THE WAY IT WAS : ‘Thoughts too deep for tears’ —Mian Ijaz Ul Hassan

Killing just for the sake of killing is not enough. A warrior must not only be adept at killing but must also relish the kill. I wonder where the Americans train their warriors

There is an animal hidden in each one of us — so they say. Man civilised himself rather quickly. The thick hairy hide changed into smooth skin but it is too frail to contain the animal inside us. Dr Jeckyl transforms into Mr Hyde ever too frequently. Humans have upholstered themselves rather well, with their accomplishments in literature, art, philosophy and science. These achievements have distinguished him from other animals that have failed to familiarise themselves with finer feelings and complex thoughts.

It is ironic that man on the one hand is moved by the sight of a flower with thoughts that are ‘too deep for tears’ and yet kills for sport. Nay discovers ever-new ways of killing. He is the only animal who indiscriminately hunts other animals for pleasure and claims their heads for trophies. He is the only one who kills his own kind. There have been occasions when naked carcasses of humans were piled together so that the victors could be photographed; a memento of their successful hunt. Mercifully man has so far refrained from preserving human heads and limbs to make table lamps and ashtrays. I wonder if it is true that in the Great Wild West some hunters liked to have their tobacco pouches made of the skin ripped off the breasts of Indian women?

I am baffled to understand the satisfaction a human draws by inflicting pain on other humans, animals and insects that share the planet with us. Why do some children like to impulsively kill ants and insects without remorse? Why does a big fat bully delight in hounding and hurting a harmless fellow student — half his height, three-quarter his size? Is it true there is an animal in us? Or is it because half of us belong to God and the better half belongs to Satan?

I like visiting the zoo. Humans are so predictable; they are always trying to make a monkey of themselves by sadistically intimidating their betters for fun. On one occasion I saw a man throw a burning cigarette at the chimpanzee in the zoo. He was the only one we had those days. He was lonely and bored. He spent most of his time — imprisoned for life without hope of reprieve — pondering. I wonder where he was captured? Must have been swinging from tree to tree, throwing caution to the wind, with a love song in his heart when he got entangled in a poacher’s net — silly romantic fool.

There he was in the cage now, old and grey, bereft of youth but abundantly compensated with wisdom. What was the use of wisdom jab chirrian chun gaeen ghait? But it kept him company in the endless empty hours punctuated by the arrival of morning and the disappearance of shadows at noon, their reappearance and lengthening towards the evening, followed by a dark long night and the inevitable morning the next day. The endless diurnal cycle and fatigue of existence was visible in his eyes.

The cigarette that was flung fell short of the majestic ape. The chimpanzee was as usual immersed in a reverie. For a fleeting moment he was distracted from his dreams. To my great surprise he casually picked up the cigarette, briefly studied the smouldering end and then stubbed it out on the floor. He then reverted back to his speculations, not sparing a thought for the existence of the worthless human.

The perpetrator of the act was not ashamed. Instead he grinned, revealing his swollen gums set with dirty teeth. I must say no one was amused and frowned at the cur. I couldn’t resist spreading the five fingers of my right hand and showing him the paw or what in the vernacular is called khalla to him.

There was another scoundrel; I saw him feeding a crane with roasted grain, bags of which can be purchased at inflated prices near the zoo entrance. The crane danced to please the benefactor who fed him. It hopped, skipped and pranced, tripped, jigged and careened. It was friendly and alert, and swiftly caught the grains thrown at him in its beak. Little did it know that for desert he was to be served a burning butt of a cigarette? He caught it with expertise right in the centre of his wide-open beak. I saw it go over its delicate pink tongue and then being swallowed as if it were a delicious morsel.

Birds don’t know that humans can be devious. It writhed in agony, swashed its neck in circles, uttering piercing shrill sounds till he was hoarse and then silently collapsed on its two slender grey legs. The man was greatly amused. He must have had a tremendous sense of victory, the satisfaction of exercising power on others’ life, different and dispensable. It would not have made a difference if the life form were human. He lighted a fresh cigarette, took a deep puff and leisurely sauntered off before I could hurl an appropriate adjective at him.

I was in the muffassals to call on a friend who had lost a member of his family. After we had said the Fateha the conversation slowly drifted to sundry issues. The younger brother informed me, while we waited for lunch, that at one time the wild boar population around the Indus, for unknown reason suddenly depleted. It was a cause of concern for the local tribal lords who liked to chase the boar on their steeds and stick them with their lances for sport. How else could the recruits for the British infantry in India be trained?

On investigation it was discovered that a pack of wolves had arrived, God knows from where, and taken abode in the hills adjacent to the river. The wolves being wolves took joy in hunting the pigs for food as well as for the innate instinct to kill — so my friend’s brother believed. My friend Major Amanulla, who after having hunted all his life has now become an avid supporter of Wild Life Preservation, would spurn the charge as a slander against the wolves. Whatever the actual truth of the matter how could the warriors be deprived of what was their traditional right. The wolves were hunted and put away. The warriors once again had a fertile ground to flush, chase and stick, and kill the wild boars and their young.

But that is not all. A wounded wild boar is not hastily disposed off. He is captured, bound and then thrown in the nearest water hole — this is done in fairness to the boar so that its vulnerable hind can remain protected in water — and then the dogs are unleashed on him. It is thus considered a fair game for both sides. The hounds attack the boar armed with his menacing sharp tusks in front. They cannot engage him from the rear because the back is immersed in water. At the end of the day no one defiles the dead. No one inserts the backend of the lance in the rectum of the boar whether dead or alive.

However killing just for the sake of killing is not good enough. A warrior must not only be adept at killing but must also relish the kill. I wonder where the Americans train their warriors. I have given you a glimpse of how we trained ours.

Prof Ijaz-ul-Hassan is a painter, author and a political activist