Noise of the silenced sheep

  • And how to live, laugh, cry and die in a sheepdom


Let’s take the road we’ve never traversed before. Without deviating from the usual practice of ending our column with a quote, this time let’s start with a fable, dearest sirs and ma’ams. It’s titled ‘A Little Fable’ and penned down by the inimitable Franz Kafka.

“Alas,” said the mouse, “the whole world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into.”

“You only need to change your direction,” said the cat, and ate it up.

Many of us are mice. Our world is growing smaller. We are running around in circles as our sense of direction deteriorated beyond repair long ago. The walls are getting closer. The last chamber awaits us. As we are about to run in the trap our salvation appears in the guise of a cat. We change our direction on her advice and alas, we die the death much worse than the one we’ve been running away from.

There are no morals to be drawn from our situation. No lessons to be learnt from our ordeal. The finest, most beautiful among us have either ran away to greener, less lethal pastures or are looking forward to making a dash as and when they get hold of an opportunity.

Don’t know why, but for past couple of months, I’ve been repeatedly thinking about and comparing two of my teachers from 7th grade. A charismatic mentor who taught us English in such a way that made many of us fall in love with both the language and the literature for all times to come and a Master Ji whose sole qualification was that he was always danda (stick)-happy (thank God he didn’t carry around a pistol), whenever we messed up our angles in geometry, bungled up formulas of Algebra or failed to reproduce theorems on our answer sheets, the danda corrected our course. The latter made us get our answers right by encashing on our fear of a beating; the former filled us with curiosity about the world around us.

Many of us are mice. Our world is growing smaller. We are running around in circles as our sense of direction deteriorated beyond repair long ago. The walls are getting closer. The last chamber awaits us

Fifteen years have passed since then, the English teacher left his Sheepdom back in 2014, and he said that he felt like the rat in Kafka’s fable, he decided to jump the walls as he doubted the cat, its directions, its motives and its intention. Now, he is in Canada.

The Master Ji of Mathematics, on the other hand, got promoted to Associate Professor and runs a sale and purchase property business on the side. His world got bigger, better and brighter. I feel, nah, I know that he is the cat in Kafka’s fable.

Look around, you’ll see those full of doubts in your classrooms, in your work places, they may stand right next to you during daily commute or may be an acquaintance on Facebook whose highbrow statuses you share every now and then. They may hail from the privileged, financially well-off families, or they may be ordinary, regular folks striving to make ends meet. These are the lads and damsels who find it impossible to make peace with stock truths and a one-size-fits-all belief system since they’ve read ‘do-chaar kitabain’ (a couple of books) that stirred something in their souls. Whose headache are they? They are no one’s headache; so best not make them one.

‘Banish the thinking man,’ has become a rallying cry of those who join the chorus, toe the line, live sheepishly and belong to the clan of righteous true believers who are eternally incomplete, eternally insecure, as Eric Hoffer, an American philosopher describes them in his magnum opus, ‘The True Believer’.

Never is it possible to have a land where everyone falls in line and conforms to the same things, same ideas, same idols and same principles. There have always been dissenters and oddballs who see through the ‘One People United Forever’ ploy.

There have always been such folks and please don’t take my word for it, you better rummage through rusty old pages of history from Socrates onwards and you’ll find the Mansoors, the Marxs, the Sir Syeds, the Wildes, the Iqbals and countless others who were pronounced as heretics during their lifetimes. You know best how passionately they are loved, quoted and owned by the very sons and daughters of people who once loathed them.

I started with a fable, I’ll end with an equally haunting excerpt from the novel Blindness by José Saramago, “I don’t think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.”

All hail the Sheepdom of the blind and the bigoted.