14 June, 2024

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Story Of A Squirrel – An Allegorical Tale

By A. Sivapathasundaram –

A. Sivapathasundaram

It is a dense forest full of plants, ferns, shrubs, and trees, both tall and short, and diverse animals of all kinds. A squirrel, a blur of brown and grey fur and three conspicuous white strips on the back of its body, scurries through the undergrowth, darting among the trees and the branches.

The squirrel knows not of its supposed legacy of the three white stripes on the back of its body: In a tale emanating from the Ramayana, one of its kind had helped in the building of a bridge to rescue Lord Rama’s wife, Sita, abducted from India by Ravana and kept in Ravana’s kingdom in Lanka. Seeing the devotion and dedication of the squirrel, Lord Rama, in fondness, caressed the squirrel gently, running his fingers over the squirrel’s back. The three conspicuous white stripes that one sees on the back of a squirrel are said by some to be the marks of Lord Rama’s fingers. Since then, these marks appear on the bodies of all squirrels.

Some others say –which too the squirrel knows not–the markings are similar to the three stripes of holy ash that Hindu Saiva devotees apply on their foreheads in obeisance of Lord Shiva, also metaphorically, as reminder of the impermanence of body that inevitably and eventually ends up in ashes, when the soul departs from its embodiment.   

Image courtesy Marta Urbanik

This squirrel, flitting between different trees, alternates restlessly climbing up the rough bark of different trees, and coming down, and repeating the process. It also darts around, nimbly foraging and gathering nuts and seeds, which, looking around to see whether anyone is watching, assiduously gnaws the ground with its nimble claws to bury them under the earth. It is for recovery for its food during the harsh embrace of the winter.  However, it invariably forgets most of the points of places in which it had taken so much of effort and care to bury, the nuts and seeds often ending useless for it as food as it had planned.

Suddenly, it glimpses an animal in the thick of the forest and the dense foliage, with a grin stretching wide across its face and eyes glinting, intently and with measured steps approaching it.

“Is it a friendly smile or a glee of a predator?” – The squirrel is not sure.

The animal steadily lumbers towards the squirrel.

Nervous with wonder and worry, its energy morphs into outright panic.

The animal seems closer, its grin never wavering. Panic chokes the squirrel.

Fright pulsating its entire body, it frantically looks around.

It spots a small wooden structure perched on a platform on stilts above the forest floor and a flat surface jutting out.

With a desperate surge of energy and burst of speed, it scrambles for refuge from the danger lurking, and launches itself onto the veranda.

Its tiny claws land with a thud.

Seated on the platform is a tall, bulky figure.

Hearing the thud and seeing the squirrel on the veranda, the tall, bulky man rises from his chair, and walks towards the squirrel, extending his arms. His mischievous son, who was frolicking around, also hears the thud and sees the squirrel. He follows his father keeping close.

Seeing them, the squirrel thought, panting and standing on its hind legs, “Surely, these beings would not mean harm”.

It sees a broad smile on the face of the approaching man.

“Is it a good thing or not?” —it is not sure.

A tentative chirp escaped its throat; shivers run down its bushy tail.

“Is it a friendly smile or a glee of a predator?” – The same thought envelops the mind of the squirrel again.

“Is it a cruel mockery of my desperate search for refuge?”, it asks itself.

The son following the man prods: “Papa, I want it; go, please get it”

Just then, looking around, the squirrel sees a lean and starved monkey tethered to a chain on the pillar of the veranda, nibling what appears to be a crumb of a stale bread. Overhead, hanging on the ceiling is a bird in a rusty cage. It continually flutters in what appears to be its forlorn attempt to get out into the open wide.

The squirrel senses it’s only hope for survival being dashed into smithereens; its world goes dark.

Confused, and its senses tangled with both trepidation and intrigue, sees in the man a predator, not a protector.

Desperation drives it. — With a squeak, it leaps back into the forest. But it lands right at the very feet of the waiting animal.

“Easy pickings,” the animal mutters. Its grin widens further, this time with genuine amusement as well.

It swiftly snatches the bewildered squirrel in its jaws, the same glint in its eyes.

Its grin widens as it chomps down on the squirrel.

The tall, bulky man and his son watched disappointedly from the veranda, perched high on stills above the level of the forest.

They both sigh deeply, the dejection of not having the squirrel for them unsettling them.

The squirrel, meek and week, the common of the world’s tangled and treacherous forest, falls an easy prey to the devouring predator—its fate the same be it down in the forest or up above in the veranda.   

The forest, beautiful as it is, with a tapestry of plants, shrubs, and trees wide and varied, is a place of harsh realities, where the very survival of its tiny creatures is not heard, helplessly subjugated, or devoured by the might of the ferocious.

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Latest comments

  • 1
    2

    The suspense Sivapathasundaram attempts to create fizzles out at the end; Like the ending of the squirrel itself!

    • 4
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      The “Forest” – The harsh world of Sri Lanka as it stands.
      ~
      The “Squirrel” – The hard-working ordinary citizens of Sri Lanka trying to make ends meet in the harsh world of their home country.
      ~
      The “Monkey” and the “Bird” – The other long-suffering and unfortunate fellow citizens of Sri Lanka (just like the “Squirrel”) who are struggling to escape from their desperately difficult situations.
      ~
      The “Predator Animal”, the “Bulky Man” and the “Mischievous Son” – The rulers of Sri Lanka who are only interested in one thing. Themselves!
      ~
      I have changed the final paragraph of the article to read as follows (with the original words shown in brackets): The land of Sri Lanka (the “Forest”), beautiful as it is, with a tapestry of plants, shrubs, and trees wide and varied, is a place of harsh realities, where the very survival of its people (the “tiny creatures”: the “Squirrel”, the “Money” and the “Bird”) is not heard, helplessly subjugated, or devoured by the rulers (“might of the ferocious”).
      ~
      Nathan – I am sure you got the true message of the article. I did, and I don’t even live in Sri Lanka.

      • 2
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        Dear A. Sivapathasundaram,
        Appreciate the courtesy of a response.
        It is not where you live that matters; It is where our heart is.

        • 0
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          Nathan, you had asked for “courtesy of a response” from me, hence this:
          Sincerely, I could not surmise the reason for your comment that “…….the suspense fizzles out at the end, like the end of the squirrel itself”. But then, it is your perception and, verily, I have no qualms with that.
          However, contrary to what you had concluded, KP, Mahel , & Captain Mohhan, in their comments, have generally got it right in their perspectives not far on what I had meant/implied, and on the analogical characters – Sri Lanka, politics, samples of the common people of all divides (the frantic squirrel, the myth of legacy and controversies in the name of religions thrust upon it, the caged bird fluttering to get out its wings sapped of vitality, the tethered monkey given the crumb of a stale bread, and samples of the politicians, the ferocious but grinning animals, the bulky man and his son (dynasty politics) etc.
          Let me please here add, if I may, : Originally, I wanted the character of the tall man as “protector”, on a note of hope as possible positivity; and that the squirrel, in its ignorance and fear, and misinterpreting his extending arms gesture as that of another predator, choses to leap back at the grinning but ferocious animal and lands right at its very feet.

          • 1
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            Hello Abimanu Siva.
            I know this is an allegorical story for Sri Lankans and possibly Indians, but you said “Since then, these marks appear on the bodies of all squirrels”. In Scotland we have Red Squirrels and in England Grey Squirrels, none have stripes.
            Usually allegorical tales have a lesson for the Readers. I suppose that the closest Western story, that I have read, to yours would be Animal Farm by George Orwell where the pigs become the new Masters.
            However your story could be interpreted as “You live in a Jungle (your Natural Habitat) so shut up, play the game and accept the rules. Nobody is listening to your problems”
            Best regards

        • 1
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          Nathan, you had asked for “courtesy of a response” from me, hence this:
          Sincerely, I could not surmise the reason for your comment that “…….the suspense fizzles out at the end, like the end of the squirrel itself”. But then, it is your perception and, verily, I have no qualm with that.
          However, contrary to what you had concluded, KP, Mahell , & Captain Mohhan, in their comments, have generally got it right in their perspectives not far on what I had meant/implied, and on the allegorical characters – Sri Lanka (the forest, yet beautiful except for the ferocious animals, as politicians), politics, samples of the common people of all divides (the frantic squirrel, the myth of legacy and controversies in the name of religions thrust upon it, the caged bird fluttering to get out and its wings sapped of vitality, the tethered monkey given the crumb of a stale bread, and samples of the politicians, the ferocious but grinning animal, the bulky man and his son (dynasty politics) etc.
          Let me please here add, if I may, : Originally, I wanted the character of the tall man as “protector”, on a note of hope as possible positivity; and that the squirrel, in its ignorance and fear, and misinterpreting his extending arms gesture as that of another predator, choses to leap back at the grinning but ferocious animal and lands right at its very feet. I did think that , and hope, that the presumed protector may be the “one Party”( and its leader) in the horizon, not yet tested in power, but then, I also noted the apprehension about their past parochial deeds ( or rather misdeeds) and some peoples’ confusion. Like the squirrel, I was also not sure ; but was sure of the lurking dynasty and their antics , and hence ended so with the man and his son, they desolate at the missed opportunity of not being able to have the squirrel as another play thing for them, and to underscore the point, the tethered monkey and the caged bird were introduced.
          The kindly woodsman concept would have had an ending something like “The tall figure, a kind woodsman who had hoped to offer the squirrel sanctuary, watched helplessly from the veranda. He sighed, a deep sadness settling over him. The squirrel, the common of the world’s tangled and treacherous forest, unable to differentiate between the predator and the protector, gets caught a victim of its own ignorance, misunderstanding, and fear, falls an easy prey to the devouring predator”.

          The forest, beautiful as it is, with a tapestry of plants, shrubs, and trees wide and varied, is a place of harsh realities, where the very survival of its tiny creatures is not heard, helplessly devoured by the might of the ferocious.

          • 0
            1

            Dear A. Sivapathasundaram,
            Notwithstanding your courtesy, I stand by my observation and inference.
            It is your story; Our perceptions are based on our experiences. Need not be identical or even similar.
            Thank you for the opportunity to clarify my stand.

  • 5
    3

    Mr Sivapathasundaram,
    Thanks for the Illuminating Article!
    ‘Well laid out, timely and fitting the occasion, educative for one all, to understand the country’s current situation and the developing “Political” perspective’!!!??? Hopefully, electorate understands need of the Hour for Salvation, when Voting 2024!?

  • 3
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    Oh, this story is an analogy. We, the citizens are in the position of the poor squirrel.
    The three predators in this story are the wild animal, the father, and his young son.
    The three predators eyeing us are RW, SP, and AKD.

    • 1
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      CM
      In that order?
      Cannot be.
      The analogy only sees local predators.
      Most local squirrels seem to see their saviors in alien predators.

  • 2
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    Siva,
    Tis is a brilliant piece of poetic write up despite the tragic end for that squirrel. In that forest “with a tapestry of plants, shrubs, and trees wide and varied”,, Squirrels do survive through generations. Every squirrel ends up in the hands of a predator, many more learnt to survive in that “harsh realities” . Predators too, meets their Achilles heels at some point. That too is within the realm of possibility …

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