(- a short story by Vinay Nair published in Tapovan Prasad magazine Nov.2010 issue)
It was a cloudy morning. The rains had been pouring all night long. I woke up and saw my companions all next to me, except for… Uncle Sam!!! He was no where to be seen. I got up and looked all over for him. Since the rope tied to my neck was barely 2 ½ feet long, I could not go very far. The kasai, as they call him, who used to take us out for grazing, never ever thought how roughly he pulled the rope tied to my neck. (But that was the plight of the other goats too.) As a result, an injury, which later turned into an infection, was caused and looked as if I was wearing a red necklace. Still I pulled my neck to the maximum extent to look for Uncle Sam. The pain of his disappearance from my vicinity had taken over the pain caused by the infection on my neck.
At the back of my mind I knew where he must of have gone, but I kept on compelling myself to think that he must be somewhere else. Suddenly I heard a cry from inside the slaughter house, “Baaa! Baaaaaaaaaaa!!”. It was a long cry. It was none other than Uncle Sam. I cried and cried on top of my voice (even though I knew it was in vain), but cry I did; until there was a big silence.
Not that everything was quiet, but I knew what had happened. My ears went deaf. I felt, my heart stopped pumping. In a few minutes, I saw parts of his body thrown out of the slaughter house and within no time some dogs pounced on it as if they did not get anything to eat since ages. The remaining parts must have been taken away by the customers. I felt like weeping, but it was as if my tears got frozen and pricked me hard from inside. He was the last relative I had and the one who was my closest too. He was a real intelligent one. Even the humans would often comment that he was a very clever goat.
Of course, it was not the first time I saw some one getting slaughtered. I still remember the fine summer day when everything was so perfect. I was running around merrily in my owner’s compound; when a man with a long beard came to our home. My mother was very scared and so was I. She took me near to her. Her body was so cold, as if she was dead. The stranger came nearer to us and took my father away. We all cried the whole day. I did not know where they were taking him and seeing my mother’s grief, did not feel like asking her about it. Later in my life, when I got closer to Uncle Sam, he told me that they had taken my father to the slaughter house to kill him. “Kill him? But why??” I asked. I was so bewildered. “Why would anyone do so?”, I asked.
He explained to me that our flesh was a delicacy to humans. I still could not understand because I had seen humans eat many other things like fruits, vegetables, etc. “If they have those things to eat”, I asked, “Why on earth do they have to eat us?” Looking at my astonished face, Uncle Sam said, “Human race is far more superior than ours, or for that matter, to any animal race. They are very powerful and intellectual. They do not lead a mechanical life like we animals.” He went on and on trying to clear my doubts.
A lot of thoughts came to my mind that night. I had seen human children troubling animals. But we ignore them, for we knew that they are children and do not know what they are doing. At the same time, I have also seen my younger brothers and sisters killed mercilessly in front of me by the humans. Now, if what Uncle Sam says is true, i.e. humans are Intellectuals and a superior form of life, they why do not they have mercy on our children? We goats never harm the humans in any way. That night, I did not sleep.
However, as time passed by, I got used to this kind of living. Whenever I was sad, Uncle Sam used to help me come out of it and say – “This is life, my boy. The earlier you accept it, the better for you.” Even though hard to digest, I somehow tried to make myself understand that philosophy.
Whenever I saw the chicken shop opposite to our shop, I felt that we were in a better situation. The chickens were kept in cages, one on top of the other. Approximately, 8-10 cages were kept one upon the other. And all the excretion of the chicken dropped on the below ones. But none of them shouted or even grinned at each other (Perhaps it was nothing to the pain that they were undergoing just like us – the pain of awaiting one’s own death).
Every morning I wake up with my pals who are half dead; with some body parts of our companions lying next to us who were killed the previous day; the smell of blood that would never go; the sight of hanging head-less dead bodies, upside down and flies infesting in it, of our beautiful children and friends with whom we lived till the other day; with hearts filled with fear; waiting for our turn to be taken for the kill.
Perhaps what happened to Uncle Sam was good in a way. He was freed from this miserable life. In fact, all of us have died a thousand deaths in this slaughterhouse and the final death is freedom. My only prayer is that it should be quick and smooth, without pain. May I be killed at the very moment the knife touches my skin. And after I die, if I get to see God, I would want to ask him this one question, “Who is THE REAL ANIMAL?”