There was utter chaos on the road.The elephant, the traffic cop, who had the unpleasant task to direct the traffic, appeared helpless as no one seemed to pay heed to his directions. As per the king’s order, he was supposed to honour the rights of the animals and allow them to drive their vehicles in whatever way they felt like, according to their beliefs. After all, it was their road. To him, his task looked like a ceaseless struggle to keep his body as straight as possible within a bent pipe.
There was a reason for him to feel so.
While the foxes and the wolves believed that always keeping to their left was their sacred duty, the deer and the reindeer believed just the opposite. The rabbits and the monkeys preferred running in the middle of the road and would often bump into each other. The rodents believed in testing their luck by running across the road whenever they felt like. The camels were fond of carrying out long processions on occasions they considered auspicious. And buffaloes experienced precious moments of liberation while relieving themselves in the middle of the road.
As usual, by the evening, the traffic had come to a standstill, and many animals had bled to death owing to several accidents.
Animals, everywhere, could be seen discussing, with grave concern, how this problem needed urgent resolution and how members of other species were responsible for this.
The lion, being the king, was looking tense. To resolve the issue, he set up a task force comprising noted politicians, belief-experts and intellectuals such as the rhino, jackal, squirrel, sheep and chimpanzee. For the sake of transparency, the deliberations of the task force were being aired live on the TV. Representing a wide cross-section of the forest, present among the audience in the TV studio were deer, reindeer, foxes, wolves, rats, beavers, porcupines and many others.
“Irrespective of anything, we all ought to keep to our right. Must we even discuss this?” the rhino began the discussion with this remark. The deer and reindeer among the audience started applauding the rhino, who was supporting their beliefs.
To this, the jackal objected angrily, “This is not true. As per our traditions, we are supposed to keep to our left. We won’t change our traditions for anything in the world.” The foxes and the wolves all stood up from the crowd to applaud him.
The squirrel, another panellist, adjusted her spectacles as she began to share her strange perspective: “Many of us have died while running across the road. To die on the road is too auspicious for us. Not everyone is so lucky.” Rats, beavers and porcupines among the audience in the studio gave her a standing ovation.
Like that, every panellist supported the beliefs and traditions of the species s/he was representing.
The sheep commanded the respect of all animals only because his sugarcoated words flattered all and cleverly avoided all conflicts. He said, “The problem lies not in these teachings but in our interpretations of these. We ought to live together like one family.” Many animals agreed, but no one was willing to accept that their tribe is the one that needed to re-examine and modify its interpretations.
Seeing that the debate was reaching nowhere, the chimpanzee finally decided to hold the mirror for everyone, “If I were to behave like each one of you, I would be tempted to take the side of my own chimp fraternity… and receive applause from them, in exchange. But, we are here for a far more serious reason: to resolve a serious conflict before it wipes us out as a civilisation.