Season of Crows

a childhood in India, 1956-1972

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The Sparrow

So strong are we to fly in fighter planes
A hundred miles above the fleecy clouds
The world below is surely lost to sight
We turn the metal engine of our might
And bank into the sun at dizzy speed
Above us all is blank and heavenly blue
Victorious, soaring, man exults anew
With each sortie through the airy deep
Yet cannot we launch blithely from the ground
With wing├Ęd arms outstretched above the grass
And veer across the gilded meadow green
A hundred feet above the crumbly ground
As does a dappled sparrow in the hedge
This I dreamed when I was just a child
And this is still my futile dream today
To be as like a sparrow on the wing
To be released from all of our invention
Simply fly as does the little bird
And seek a worm upon the sunlit ground
Arjun L. Sen


The Librarian

I borrowed The Great Gatsby
From my own Library
Where I work
Knowing that I won’t read more
Than a few pages at night
Before I sleep exhausted

Why did I borrow this book?
Perhaps for its cover showing
A photograph in sepia of lovers
In untroubled bliss
Or so it seems
And so it may as well seem
As I somehow know
It will not get read
So long as my eye watches the clock
Tick away the hours of
My exhausted heart
While I work my life away
At my desk

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The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.

I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.

I feel that spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants.

I do not regard flesh-food as necessary for us at any stage and under any clime in which it is possible for human beings ordinarily to live. I hold flesh-food to be unsuited to our species.

– Mohandas K. Gandhi, Indian political and spiritual leader. Died, 1948.

Well, I absolutely agree with Gandhi on his humane attitude to animals, and I want all industrial farming, transportation and slaughtering stopped as well as all the other cruel practices involving hunting and animal sports.

I don’t agree that eating flesh is unsuited to our species. Our dentition shows clearly that we are omnivores.

This means that the right diet would include some flesh. However, dentition tells us only what we evolved to eat, but doesn’t help us establish values for anything we do. If our aim is to learn to become compassionate beings as well as top of the food chain – in other words, assume the position of demigods in the kingdom of life on Earth instead of “devils” – then prescriptive world-wide free-range farming would be the right thing, keeping animals till they reach relative old age, then slaughtering them as painlessly as possible and in non-factory conditions. By allowing them to live far beyond their lifespan necessary for providing us with meat, we acknowledge that eating their flesh is a privilege, not a right. We “borrow” their flesh in return for compassionate restraint, avoidance of killing them till the latest moment compatible with their quality of life which should come first. The meat would be more expensive but if free-range compassionate farming was worldwide and compulsory, it wouldn’t be as much as people seem to think and would not have to compete with industrial farming which should not be allowed. A price must be paid for compassion and outlawing industrial farming and paying more for free range / compassionate is a price worth paying. We would eat meat once a week instead of every day. This would be healthy and appropriate. The meat we ate would not be produced out of cruelty. This is the kind of world we should be moving towards, instead of committing a holocaust of billions of farm animals every year. If this seems too complicated to manage, we should forego meat altogether.