The written word is the deepest dagger you can drive into a man’s soul

‘Animal’s People’ may well be that dagger. The chemical disaster in 1984 that devastated Bhopal, India, was till date the worst industrial disaster. Ever. Anywhere.

The advertisement on the left was designed by a team that included Indra Sinha that served to illustrate the negligence on the part of the Indian government and people in other parts of the nation after a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal ravaged the entire state of Orissa.

Indra Sinha has been public with his criticism of the events that led to the disaster and the post-disaster help provided to the citizens. His strong opinions about the ‘Kampani’ and its owner, who are never mentioned by name in the novel, make for a frustrating reading.

The references to 9/11 are striking. Animal views these events as though they occurred in a movie and is unable to comprehend the attention and media coverage it receives. The reason why this reference struck me was because Animal’s reality can be equated to these events yet there is never any empathy for a deformed, ugly victim. His distance from humanity stems partly from this apathy.

Zafar claims that they were “armed with nothing” and he is right. The only medical assistance of any note came a decade after the disaster. Elli’s efforts to provide a free clinic (a possible reference to the Sambhavna Trust that provided free healthcare to victims)are futile. The people of Khaufpur have become hardened to external help and Elli cannot help feeling like an outsider. The reason why she cannot understand Animal’s People is because her empathy is not really genuine; she is not a victim.

Thus to emphasize the true magnitude of the disaster Indra Sinha does not tell the story. The voice on the tape is Animal’s. Animal criticizes, Animal emotes, Animal cusses (frequently) and Animal observes. Many authors have tried to emulate the voice of a poor person or a victim or just a common man in post-disaster accounts, but Indra Sinha does what many authors who write about disasters fail to do: he gives Animal a voice that sounds not like Indra Sinha, but like Animal.

Keep observing and criticizing.

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