits of his cage.
Father turned to us. "What animal is this?" he bellowedabove Mahisha's snarling.
"It's a tiger," Ravi and I answered in unison, obedientlypointing out the blindingly obvious.
"A............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading
   
 

Login into Your Account

Email: 
Password: 
  Remember me on this computer.
Tools

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2014 wenovel.com, All Rights Reserved