- No animals, either three or seven legged, were harmed during the making of this story, though many egos were bruised.
- Drinking impairs your perception of reality and is highly recommended to survive these times.
The Great Animal Farm
Snowball entered the courtroom, looking clueless as always. No one was surprised by the long leash that was attached to his collar. Everyone knew who held the leash, everyone pretended there was no leash. Napoleon, the Supreme Leader of the Great Animal Farm, was expected to make a grand entry next. He was the one beaming at you from all corners of the farm, sharply dressed, as if he was going to impress you any minute now, and leave you hanging there.
It was not the first time in history that Napoleon and Snowball were fighting each other. In fact, during the Final War, they had wrestled arm to arm to gain control of The Great Animal Farm. All of us knew how Napoleon, who had won the war, had stomped, manhandled and bulldozed his way to power with benevolent help from his three-legged friends. He still reigned with his iron fists. As for Snowball, he was pushed to the fringes of the farm after the war, only coming back to give regular press interviews, taking a dig at Napoleon and generally making a fool of himself, lest the animals forget him. Yes, this definitely was not the first time the arch enemies were facing each other. But this was the first time in the courts.
None of this would have not bothered me, and I would have gone about happily munching grass and servicing my mates when asked to, had I not been called to do jury duty for this case. A case in which Snowball had accused Napoleon of cannibalism, a serious accusation on the farm which is in perpetual denial of its omnivorous ancestors. Today was the last day of the argument and the juries were expected to cast their vote at the end of it.
"Eating your own brethren? Atrocious!” cried the animals in the farm. Well, they whispered, actually. No one with seven legs and three tails would want to dispute the Supreme Leader, if they want their legs and tails attached to their bodies in appropriate places. Sometimes, the animals wonder why Snowball was not ousted from the farm or even killed.
I wanted to scream at those animals, “You dumb heads. If Snowball is gone, who would take the blame for the shortcomings in the governance? Who would be blamed for its sorry state? Who could be accused of sabotaging the Overnight Economic Revival plan? Tell me, tell me. Who? To be a hero, Napoleon needed a villain, especially a villain who was no threat to him.” All this I wanted to shout. But being the only sensible one in the farm overrun with idiots had its disadvantages, and so I pretended to be busy munching all the time. Maybe that was why I was called for jury duty, along with Squealer and Liber, for this case.
The court room’s door swung open with uncalled for melodrama and Napoleon entered. At the sight of him, with his iron hand (I told you he ruled with iron fists) and steely smile, any traces of courage that I had so far scooted away. He eyed the juries with amusement and rightly so. The trio of us looked comical – I, with my perennial munching without uttering a word, Squealer, with his mouth spouting out like a loudspeaker, and Liber with too many lips on his face, which yapped, sneered, and made no sense, all at the same time.
One of Liber’s lips nearest to my butt mumbled to me. “Look at all of us. We are dying without water. The crops have failed for the third year, and our trades are spectacularly crumbling. Yet, all of us are following a court case about who is allowed to eat what.”
I knew better than to reply to that. Shapeshifting Liber is worse than Squealer. Squealer was an ardent Napoleon devotee, and his stupidity was usually predictable. But Liber’s loyalty was as slippery as his morals. For all this high talks, he would never crawl the walk. Clever Liber was trying to gauge me and tweak his vote accordingly. He would not want to be caught on the side of the losing team. Seeing my expressionless butt, he went back to his sneering and snorting.
Exactly at the appointed hour, the alarm clock shrilled, waking up the esteemed Judge.
“Oh! Jeez. What is it now?” he said, fussing about his elaborate gown and headgear with a lot of help from his cronies. In all his thirty-seven and a half eyes, the judge was blind as a bat.
“My Lord, as you had seen in the videos I had forwarded to you earlier, the leader of the farm, Napoleon had indulged in partaking Pork Blanquette with crispy cracklings and mashed potatoes, during the dinner he had hosted for our visiting three legged-friends. One could observe the leader's plate heaped with honey glazed ribs and he enjoying the food, as the juicy meat disappeared into his cavernous mouth.”
By this time, the description of the menu was over, everyone, including the holy plant-eating cows, drooled with mouth agape. It cast such spell on them that they remained in a trance until the journalist in the front row, wearing leather pants and mink coat hollered, “This is unpardonable.” This popular journalist was a regular in the media, advocating against the impure practice of eating meat. She continued shaking her head and no one knew which one was unpardonable – eating meat or eating meat at a dinner to which she was not invited to.
Napoleon looked unfazed and went about cleaning his floppy ears with his bushy tail. The many medals on his chest, Best playback singer, Best outgoing student in the Anganwadi, Best Citizen of the shed, all clinked gently. I saw Snowballs’s leash being tugged. He went behind the screen and returned after a few moments, looking chastened.
“I was reminded that the leader also enjoyed peri peri chicken and egg rolls at the said dinner. Your Honour, Napoleon had not only fed on his own kind, but had essentially eaten the whole families of his subjects.”
The ancient Judge had to be woken up again. He had dozed off exactly twenty-two seconds into Snowball’s speech. But he had that uncanny ability to carry on conducting the court affairs without listening to either of the party.
“What do you have to say, Mr. Napoleon?” He cleared his throat with authority.
“My lord, I am the son of the soil, born of pure blood and flesh. My religion is Dharma, and everyone knows I keep digging for it under every nook and corner of this glorious farm. Our culture and heritage are as ancient as your esteemed person. Weren’t we were the pioneers in discovering the direct link between quantum philosophy and mac and cheese?”
Even Napoleon's booming voice could not keep the Judge awake. Snowball, afraid that he would drift away again, interrupted, “May I request you to come to the point, Sir? We know the Judge is hard pressed for time.”
“I am.” Napoleon shot a look at Snowball.
“You see, after the great war, I was the one who consolidated and united the farm, which was fragmented by tongue. Until then, some animals barked, some mooed, a few neighed, and many quacked and cackled. It was under my regime that all animals began to speak one language.”
I saw Snowball getting tugged again. He disappeared behind the screen and he returned with the lines “And how is this relevant to the present case?”
“Everything! I gave my everything to this farm, and I am reminding the Honourable Judge of my accomplishments. But, uniformity…I mean unity alone will not bring bread and bacon to our plates. We need trade, economy, exchange and whiskey to survive.”
I noticed how easily he slipped the bacon phrase into his speech.
“Your Honour must know that our crops failed, third year in a row, thanks Snowball’s visionless ancestors. Thirst and hunger are plaguing us to death. That was when I conceived a new economic policy of self sustainability. Made in the farm products.”
Napoleon paused for a moment to let himself soak in his own brilliance.
“Our three-legged friends are essential for our economy. They are our primary buyers and had arrived at our farm on that said day of dinner to procure our dungs and scats. I did, indeed, host the dinner in their honour. Guests are gods and the farm lives by this motto,” Napoleon shouted brandishing all his limbs, iron and otherwise, with flair.
“What will I feed our guests? They don’t relish hay or vegetable refuse. They don’t even like freshly mowed grass. As a model host, I was forced to nourish them with what they liked.”
The Judge, surprisingly awake now, asked, “And why sir, did you partake such a horrendous meal?”
“To hounor my other motto of sustainability, Your Honour. That is to use only products made on our farm. As you know, crop failure meant no grains and pulses. However, I did not want to go about asking for alms from other farms. I made use of whatever was available from our own, to host a decent dinner and ate the same simple food.”
I noticed many heads nodding in agreement.
“I am doing all this for the prosperous future of the farm and anybody against this developmental plan is surely a traitor.”
A distinct murmur went around the courtroom. Soon it turned more raucous. Some got up to clap and whistle, praising the Supreme Leader while others discussed the recipe for pork vindaloo. The meat shaming journalist declared that, from this day on, pork and chicken would be honorary vegetarian fares. A general sense of euphoria filled the courtroom.
“But, aren’t they…I mean, they are …” Snowball tried to utter something sensible for once in his life, but a sharp tug from his puppeteer muted him. Being branded a traitor meant political suicide for him and his puppeteer knew it was too risky a proposition.
All was well in the court room, except for the pigs and the chicken. For the reasons only known to them, they looked petrified. They huddled among themselves helplessly and whimpered. Seeing them in such a pitiable state, made something snap within in me and before I could smother it with practicality, the words escaped my mouths and reverberated through the room, “How stupid….”
All the animals in the court room, except the ancient Judge who went back to snoring, gasped in unison. I looked around at the shocked faces until I met Napoleon’s eye, blazing with anger. The enormity of what I had done dawned on me. I thought about being dragged out of my lair and left in the hot sun without food and water. I thought about hot rods burning my posterior with the word, Traitor, all in capital. I thought about being skinned alive to make a fancy sling bag for the animal loving journalist.
“I mean, how stupid of us to doubt our Supreme Leader’s intentions.” I declared without an iota of hesitation or shame and went back to munching. At that, Liber whipped out his pen tucked under his eyelids and scribbled his vote. Squealer , who was by now, gyrating with the journalist, had already cast his vote and sent it to the sleeping Judge. I wrote “Not guilty” on my piece of paper and walked towards the judge, but not before giving an appreciative nod at our Supreme Leader.
The thing that snapped within me a few minutes ago, was still nagging me in a remotest corner of my chest. It kept chanting,
Today it is pork chops and peri peri chicken.
One day, it will be filet mignon”
You never disappoint… flawless… ***** (5 stars)