Slash and Burn is another name for Jhum cultivation which is prevalent in some countries. Trees are burned and cleared- cropping is done for some years. When the ground fertility is gone, a new patch is cleared- and the cycle goes on. This is what was happening at the edge of an ancient forest. One day all the animals got together and deliberated.

The elephant spoke in a low rumble: In search of foliage, I have to enter human habitation at night! What confusion follows!

Many animals nodded in sympathy. 

Hoopoe twitched its tail and cried: You, Elephant, eat tons. No wonder you are always hungry. But I have lost my nest so many times to fire. Where am I supposed to live- in the sky?

Frog and Fish had their own tales of unending misery. Water bodies had shrunk beyond recognition.

Azlan, the Lion king, got disheartened with all the complaints and stories of misery. He flicked off some flies with his bushy tail and said: I already know all this. I thought today we were going to discuss solutions? Speak, if you have an answer.

Wise Fox, Shifu, said: Why doesn’t Snake bite them when they come to slash and burn? They will stop when a couple of them are dead! 

Hmm.. Rabbit thought about it and countered: But how will the Snake get to know? The forest is spread for miles. They sometimes slash and burn here and sometimes miles away. 

Wise Owl blinked a few times and joined: No problemo! Eagle has a telescopic vision. He can watch from the sky and tell the snake. Maybe he can airlift him directly to the spot?

Tortoise shook his head in a clear negative: No, that won’t work. Maybe Mighty Bear can attack their party- once and for all?

The horse jumped in with his opinion: But they bring dogs with them. And our friend Bear is, God knows why, scared of dogs.

Owl jumped in again: So what? Mr Spots – the Leopard – can finish those dogs quickly. And then Bear can deal with men.

Tortoise again shook his head in a clear negative. 

Many more ideas were explored but Tortoise kept rejecting all the ideas summarily. Finally, Azlan, the Lion King, got fed up and shouted at Tortoise: What is wrong with you today? No strategy is good enough for you? Why?

Tortoise first rolled his head a few times and then explained in his slow wise speech: O King, we have instinctual fear of each other and therefore we can not unite and fight man: Eagle can airlift Snake to the trouble spot. Yes. But why should Snake trust him? Eagle might as well kill him in the air! Why should other birds help Snake? Has he not been stealing their eggs? Let us talk about Bear and Leopard. Leopard is known to attack Bear cubs. So, why would they trust each other? 

Azlan, scratched his beard and asked thoughtfully: What is the solution, then?

Tortoise quietly mumbled: Unless we give up our instinctive distrust of each other, we can not unite. Till then, Man will continue to slash and burn- and we have to continue retreating into the deeper forest—  while it is there!

MORAL of the story: Since 2008, I have heard in TISA chance comments like: We should have an exclusive group because our problems are unique; Who can understand our problems? We are- (variety of reasons are offered)– Biharis, Bengali, Tamil, Punjabis, Metrocity walas, Women, Too young, Too old, Cant speak English, Programmers, Accountants, Lawyers, Doctors; I am gay, they are straight.. etc. etc. 

But if we did, TISA will lose the edge. Imagine 20 stammering associations- each claiming to be the “FIRST and the ONLY association representing India”!! On the other hand, TISA has to, and it has done so quite well so far, create spaces to accommodate all such aspirations based on these differences: “One TISA, One Group” policy ie. One National Telegram group does not prevent many “unofficial” groups to exist and function vibrantly.  

End of the day, we have to remember, that we all have many differences, but our commonality overwhelms these differences anywhere, anytime. Remember, we ALL had difficulty giving roll calls; we ALL had difficulty buying Bus Tickets; we ALL had difficulty ordering chowmein / Vanilla ice-cream on our first date; and interviews? Don’t talk of that at all! And the list of our shared life experiences goes on and on… 

Just think of that! And smile!

Post Author: Sachin

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