Dustbin life forms

Shyam G. Menon | Updated on March 09, 2011


The other day at a restaurant by the beach I looked up from my food and saw a chimpanzee.

He wore a red coat, black tie and blue pants. His face was a ghastly white. Etched prominently in jet black, like eyeliner on anaemic face, were a pair of sad eyes. In front, moulded to his body, was a cavernous dust bin.

On his fibreglass backside, was a small door you could open to clear out the trash. I ate my food. He watched, unblinking.

Not far away, perhaps twenty feet from the chimpanzee was a huge white rabbit with long, cocked ears.

Face aside, the rest of it resembled a kangaroo. The rabbit was a fibreglass marsupial with trash can for pouch. When full, a can of beer, a discarded bottle of mineral water, brightly coloured potato chip-sachets, tetra-packs, tissues – all peeped out like babies.

Then there was the penguin; neither chimpanzee masquerading as municipal worker nor rabbit turned fibreglass marsupial. It had a mouth as widely open as only the unhinged jaws of a python swallowing prey would be. The angle of tilt at the stout neck was perfect.

You finished your food at a nearby table, wiped your fingers on the tissue, rolled it up, took aim and sent it flying into the bird's belly. It accepted the toss without flinching as though collecting trash was the sole purpose of its distant birth on polar ice cap.

Human, sub-human

The ape is tantalizingly close to the human being in terms of evolution. As the most human-like of animals and yet not fully human, apes become sub-human in our imagination and ideal to play servant.

As for the rabbit and the penguin – one is cute; you could tell the kid, “See that rabbit? Put the ice cream cup there.''

The other is too remote for many of us to appreciate except as some vague bird with wide open mouth.

Our ignorance and prejudice trash animals into dustbin shapes.

Predictably - albeit thankfully - we don't have the peacock or tiger in similar roles. One is national bird and in a land, where politics milks symbols for instant mileage, a garbage-carrying, marsupial peacock may spew controversy. That is more so with the tiger, which although national animal and disappearing despite that, is sought after to showcase human vanity. Strong as a tiger, powerful as a tiger – men revel in such attributes.

A marsupial tiger you aim tissues at mocks human virility. The studs in our midst would protest. Can caricatured human virility protect this poor feline aphrodisiac in real life? I wonder. The rest of the animal kingdom is any way up for grabs. The elephant is not far from turning marsupial in fibreglass. So are several others from the edge of urban consciousness, who qualify quicker – like the penguin did.

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Published on March 09, 2011
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