Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jungle Global School


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?


  1. A nice alteration in the real tale. When I had read the story 'Should Wizard Hit Mommy?', I really felt like saying yes. Yes, the wizard should hit the Mommy.But my literature teacher had yet an another explanation for the story so that we can justify her behavior. As a school girl I hated that though. But the story you presented suits the present world. It is the form needed to be read in the present world.

    1. Ok, Namrata, so you think my version is more suitable. But I don't agree with my version myself. Updike gave a question as the title of his version leaving it to the readers to answer it. As a teacher, my interpretation is probably similar to your teachers: it's a question of identity and one's personality. How much can one alter it? But Updike leaves us with some hints too: e.g., the mother in his version is a woman who pretends quite a bit like at the parties she does not like to attend. How far can we avoid pretension is another question that the story raises. I have altered the tale to place it in the present globalised situation. Has pretension become the accepted way? Is it good?

    2. No no no. Not that way at all. Originality is must and pretense is short lived, I know. You wrote there about culture, ancestry, lineage, these alone must not define what we ought to do. It's great to be what I wish to. Why is it the 'duty' of the skunk to sell bad? And I am in support of the global culture. It gives everyone an equal chance.

    3. It's smelling good, Namrata. I understand what you mean. Ultimately, it's a matter of perspectives.

      In a story, a writer can't preach. A story writer raises questions rather than preach. The stench of the culture is something I would like to question radically. So in this matter, I'm in tune with you.

  2. Where do you get such lovely stories to tell us ?

    1. The pleasures of reading, Nima. This particular story, however, is part of the course that I teach. And thanks for letting me know that it's nice.

  3. I am yet to read the Updike's story but I wrote one similar story myself along with my daughter where a crow wanted to look like a parrot :-).

    1. The other side is greener is a universal theme, isn't it?

  4. sir, co-incidentally i also taught this story to twelfth class last year and your version was quite interesting and too suitable for today. However, I interpreted it just the way I read in your comments above. The truth is in changing ourselves we end up losing what we are. It is good to go with time and adapt but not at the cost of losing our identity.

    1. I'm excited to see a fellow traveller here, Simi.

      Updike watched his mother typing out stories on a dilapidated typewriter. We can see his mother in the story...

      Well, I'm as confused as Updike and as convinced too...

  5. Now I'm reading the story fully severing from the author's context and wondering what made you write this story! Fine. What a skunk, whether it is good or bad, it smells right, master.


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