Breaking News & the Food Chain

By Abu Ishaque 

Translated by Sarwar Morshed 

In the morning when I grabbed the newspaper, the banner headline arrested my attention – ‘Poor Poland surrenders to the mighty Nazis’. I started to peruse. While I was going through the breaking news, all on a sudden, a spider distracted me. Surreptitiously, it was trying to catch some flies sitting on the floor to satisfy its hunger. Alarmed by the predatory chase, the flies hovered overhead for some time and came back to the previous spot of the floor. Apparently, it was their favourite place and, hence, they were unwilling to relinquish it permanently. Even the presence of a cross-species giant could not dissuade them from returning to their chosen place!

After some abortive attempts, the spider was rewarded with success for its Robert Bruceesque perseverance. It managed to subdue a fly. The victor, defying all the pains and pangs of the catch, started to scale the wall with the air of a conquering emperor. But alas! Its parade of prowess came to a full stop without any notice. A lizard, on the prowl for prey, did not make any mistakes in applying its might. The spider, now within the jaws of a formidable foe to be stomached, dropped the fly on the floor out of existential fear. The mighty reptile general on the wall now started to enjoy a cruel sport with the catch – it grabbed the spider now and released it the next moment. Through the repetition of this grabbing and releasing game, the lizard almost squeezed out the life-sap of the prey. Verily, it is in the DNA of the stronger to intimidate and to inflict sufferings on the weaker. After enjoying wanton pleasure at the plight of the dying spider, the predator at the upper rung of the food-ladder finally devoured it and disappeared wagging its tail.

The fallen fly, though unable to move, had still the last flicker of life. A red ant on the lookout for food approached the fly and after a careful examination of the breadth and width of the insect, it hurriedly left the place and entered a hole at a distance. It was, I surmised, a food-spy of the ants. The next moment, I observed with curiosity, a marching army of the red ants came out of their abode and got hold of the big source of gastronomic delight. The army with all their collective might embarked on the next phase of their expedition by initiating the transportation process of the huge prey to their capital.

A black ant was watching the activities of the red ants from a distance. As it was alone, the black ant could not muster courage to come near its red counterparts. When the black ant realized that the red group had captured a big food item, it did not squander even a split second. Speedily, like a seasoned military informer, it headed towards the black capital. The black ant, I presumed, must be the scout of the black camp.

After a short while, I watched with interest, a big army of black ants came out of their subterranean barrack and challenged the red army. In no time a fierce battle ensued between the black and red groups. Both armies were desperate to take the sole possession of the dead fly. The blacks were greater in number and bigger in physique than the red devils. Might ultimately established right and the red army, suffering a huge blow, had to give in. Many red Hectors perished in the fatal war and those inflicted with severe injuries had to retreat along with the unhurt, but traumatized few. The victorious Black Army triumphantly marched towards their acropolis with the huge booty.

What an entomological version of the ongoing war between Germany and Poland had I just witnessed in the small confines of my room! A miniaturized form of the unbridled blood-letting practiced by the war frenzy bipeds. A microcosmic, insect-level orchestration of the macrocosmic, human-level atrocity-orgies. The kind of blood lust I have just seen among the base members of the animal kingdom is more intensely and more prominently present among the homo sapiens! Will humans be ever able to unyoke themselves from the all-enveloping darkness of war? 

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Abu Ishaque (1926 – 2003) is an award-winning Bangladeshi litterateur. Surja Dighal Bari (1948) is his famed magnum opus. His other works include Padmar Polidwip (1986), Jal (1988), Harem (1962) and Mahapatanga (1963). Among the numerous accolades won by this writer are the prestigious The Bangla Academy Award (1962- 63), the Ekushey Padak and the Swadhinata Padak (Posthumous, 2004). 

The present story which is included in his book Smritibichitra was written against the backdrop of the 2nd World War. Even though penned in 1939, the story is astonishingly relevant to the contemporary global scenario.

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Sarwar Morshed has been working for a long time as an Associate Professor at the Department of English, Chittagong University, Bangladesh. Mr. Morshed, a Ph.D. scholar, has to his credit a second masters on ELT from the UK. Apart from research and academic writings, he is also interested in creative writing. His works both in English and the vernacular include Depoeticized Rhapsody, In the Castle of My Mind, Figuratively Speaking, Rendezvous with Words and Husam Uddiner Election Khela (A collection of belles lettres penned in Bangla).