Chicken talk for the soul

by | Apr 2, 2024 | 0 comments

By Adarsh Madhavan

The pouring rain drove me to a half-shut chicken stall. There was that stench in the air that most live chicken stalls have and I pressed my face mask closer to my nose and watched the wretched rain causing rivulets on the messy road.
There was an ugly cage with several hens and another one with smaller birds. I stared at them rather disconsolately and then noticed that one prime-sized differently plumed hen was staring hard at me. I turned around to see if her attention was on something behind my back, but there was only a wall behind me and there was no one else there at this stall. It was staring at me. It noticed that I kept plucking at my mask and then suddenly said: It stinks, right?
I was startled. But I didn’t show it. I am used to these ‘man-to-(wo)man’ conversations with four and two-legged creatures. Yet, I felt a bit awkward at being caught out. I didn’t want to earn the displeasure of these poor creatures, already trapped in an ugly fate not of their making.
I fidgeted a bit and then replied: Look, I am sorry…

For what, the hen retorted. For my so-called plight? For being cooped up till the day or moment I am pulled out without a thought about my dignity and then to have my neck snapped and feathers pulled out and my body torn apart and chopped into small pieces after which I will end up on your plate, and then you will luvvvvv the aroma then, right (she said stressing heavily on the love)? There wouldn’t be any stink then, right.  Right now, I stink. But when you cut me up, drain my blood and fry me, I end up smelling different, right?

I, I – I stopped, I stuttered.

You stopped what?

I am a vegetarian, hoping that would make an impact. Not a flutter.

But you are not a vegan, she pointed out… I wondered how she knew, perhaps it showed.

No, I am not, I said quietly…

…And for many years before that, you were a full-fledged chicken and any type of meat eater…?

My yes scarily rose above a whisper.

Yes, I confessed. I was a total nonvegetarian and once when I was in Kenya, I even ate horse meat.

But I never killed and ate, I tried to say as the hen cut in: But you ate what was killed. I nodded again in mute agreement.

You did go to chicken stalls like this and was party to the process of picking a live, helpless creature squawking its protest, who otherwise would have had a whole life before it; you actually participated in the murders of such innocent beings, all for the sake of some moments of pleasure, some finger-licking foodtainment, while you had all the choice in the world to pick something else, something that did not have a life like yours or something that would not be put to endless pain and torture only to end up being murdered – and you pay for it. 

I am not saying this to give you a lesson in the sordid short lives that creatures like us live, she said sharply. I am not saying anything you didn’t already know and I am not asking for your mercy, she added. 

I don’t know what to say, I ventured, but was cut short – no, say nothing at all. We don’t need your sympathy. Don’t look at me or my brothers and sisters with your eyes dripping with short-lived pity. We don’t need that.

I am helpless, I tried to say.

As helpless as we are, uh, she asked, her wings flapping, scattering little feathers all around in that sordid cage and for a moment, I was transfixed at the sight. It looked ethereal.

After that I turned and watched the rain, wishing the danged drops would stop falling. 

When I turned back at the cage, she was still staring at me: You are now wishing you never came to take shelter next to such unfortunate, miserable creatures, right?

No, no, I said. Yes, yes, she clucked… anyway, it is alright, I don’t blame you. I am born to this fate, while, you are not. But, the sad part is that you don’t take the privilege to help the helpless.

And believe me, she said, putting her beak out of the wrinkled cage, you will get used to the stink. Slowly, you will get used to the killing, that’s life, she said and turned her back on me and then swiftly turned again to me: Well, thank God, this is your festival period, during this time, most of you indulge in veg delicacies instead of gorging on our legs.

She, then, stood straight, and said: we also have parents, children, siblings, friends, my dear, she said, her right wing extending on to a tinier compatriot, sheltering it. My li’l buddy, she said, as a way of explanation, but this time, her voice was not hard. I detected the slightest hint of a tremor. A tremor that broke my heart.

I ran into the rain, hoping to drown my tears in the downpour, and I almost got run over.

I wished it had.

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