The Smirk

(4 minute read)
by Sunil Sharma

(India)

He remembered the smirk!
As he woke up, the first thing that came to mind was the grin seen years ago, in an unlikely place!

Waking up, Suresh recalled the beastly encounter.

It came suddenly, some dim corner of a mind becoming alert. He went back ten years to his visit to the circus.

He was doing a news item on the circus for the local channel. The travelling circus was popular and returned annually. It stayed on for a month, doing three shows. This time, they had brought some new attractions. The kids were excited. The manager had given heavy discounts to the nearby schools and free passes for the families of select media professionals. His boss wanted Suresh to do a documentary on life in the circus. He also wanted to revisit his childhood. 

As he was shown around the enclosures, the back of the tented area, outside the town, that October morning, he was taken aback by the sight of a caged ape. He had never seen one so close, yet so far off. The ape was huge and hairy, looking harmless. He sat hunched, like a beaten-up inmate, behind the bars of a small cage — a forlorn being, at the mercy of his trainer, brooding, or so it seemed to him. When confronted with another alien, the ape looked up and turned his gaze immediately, trying to avoid any eye contact, like a surly kid. Suresh lingered, measuring the brute and his power, height, muscular body, sloping head, jutting jaws and beady eyes full of sadness; the sadness of a dying man Suresh had seen in an old people’s home.

At that sight, young Suresh had marveled at the power of the human beings over the beast and said, “Even mighty Joes are made to do the biddings of the humans, their superior masters! How timid the ape has become!”

How wrong he was!

In 2021, imprisoned in his home – a tiny cage – he remembered the last look of the Chimp; a resigned hopelessness in that iron cell, away from family and forest in the urban jungle.

Then he had forgotten everything.

The beast came back again to him.

Last night, Suresh saw the same ape again, in a troubled dream.

He was laughing. A smirk on his face. Mocking him with his arms; the human tormentor, locked up inside his cage.

Sheer contempt for his captors was visible from his vindictive eyes!

Suresh, in the dream, was made aware of the changed status; humans rendered captive in their houses in the lockdown.

He woke up with sweat, and for the first time, regretted his statement about the other God-created species and the pain inflicted by the poachers on these dumb animals.

In the nightmare, the ape had been replaced by Suresh in that little cage, full of flies, heat and humidity; unable to stir, move around, totally lost.

That day, he wrote in his blog: ‘How mistaken I was! We are not the superior species — but the worst in the natural, interdependent order! Apes are much better. Sorry to that ape in the circus cage! An exhibit. An object for the sheer entertainment of the crass public.’

How pathetic!
How sickening this business!
My apologies to all the creatures maimed, caught, tortured for money, by the civilized men.

Feeling a bit unburdened, Suresh, the TV journalist, went to the barred windows and looked out at a deserted world outside, like the poor cousin of the primates, free outside in a jungle.

He wanted to break out… but the fear of Covid-19 kept him inside. Suresh kept on watching the street.

He looked up, and thought he again saw fleetingly, that smirk on the chimp’s face across a reddening sky.

Copyright © 2021 – Sunil Sharma. All rights reserved.

About the Author 

Sunil Sharma

Sunil Sharma is an Indian academic and writer with 22 books published — some solo and joint. Edits the online monthly journal Setu. Currently based in MMR (Mumbai Metropolitan Region).    

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