Animal Farm in Mumbai: Now that Aarey is gone, Mumbaikars can adopt leopard cubs

Even as Shiv Sena’s favourite tiger cub, Aditya Thackeray, wept on Twitter, the Fadnavis government axed the trees—damn the Model Code of Conduct—so that leaders can at least adopt leopard cubs!

People enter the metro car shed on the spot during tree cutting at Aarey colony in Mumbai late Friday. (PTI Photo)
People enter the metro car shed on the spot during tree cutting at Aarey colony in Mumbai late Friday. (PTI Photo)

Rupa Gulab

A few days ago, Bombay High Court declared that Aarey forest, home to leopards, deer, monkeys, jackals, mongoose, etc, was not a forest anymore.

A couple of hours after the judgement, the sly government sent woodcutters into Aarey to have their wicked way with trees. After dark of course, so no one could see how eager they were to make their fortune: as many as 2646 trees were axed overnight for a metro car shed, the next day 2000 more trees could be axed for a hotel/gated community/whatever. Ching, ching!

The Shiv Sena’s favourite tiger cub Aditya Thackeray wept loudly on Twitter. I was surprised that he didn’t visit Aarey to bid goodbye to the trees and animals. I wonder what stopped him from going there—perhaps the greedy government his daddy is part of locked him in his bedroom?

I’m so glad they didn’t cut off his internet connection like they did to Kashmiris, or how else would we have known how he felt?

Have you noticed that Aditya’s roar has diminished to a mew over the years? He was a powerful force to reckon with when he was at St Xavier’s college in 2010.

Heck, he had got his grandfather to playfully twist the arms of the vice-chancellor of Mumbai University to drop Rohinton Mistry’s book ‘Such a Long Journey’ from its literature syllabus. His roar reverberated around the world because this book had won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (among other awards) and had even been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

We were treated to TV footage of Shiv Sena members snarling threats while burning copies of the book. Some of us who lived near the burning sites had coughing fits for days—shame that Aditya didn’t get the books recycled instead, tsk.

Now, a big boo to cynics who said that the banning of the book was just an excuse to launch Aditya’s political career in the traditional Shiv Sena manner, with violence and threats.

See, I have finally understood why Aditya got the book banned—it wasn’t because mean things were said about his grandfather’s party, but only because the book was quite fat and rather popular. Gosh, can you imagine the number of innocent trees that were cut down for copies of this book? Shame on Mistry!

We should be proud that Aditya has cast himself as an eco warrior. One day he may be invited to shout at world leaders at the UN (like Sweden’s Greta Thunberg just did) and they may actually listen to him, unlike his daddy’s party members and political partners.

A word of advice, though: Aditya must not slip into default Shiv Sena mode and blacken the faces of world leaders, okay?

Incidentally, Aditya is not the only person sobbing into his hanky over Aarey—many families in Mumbai are doing the same as their children/siblings/parents actually went to Aarey (unlike Aditya) to document the destruction of trees. Over a hundred were detained and 29 were booked.

Lajan, a screenwriter who went to the police station to assist the arrested citizens, shared a few of their stories.

The one that hit the hardest was this: “The love of a father is something else. I saw a father stunned, bewildered that his son got picked up. ‘He never goes for this kind of thing. It was his first time.’

We tried to reassure him, and he was like, ‘The system doesn't understand that it was for a good cause. This will be like a permanent blot on his name. His future chances of going abroad to study are ruined.’ And when his son was brought out finally to be taken to Thane Jail, he spoke to him with courage. Took his shoes, patted his back. And once the son was put in the van—his face could be seen from the opening in the jaali—I heard the father say, ‘I love you son. I will come and see you in Thane tomorrow morning at 11.’ The son was smiling, giving his thumbs up to the people around. My eyes welled up.”

Finally: there are a lot of homeless wild animals in Mumbai now, would you like to adopt one?

I recommend leopard cubs. Train them well, and someday they may save you from those midnight knocks this government frequently harasses us with—such a pity former union finance minister Chidambaram didn’t have a ferocious leopard in his garden when the CBI scrambled over his wall!

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