In this opportunistic world can anyone expect kindness when they are aged or helpless? Of course not; at least for me it is far from a ‘Yes’! Who says slavery has ended? As I lay helpless now and reflect on my life, my faintest memory goes 15 years back. I was a toddler when I was introduced to “Saab-ji”and left with him…
Saab-ji — That was how everybody addressed him. He was the only licensed teakwood supplier in the city of Nainital. I never remembered seeing my parents and therefore, he became everything to me. Like every other young one, I was given food and was well taken care of. I always felt grateful to Saab-ji for adopting me, feeding me, letting me stay at his place and above all, giving me a family. The love and compassion that I received from him made me thank God each day and pray for everlasting happiness to Saab-ji and his family.
I was given odd jobs at his godown and I was happy contributing as much I could, with a sense of service for the good he had shown upon me. As I grew, the days seemed to become longer and restless. The job became tougher and yet, my loyalty towards Saab-ji was enough to fuel my motivation to serve him. Being his most loved resource at the godown, I take pride in having served him relentlessly for 15 years.
Once, it rained heavily. The landslides closed the only road and there was an urgent delivery of wood to be made from godown to workshop. Age had already taken a toll on me but I tried my best to not let Saab-ji down. While I was transporting the logs, my legs slipped, breaking one of them and resulting in the tumbling of one log into the valley. I was hurled with abuses, beaten black and blue and remorselessly tied to a corner in the rain.
Was it my fault that I aged? Or that it rained so much? Or that I was so heavily loaded? Or that I slipped? For once, I wished I could speak!
The next morning, on Saab-ji’s orders I was told that they no longer required my services. I was left in the jungle - weak and feeble. I was betrayed by Saab-ji as he realized that I grew old and was of no use to him. My whole life came back to me in a flash. I could relate all the actions of my master all these years as transactional, with an intention of receiving gains in return. He was being an “Opportunist”. No wonder, I mistook it as care and got carried away by his gestures. Now, when he does not foresee any gains after 15 years, he abandoned me.
Depressed by his act and with a heavy heart, I hopelessly started walking in the jungle in search of some food and water. As I kept walking, I could see jungles becoming thinner and understood that I might end up not finding trees, leave alone water. Not just my master but it seems like the entire mankind has turned opportunistic in the past 15 years that I was away. Well, the prejudice of humans as superior creatures persists!
To my joy, I see a small shed with a man roasting corn and giving it to people. He came as a saviour to me as he unloaded the sack with corn husk in front of me to eat. I ate as if I hadn’t eaten for ages. Suddenly, a vehicle whizzed past me and a nice aroma flew off it with a few items. I had never smelt something this good when I was with my master. The first instinct was to try eating it. As much ever I chew, I could not break it. They called it a plastic wrapper!
I feared that this place is not good for me and convinced myself that two-hours walk into the jungles would be better than these plastic littered and over-crowded settlements. While all these thoughts were still popping in my head, I hear the horn of a vehicle and rush in that direction, thinking I might miss them if I walked slow. Unable to run, I summed up all my energy and increased my pace hoping someone there would give me water to drink. A few meters away from the origin point of that sound, I saw that there were not one but many vehicles that sped past honking. It was a road!
Aren’t forests supposed to have more trees and animals and less of humans, roads and vehicles? ~ A Mule’s Narrative
Saab-ji’s place was still better and in that distress, I made peace with the fact that he betrayed me; while the entire mankind is betraying mother Earth every minute by cutting down trees, extensive constructions, exploiting resources and killing almost everything they touch. My fortune is that Saabji left me, alive.
As I stopped by a corn seller’s shop and he roasted a corn for me, I asked him if the mule that limped as it walked nearby, was his. To my surprise, he denied owning it and said it was an abandoned one. Also, he told me stories of how cows, buffalos, mules, female dogs and other domestic animals are discarded when the owners find them unprofitable. All the while I was at the shop, it felt like I was talking to that mule and it was narrating his story, as written above.
We human beings often become so opportunistic that we forget we are just a part of this vast ecosystem and it is our responsibility that we co-exist with all its constituents for a sustainable and balanced future. We should religiously refrain from exploiting other life forms for selfish motives and orphan them. Plant more trees, reduce using plastic, up-cycle used plastic and do every bit we can do!
About The Author: Abhishek Likam is an India Fellow working with CHIRAG in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand as a part of his fellowship. He is an Aeronautical Engineer and is currently involved in Spring recharge intervention through capacity building of community members for better planning and execution.
Originally published at https://www.indiafellow.org on September 17, 2019.