The very sight of his school’s name board, Jungle Global School, filled Raju Skunk with horror. The school was a place of nightmares for Raju. “Stinky Skunk,” his companions called him. They tormented him because of his smell. Raju had no friends and no one played with him ever. Even the manager, principal and various deans in the school discriminated against him although discrimination of any sort was against the Constitution of the Jungle Republic.
“Why do we stink like this?” Raju asked his mother. “Can’t we get rid of this stupid stench and live with dignity?”
“We are skunks,” his mother explained. “We smell like skunks and it is our birthright to smell so. It is our duty to smell so.”
Right, yes, Raju could understand that. He had seen animals fighting for all kinds of rights. The tigers fought for the right to kill other animals when the Republic wanted to pass the Bill of Vegetarianism. The foxes had fought for the right to declare sour all the grapes that were not within their reach.
Right, yes. But duty? Why should anyone consider it his or her duty to stink like the drains in the cities of human beings?
“It is our lineage, our ancestry, our culture…” Mother used a lot of words which Raju couldn’t really grasp.
One day when Raju was sitting on a rock scratching it with a stone and looking dejected, the wise owl came and sat on a tree branch nearby.
“Do you want to change your smell?” asked the owl.
Raju looked up surprised. “How did you know my problem?” asked Raju.
“It’s not for nothing that we are considered wise creatures in western countries,” said the owl. “There’s a Jungle Beauty Parlour at the end of that trail,” the owl pointed with her claw. “You can get your smell changed there. You have to pay, of course.”
Raju Skunk thanked the wise owl and went home to collect all the pocket money he had saved.
In an hour’s time Raju Skunk was smelling like roses. And then a lot of friends gathered round him at school. His social network profiles were flooded with friend requests. Matrimonial sites sent him emails asking him to register himself.
The manager and the principal of the school presented him on the stage as the ideal student. The various deans showered much adulation of varying types on Raju Skunk. The dean of academics gave him free formats on how to study each subject, how to read novels, how to read poetry, how to read even the Jungle News...
“What’s this stupid smell?” asked Mother Skunk as soon as Raju Skunk reached home.
“It’s me, mom,” said Raju. He explained how he got the new smell.
“What nonsense!” Mommy Skunk fumed. “How can you smell like a rose and be a skunk? A rose is a rose and a skunk is a skunk...”
“Mom!,” said Raju Skunk, “gone are those days. Culture, ancestry, lineage... these are words we can throw in whenever we want to bluff some creatures. The world is moving towards one culture, a global culture. Everyone will have the same kind of dress, the same smell, the same looks... We will be given blueprints for thinking, for breathing, for eating...”
Mommy Skunk stared at her son. There was a sense of déjà vu in that stare. Her husband who had gone to collect a family Visa for emigrating to a better jungle in Africa had spoken in a similar vein. Maybe, there’s much that I’m yet to understand, she sighed. Then she embraced Raju though a frown spread on her face due to the filthy smell that her son had acquired. “I’ll get used to this smell,” she sighed.
Acknowledgement: Inspired by John Updike’s story, Should the Wizard Hit Mommy?