The Story of the Oppressed Hyenas

The hyenas were excited. They had tasted blood and were raring for more. They had killed the wisest of animals, the elephant, had eaten its brain and now they were on a high and felt very intelligent. Mind you, killing a huge elephant was not a joke! But they did it! They got together and were celebrating their victory. Each one of them was exaggerating about his role in the fall of the elephant. That the elephant itself was on its deathbed did not cross anyone’s mind. While boasting about the kill, one old hyena observed that the elephant could have trampled atleast one of them, but he didn’t. “Why did he not do that?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” This question was repeatedly asked in the group. Usually one hyena spoke and the others just repeated the sentence again and again, basically because none of them were great fans of using their brains.

The oldie said, “Do you know there is a hierarchy in the forest which has been around for thousands of years?”

“What?” “What?” “What?” “What?” went around.

When all of them had their say of “What?” the oldie said, “Yes; no one respects us because we are at the bottom of the food chain.”

“Bottom?” “Food chain?” “Bottom?” “Food chain” …

“We are called the Scavengers. They don’t come close to us because we eat meat of animals which are dying or dead. They don’t allow us to eat fresh meat.”

“Fresh meat?” “Fresh meat?” “Really?” “Really?” …

“We must fight for our Rights! Let us call for a meeting of all the animals and tell them how we are not going to bear any more torture from them and that we deserve respect.”

“Respect” “Respect” “Respect” was the cry of the day.

Soon a meeting of all the animals and birds of the forest was called and on the said day, representatives of all the animals and birds gathered. Some others too had come because they wanted to know why the hyenas felt they were not respected. It was a huge crowd and everyone had a puzzled expression on their face. The old hyena spoke,

“As all of you animals and birds know, for thousands of years we hyenas have been oppressed.” There was a murmur. He continued, “We kept your forests clean, ate leftovers and dead meat but till today no one has ever thanked us or respected us. You never treated us as your equal. We are fed up of your torture and oppression and we have decided to fight for our Rights.”

All the animals and birds were stunned at this announcement and started questioning each other about who had tortured and oppressed the hyenas. In their lifetime, they had never seen any torture or oppression in the forest and they had no clue about anything that had happened in the past. Finally, one owl asked in a kind voice, “What oppression are you facing? Who tortured you? What rights do you want?”

The old hyena was prepared. “We want to be allowed to eat fresh meat every day. We don’t want to eat any more sick or dying animals. We want you all to allow us to kill you even when you are strong and healthy. We want to eat your brains and become intelligent too.”

The cheetah spoke. “So who stopped you from hunting healthy animals? Do it. Don’t call a meeting for this. Hunt and eat. Why say we are oppressing you?”

The hyena was surprised. He looked around at his fellowmen. All were quiet. Then he said, “You have to allow us to attack you and eat you. You should not fight back. If you fight back, it will be torture for us.”

The cheetah laughed loudly and said, “What an idiot! When we hunt also, other animals run away or fight back. It is not easy for us. In fact, you guys have it easy because you only hunt injured or dying animals who rarely fight back ferociously.” Some others joined in the laughter.

The hyenas felt insulted that the animals were laughing at them. A huge vulture who was watching this said, “Why are you upset about being scavengers? We too are scavengers and we don’t mind it. Where is the oppression in this?”

A young hyena suddenly spoke up revealing a new line of thought, “It is not just that. The Brahmins among the animals and birds are the ones who are torturing and oppressing us.” Another ripple of murmur …

“Brahmins? Who are the Brahmins among the animals and birds?” a deer asked.

“The Eagle is the Brahmin among the birds; the Elephant among huge mammals; the Cobra among snakes; the Mouse among rodents; the Peacock among colourful birds; the Bovines (cow & bull) among the milk-giving creatures; the Lion and Tiger among the big cats and so on”, said the young hyena. He had come prepared for this question. The other hyenas were impressed.

“Yes Yes, the Brahmins have oppressed us.” “The Brahmins have oppressed us.”

The Bull looked at the hyenas with a kind and wise gaze and asked, “Why do you think we are Brahmins?”

The young hyena laughed, “Hihihi … Everyone knows that you people are the ones who claim to be the ones chosen by Gods.”

The Lion moved menacingly ahead and said, “So? How did we oppress you?”

The old hyena took over. “You never allowed us to come closer to the Gods. You kept us away from the Gods and moved us over to barren areas.”

“Stupid fellow, our ancestors must have done some good deeds to have the grace and blessings of the Gods” said the Tiger with a roar. “The whole jungle belongs to ALL. You could have chosen to live anywhere you wanted and to pray to any God of your choice. Why blame us?”

Some other hyenas started screaming, “You did not allow us” “you did not allow us”.

In the meantime, some koels which were witnessing the whole drama cooed in a sugary sweet voice, “Yes dear hyenas, they oppressed you and kept you away from your Gods.”

The Eagle took a swipe at the koels and said, “Shut up you home breakers. You guys kill the unborn kids of the crows, take over the homes so painstakingly by them, for your own children and now you want to call us oppressors?”

The koels trilled, delighted by the fact that they had riled up the “Brahmins”. They looked at the hyenas and said, “We are with you dear brothers. Jai Hyena, Jai Cuckoo.” In the meantime one of them had picked on the eye of a baby hyena and it was howling in pain. The elders shooed the baby, “Koels are brothers; Brahmins are enemies.” “Koels are brothers; Brahmins are enemies.”

The python was hungry now. He said lazily, “Let us assume that these Brahmins oppressed you. What do you want now? State your demands and let us go our way.”

The young hyena knew it was time to be the leader of the pack. “Everyday we want fresh meat at our doorstep.”

“What? You don’t want to hunt for it? You want it free, without any effort?” asked an incredulous Monkey.

“Yes.” “Yes.” “Oppressors give us our Rights” “Oppressors, Rights” was the howling heard.

Suddenly the old hyena said, “From today we will not even consider your Gods as our Gods. We hate them.”

“Hate them.” “Hate the Gods.”

The other animals were fed up of the noise and just wanted it to end. They agreed to the demand of the hyenas. Everyday a big cat or a wolf would drop off fresh meat. If the hyenas wanted more, they could hunt as they wished.

One day, the young hyena saw an Elephant moving ahead. “Yes! I am going to hunt this hateful Brahmin today. If anyone tries to stop me, I’ll remind them of the thousands of years of oppression” he said to himself.

The koel couple who saw this hyena move ahead, had a glint it their eyes. The husband told his wife, “Today this stupid will die.”

The hyena pounced on the Elephant. The Elephant stared at the attacker totally shocked; survival instincts kicked in and he just picked the hyena with his trunk and flung it far, far away. Then he continued on his journey silently. He had neither any anger, nor any hatred. His life had extended by another day.

The hyena’s head hit against a Peepal tree, the one in which the God of the forest resided. The hyena died instantaneously. But because he had fallen at the feet of Bhagwan, he attained Sadhgati. So much for hating the Gods!

Published earlier on the author’s blog.


Rati Hegde
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