Rabid dog barks at the elephant

Little gajAsya has been listening to his father with great devotion and enthusiasm. At his behest, he has devoured the nItishAstra-s of viShNusharman and nArAyaNa-bhaTTa in the winter holidays. Now the precocious lad had begun to study the contemporaneous works his father has compiled for him. In particular, he loves the works of the great sage of mAnasatarangiNI. Its metaphorical thinking, the sanskrit inspired verbiage and the stunningly clear thought naturally grip his mind like the svara-s and rahasya-s of a well conceived mantra. After a long night under the stars, hearkening to his father discussing the struggle in the homeland with the wise vajrins visiting from afar, he retires to sleep.

The matriarch’s tale

Curiously, the great simian he invoked before dozing off has turned him into an elephant. The matriarch’s soothing rumbling somehow is now identifiable as samskrta.

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He invokes the terrible horse headed protector of wisdom as well as the lady who yet flows strongly through the mouths of wise pashus; and settles down to listen:

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The gentle animals roam the forests happily and develop high cultures. Until one day, when rabies (strain C) begins to spread among some animals. Rabid dogs bite the wolves and the virus jumps many species. These infected animals, frothing at the mouth, then begin to terrorize the relatively gentler animals with their holy wars. Or at least an unbearably significant fraction of them do, while the rest watch. No animal not showing signs of infection is spared. Several formidable continents completely fall to various strains of the virus, so that there is almost no uninfected animal left. Rare flashes of resistance like julian the mammoth and plethon the lion show up, but the rabid animals finish them off.

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The jambu island too gets hit a millennium after the first major outbreak (strain I). For a long time, the animals have no idea what has hit them. They do not understand why these crazy obnoxious wolves are so keen to bite them. Are they just stupid barbarians? Do they have some sort of a disease? The elephants put up a mighty resistance. After several centuries, they begin to contain the infection.

Just as they are beginning to comprehend the root of the problem, and before they are able to even consider reversing the contagion, the sacred island gets hit by yet another strain of the virus (strain S)- this time carried by a band of red coated foxes. They are very patient, much unlike the previous lupine invasion. After strategic encirclement and successful exploitation of the divisions within the denizens of jambu, they come to rule.

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Within the newer invaders, the virus has mutated, thanks to competition with the retrovirus sprung by Plethon the lion before his death in the island of the yavana-s. The virus is, as a result, milder in the foxes. Still, it is very far indeed from loosing its contagious power. It remarkably infects other animals at a slow but deadly pace, so that it takes a few generations for an animal to succumb fully to it. Such an animal acts very strangely. It still froths at the mouth and continually bothers uninfected animals (whom it calls primitive and superstitious). But, rather than biting them at once, it just insists that the more deadly strains should be allowed to spread without any hinderance. It calls those that resist such a proposal intolerant fascist unsecular scum. This milder strain of the virus is perfectly content to compete for supremacy in a population completely infected by itself (strain S) or its earlier relatives(strains C or I). As such, strains C, I and S present a fairly united front as far as the uninfected are concerned (if they exist, that is).

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In the meantime, in the islands of the uShAputra-s, the wise macaques faced an invasion by leopards infected by a particularly virulent form of strain C. However, they had several advantages over their spiritual cousins, the wise elephants of jambu island, in facing this invasion: they were more united politically, far more homogenous (so that the rabid leopard clearly stood out as an alien) and, as a younger culture, more willing to learn the motivations of the feline berserkers. The leadership of their well structured society responded ruthlessly and ferociously. No leopard was left alive in their lands, every leopard half-breed was exiled, and the local infected population was either killed off or meticulously decontaminated. They then shut down their islands to keep the contagions out. Eventually, rabid eagles (with strain S) from the ramaNaka island forced them to drop isolation. The wise macaques reacted swiftly and modernized their sticks and stones. As vigilant as ever to guard their uninfected forest, they began a steady program of pushing back the power of the infected barbarians from the far eastern reaches of the nearby jambu island, inflicting stunning losses on their foes.

Ultimately, however, the power of the forces infected by strains C and S was just too much, and after heavy losses, they admitted defeat. But, they had accomplished something remarkable. So much of the infected forces’ power was spent fighting them, and such was the rebellion they inspired in uninfected populations of jambu island that the forces of strains C and S were forced to withdraw. By sacrificing a great deal of blood, the macaques had not only saved their holy groves, they had also helped their spiritual cousins. The forests of the elephants was nominally freed – but alas, huge populations were infected by strains I, S and C. Much as the weakened elephants tried, these strains were gaining the upper hand in their groves, and there was no sign of respite.

The matriarch then looked directly at gajAsya and said: “Young calf, this is the situation you are faced with. Understand and be afraid. Study the past closely as well as the nIti basics and the tantras of the thunderbolts. It is up to you to carry on the long fight for freedom. It is not right that we should flicker out in this pitiful dishonorable manner. The divine beings made us better than that! They await us in the stars.” She fell silent.

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gajAsya quitely paid obeisence, and walked away in melancholy. He invoked the thunderbolt weilding elephant rider who guides animals to victory and grinds opponents to dust as he sought to calm his rage and contemplated strategy. Out of nowhere, a rabid dog appeared and started barking viciously at him and started slandering the whole elephantine species. Observing it carefully, gajAsya recognized strain S. Like ekalavya of the great epic, he responded (for the benefit of the innocent spectating deer) with a few carefully placed word-arrows. The dog however, continued to bark. Just as he was about to respond …

He woke up. The fingers of the million-ray-ed fire in the sky had entered his body through his eyes and was tugging at his heart. He made fast to join his father and his friends in paying obeisance to the solar life giver: “May that unblemished brightness of Sol cleanse us!”

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Afterword:

prabuddhi, gajAsya’s anglophone cousin, came across this curious report in his diary. Though she was 4 years older, she could not understand half of what he said – the references were obscure, and even the English words were unusual (let alone the sanskrit ones). For example, she did not quite understand what I, S and C stand for in the strain names, or what the islands of jambu, yavana-s, ramaNaka and uShAputra-s were. Her curiosity was piqued though – she was sure there was more to this story. She knew there was no use asking him or his dad – they liked to speak in riddles and metaphors from the ocean of pagan lore. Furthermore, she was too proud to come across like her middle aged aunt who would cause endless amusement by rolling her squint eyes when hit senseless by ideas in sentences longer than 10 words. She resolved to work it out herself, with the help of internet. Plethon and Julian – these she could look up. Could these events somehow relate to events in the world history? Could the islands correspond to places? The strains – could some of them correspond to major memetic viruses that gajAsya’s dad spoke about? She contemplated all this as she sat across from the statue of the awakened one in solitude.

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Bonus:

Cordyceps fungi attacking ants, and ants fighting back – here.

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