Translated from Bangla by Sudeshna Kar Barua
Once upon a time, in the dense jungle of the Sunderbans, scores
of Herculean tigers and tigresses assembled to listen to a presidential address
by Amitodar. After the completion of his speech, he informed the assemblage of
the pressing need for a Tiger Association for the uplift, both educational and
cultural, of the tiger community. Quite naturally, the motion was passed
unanimously with terrifying howls and growls. Thereafter, Amitodar announced
that the assembly would soon have the rare privilege of listening to the vastly
experienced and erudite Byaghracharya Brihallangul, Tiger-savant Long-tail, who
would be sharing with them his knowledge of the human kind which he had
gathered owing to his proximity to the two-legged animals during his own
To the delight of the tigers and tigresses present, Tiger-savant
Long-tail spoke of the superiority of tigers and of his firm conviction that the
weak human race was worthless and had been created only for the gastronomic
satisfaction of tigers. He openly stated that human beings were a mystery to
him for, in spite of his keen observation, he still had serious doubts about
human customs and practices and about human nature itself. In response to the
interesting talk, questions were asked and comments made for further
verification and clarifications. To prove his point Tiger-savant Long-tail
explained that despite having spent considerable time inside a cage in a human
locality, he did not quiet understand why human beings constructed colossal
buildings or whether or not they consumed grass. It was not quite clear to him
whether human beings would one day turn into monkeys or whether their fondness
for cow’s milk indicated that they themselves had once been calves. He was most
intrigued by human activities in general and marriage in particular.
Unfortunately, the discussion on marriage came to a sudden and unannounced end
as the hungry President and the listeners just failed to control themselves at
the sight of a wandering fawn. The chase began and Brihallangul joined
enthusiastically promising to continue with his treatise on marriage in a
post-lunch session in the near future.
Article II has documented the proceedings of the second
meeting attended once again by tigers, all full-bellied on this occasion. The
session was so timed so as to rule out the possibility of a repeat performance
of the chase for food that had brought about such an unceremonious end to the
earlier interactive session.
“Mr. President Sir, Tigresses and Honourable
In my first speech I had made a commitment that I would be
speaking to you about the human matrimonial system and on some other topics as
well. Keeping one’s promise is the primary duty of the civilized. So I am
coming to the subject at once and without further ado.
You are all aware of what a marriage means. All and sundry, now
and then, at their own leisure, do get married. But there is some peculiarity
in human weddings. Taking of partners by tigers and other cultured beasts is
only for sheer necessity but it is not so with human beasts because quite a few
amongst them marry only once and that’s forever.
A human wedding is of two kinds—the regular and everlasting and
the irregular and casual. Of the two it is the regular marriage solemnized by a
priest that is accepted. The knot that is tied with a priest as an intermediary
is a priest-sanctioned marriage.”
Mahadangstra “(Sharp-toothed): “What is a priest?”
Brihallangul: “It’s written in the lexicon that a priest is a
herbivore fed on rice and plantains and engaged in the business of cheating.
But this definition is incorrect because all priests are not eaters of rice and
plantains. A number of priests are quite used to consuming both liquor and
flesh. Many priests are omnivores. On the other hand it is not so that by
eating rice and plantains alone one becomes a priest. In a city called Varanasi there are a number of oxen ---they do eat rice and plantains. However, they are
not priests because they are not swindlers. Only when the treacherous eat rice
and plantains do they become priests.
In weddings solemnized by priests, one such sits right between
the bride and the groom. He sits and prattles for a while. Such a lecture is
called chanting. What that means I am not quite certain. However, because of
the kind of scholar that I am, I have been able to make some kind of meaning
out of those chantings. Perhaps, the priest says, ‘O bride and groom! I command
you to tie the knot. If you get united, I too shall get my rice and plantains
regularly…so do get married. On the occasions of the bride’s conceiving,
receiving the Hindu sacrament during pregnancy, entering the delivery room, I
shall be getting my regular supply of food –so do get married. On the occasion
of the shasti puja of the child born, his rice ceremony, piercing of the
earlobe, tonsuring, thread ceremony, I shall be getting lots of edibles,
therefore do get married. Once you make an entry into family life, you will
always be engaged in rites and rituals, in worship and religious ceremonies,
sacrifices etc. As a result I shall be getting my rice and plantains, so do get
married. Do get married, do not ever abolish marriage. If you get this annulled
then there will be some difficulty in my getting my rice and plantains. If so,
I’ll just strike your heads off with tight slaps one after another. This is the
command given to us by our ancestors.’ Perhaps, because of such strictures
these priest-guided weddings are never abolished.”
“The wedding system that is prevalent amongst us may be termed
casual. Amongst human beings too marriage of this kind is usually in practice.
Many men and women indulge in both kinds of matrimony quite regularly.
But the main difference between the regular and the irregular marriages is that
no one conceals a regular marriage but people go all out to keep the casual
wedlock a secret. If one man comes to know about the secret marriage of
another, then he does, now and then, catch hold of him and beat him up. In my
opinion, priests are the root cause of this problem. They do not get their tit
bits in the secret marriages—hence their mission is to suppress this practice.
Following their instructions people thrash the partners of these irregular
marriages. But the strangest of things is that there are many who themselves
get married secretly but on discovering others getting into an irregular
wedlock they just catch them and give them a good thrashing.”
“From this I can
deduce that a large number of human beings approve of such secret unions but
out of sheer fear of the priests etc they cannot utter a word. During my stay
in a human locality I came to learn that people belonging to the upper class
have a special liking for these irregular unions. Those who are as civilized as
we are, hence bestial, are the ones who follow and imitate us. I do have this
confidence that in future when mankind will become as cultured as we are such
clandestine relationships will be socially accepted. Many human scholars are
writing books etc. in favour of initiating such practices. They are undoubtedly
well-wishers of their own race. In my opinion, to felicitate them we can make
them honorary members of this Tiger Community and I hope that when they attend
a meeting none of you will make a meal of them because like us they are versed
in ethics and are benevolent.”
“There is a
special kind of casual marriage prevalent amongst human beings. It may be
termed monetary matrimony. For solemnizing such a union a man touches a woman’s
palm with a coin. With this alone a coin-marriage is completed.”
“What is a coin?”
“A coin is a kind of deity worshipped by men. If you have the curiosity to know
more, I can elaborately sing the praises of that great goddess. Of all the
deities worshipped by human beings, it is she who is most revered. She has a
physical entity. Her idol is made of metals like gold, silver and copper. Her
temple is constructed with iron, tin and wood. Silk, wool, cotton, leather etc.
are used to make her throne. Day and night, men and women are absorbed in her
thought and all the while they wander about frantically devising ways and means
to catch a glimpse of this deity. Day in and day out men pay visits to those
homes where there is money. Such is their attachment and devotion that they do
not leave those houses even if they are thrashed. The man who is the priest of
this goddess or the one in whose house she has her seat, is considered chief
amongst men. Other men, all the while, sing his praises with folded hands. Men
consider themselves to be privileged if an owner of the Coin-Goddess so much as
casts a glance at them.
The deity is
very powerful. There is nothing that cannot be achieved with the help of this Devi.
There is no such object on earth that cannot be acquired with the blessing
of this Goddess. There is no vice that does not get hidden by the mercy of this
deity. There is no virtue that can be considered a virtue in human society
without her favour. There is no virtue in a home that does not house this
goddess. Can there be any vice in any one in whose house this deity resides? In
human society it is the favourite of the Goddess of Wealth who alone is hailed
as pious and absence of wealth is considered irreligious. The one who has
wealth is a learned man. According to human scriptures, the one without wealth
is designated a fool even if he is scholar. If we use the term ‘big tiger’, we
refer to Herculean tigers like Amitodar, Mahadangstra etc. But in the human
domain ‘big man’ does not mean the same. It does not refer to a twelve or
fifteen-footer. The man in whose house this deity dwells is labelled a “big
man”. But if she has not been accommodated in a house, then the owner, even if
a seven-footer, is referred to as a ‘small man’.”
“On listening to
the eulogies of this Deity I had at first decided that I would bring her from
the human locality and establish her in the Tiger world. But from what I heard
later, I desisted from doing it. I heard that money is the root cause of all mankind’s
problems. First-grade beasts like tigers are never envious of their own kind
but men are always jealous of fellow-beings. Lucre worship is the sole cause of
this hostility. It is for their avarice that men are all the while attempting
to harm one another. In my first lecture I had mentioned that men gathered in
thousands on vast fields to slaughter one another. Money is responsible for
this. For the excitement of acquiring wealth men are always killing, injuring,
tormenting, insulting and slighting each other. There is perhaps no disaster in
the human world that has not been brought about by the grace of this
goddess. On coming to know about this I sent a prayer up to the Goddess and
gave up the intention of worshipping her.”
human beings do not realize this. In my first lecture itself I had stated that
men are lacking in foresight and are trying to harm one another all the time.
Consequently, like a potter’s wheel they go round and round continuously in
their attempt to collect silver coins and copper coins.”
marriage system is queer and so are some other practices. But, lest my
long-drawn lecture once again brings you close to your hunting time, I shall
conclude here this day. In future, if time permits, I shall speak on other
topics.” In this manner, after concluding his speech, Tiger-savant Brihallangul
resumed his seat amidst a thunderous clap clap of tails. Then a well-educated
young tiger named Dirgha Nokh or Long-Nail raised himself up and growled into
At the end of a
roar Dirgha Nokh Esquire said, “All you honourable Tigers, now I propose to
thank the Speaker for his kind address. But it is also my duty to point out
that the lecture was sub-standard, full of lies and that the speaker is an
“Please, I request you to quieten down. The civilized do not abuse so openly.
Indirectly, of course, you may abuse even more strongly.”
you say. The speaker is very truthful. Even though the major portion of all
that he has said is false, there are one or two true statements. He is a great
scholar. Many here may feel that there was no substance whatsoever in his
address but we must be grateful for whatever we have received. However, I
cannot agree with all that he has included in his lecture. Actually, the
speaker has no knowledge of what marriage in human society really means. If,
for the sake of procreation, any tiger chooses any tigress as his partner (a
fellow-wanderer) we call it marriage. Human weddings are not like this. Man is
by nature weak and quite devoted to his master. As a result each male requires
an overlord and all men appoint women as their masters. It is this that they
call a marriage. When they accept a master calling upon a witness, the marriage
may be termed a priest-approved matrimony. The name of the witness is Priest.
The explanation that Brihallangul Esquire has offered with regard to matrimonial
chanting is not accurate. The mantra is as follows:
Priest: Come on
tell me what should I be a witness to?
Groom: Be a
witness. I am accepting this woman as my master for the rest of my life.
Groom: And I
pledge myself as her most obedient servant for life. The responsibility of
supplying food is mine and that of eating is hers.
(Addressing the Bride) What do you have to say?
willingly accept this slave. As long as I shall desire it, I shall allow him to
be at my feet. The day I won’t feel like it, I’ll kick him out of my service.
“There are many
more errors of this nature. For example, a coin or money has been described as
a man-revered deity by the speaker but actually it is not a goddess. Money is a
kind of poison. Men are extraordinarily fond of venom, hence are so particular
about collecting coins. Learning that man is devoted to coins I once thought,
‘Wonder how delicious or nutritious a coin is. I shall have to taste it one
day.’ Once while devouring a man I had killed on the bank of the Vidyadhari
river, I found some coins inside his garments. I gobbled them all up without
delay. The next day I experienced a bellyache. Hence, is there any doubt that
coin is a kind of poison?”
concluded his argument in this manner, other honourable tigers got up and
delivered lectures. Later President Amitodar Esquire began to speak:
“It’s quite late
in the night and it is time for earning our livelihood. Who knows when a herd
of deer will arrive! Hence it is not desirable to waste time by delivering long
lectures. The talk was brilliant and we are much obliged to Brihallangul
Esquire. The one thing that I want to say is that from the two lectures that
you have all heard, you must have realized that man is an extremely uncivilized
animal. We are the most civilized beasts. So it becomes our duty to make men as
cultured as we are. It seems that God Almighty has sent us to the forests of
the Sunderbans to civilize human beings because if men are more polished their
flesh may taste better and they may be caught more easily for, once educated,
they will understand that it is every man’s bounden duty to offer his body as
food to the tigers. This is the kind of culture that we wish to inculcate in
them. Hence, do pay attention to this matter in particular. It is a tiger’s
noble duty to first civilize human beings and eat them up thereafter.”
Ending his talk
in this manner, the Hon’ble President took his seat amidst loud clap clap of
tails. The important meeting of the tigers came to an end after a vote of
thanks to the President. Thereafter, each one went which ever way he chose to
earn his livelihood.
All around the
ground on which the meeting was being held, were some big and tall trees.
Climbing them up and concealing themselves in the midst of leaves, some monkeys
had been listening to the lecturers of the tigers. After the tigers vacated the
meeting ground one monkey peeped out and called out, “Hey mate, are you on the
monkey replied, “Yes Sir. I’m here.”
“Come on, let us begin a criticism of the discussion of the tigers.”
Second Monkey :
F M.: These
tigers are our sworn enemies. Let us show our animosity by discrediting them.
Obligatory. It is the proper duty of our race.
F.M. : Right.
But just see, is any tiger near about?
S. M.: No.
Still, tell me without coming out in the open.
F.M. : That’s
right. Or else who knows on which day I may land in front of which tiger and he
may make a meal of me.
tell me. What are the errors?
F.M. : Firstly,
bad grammar. We monkeys are experts in grammar. Their grammar is not like our
S. M.: What
F. M. : Their
language is too impure.
S.M. : Yes. They
do not converse in our monkey tongue.
Amitodar said, “It is the duty of the tigers to first civilize human beings and
then eat them up”. But, instead of that if he had said, ‘ First devour human
beings and then polish them up’, it would have been more reasonable.
Undoubtedly. Or else why should they call us monkeys?
F.M. : They have
no idea whatsoever how a lecture is to be delivered.. During a lecture one has
to indulge in a little chatter, has to jump and leap, make faces once or twice,
feed on bananas once or twice ; it is their duty to take a few lessons from us.
S.M. : Had they received
some training from us they would have been monkeys and not tigers.
At that time,
plucking up courage, some more monkeys got up. One monkey said, “In my opinion
, the greatest of errors in the lecture is that Brihallangul has said quite a
few new things which he has discovered with the help of his own knowledge and
intelligence. Such statements are not to be found in any book. Whatever has not
been discussed repeatedly by earlier writers is absolutely unacceptable. We,
the monkey brotherhood, have all through brought about the prosperity of the
monkey domain through aping and imitation. That the tiger-savant has not done
this, is his greatest failing.
ruddy-faced monkey spoke, “I can, from these lectures, bring out a list of more
than a thousand errors. I have not been able to understand thousands of things.
Can all that which is beyond my knowledge and understanding, be anything but a
very serious shortcoming?
opined, “I shall not be able to point out any defect but I can make fifty-two
kinds of faces and display my own culture and sense of humour by abusing
In this manner,
the monkeys remained engaged in vilifying the tigers. Observing this a plump
monkey said, “The way we have criticized, Brihallangul will surely return to
his den and fall dead. Come, let us feast on bananas.”
© 2008 by Sudeshna Kar Barua
Published December, 2008
Sudeshna Kar Barua, Professor of English ...
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