What makes us animals


The king of the jungle may be a lion, but it is humans that dominate the animal kingdom. Whether by evolution or by personification, animals are often given human traits, and more so – humans are likened to animals.

Today, friends and I found ourselves sitting on stools outside of a teashop in Basantapur. I was happily unwrapping my tuna sandwich ready to satiate the craving I had had for days and my friends were sipping tea. One bite into my sandwich, a decrepit man (although not in the sorriest state I’ve seen) came and squatted next to a friend and without haste slowly extended a palm to him.

My friend, instead of money, offered him tea which the man accepted. Tea in one hand, the older fellow had the other out hoping to feel a paper note of monetary value nestled in his cupped palm. The dismal man, stained clothing, dirty faced, stared at my friends and I, hollow eyed. I had a hard time taking another bite, but it was not out of repulsion. It was out of an ache and some form of guilt that I felt.

My friends reprimanded him and informed him that no cash would be handed out, but for a few more moments he continued to squat, a man who might be grandfather to someone, father to another, husband of a woman and son to someone – stripped of dignity. I glanced at him and I could feel my insides squeeze and unsettle. I can’t explain the feeling, but I’ve never be able to bear people looking pitiful. I didn’t want to pity the man, I wanted to help but felt helpless instead. Soon enough, the man rose and with it came a sense of relief.


Almost immediately after the man left, a dog wandered over and took the seat of the dejected man. Man and beast have never seemed so similar to me. The dog too came to beg for a morsel, brown with patches of scars it looked at me with the eyes of the old man. It pained me. In that moment I had a thought. What does it take for a man to be reduced to the level of a dog? That thought was followed by another. Isn’t it people who reduce fellow humans to animals?

I wonder, at what point did the last shred of dignity vanish? When did he resign to becoming on par with curs? Lost in my thoughts I chewed my sandwich occasionally meeting eyes with the dog.  The dog, he sat and looked at me, his eyes followed the moment of my hand as I wiped my mouth after every greedy bite, he barely moved except to glace here and there and to flatten his ears. The dog, I realized, looked oddly noble. Yet a man, carrying out the very same act….

I made it to the end of my sandwich and in a final act of I don’t know what, I placed the last bite on the ground. The dog licked it up and looked at me for more. Under my breath I whispered, “I’m sorry puppy, I don’t have anymore for you, I don’t even have anymore for me.”




Tonight, I can safely assume the dog will find a doorstep or a shrub to spend the night, and I will be snug in my bed. But the man, I do not know. When people ask me where “home” is, I always respond with “Home is wherever I spend the night.”

The answer I’ve been using for years now somewhat haunts me:

Photo by Bijay Gajmer. More by him over at: https://bijay.wordpress.com/



Happy first day of 2011.

  1. Sunil said:

    This is the first blog I read for 2011. Its haunting, convicting, and beautiful I’m sure i’ll come back and reread this a few times.

  2. reading your blog makes me feel guilty sometimes, but if it’s guilt it sometimes takes to remind me of who has reduced whom i’ll keep reading… you keep writing.

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