Monday, September 25, 2017


At magic hour, when the sun has gone but the light has not, armies of flying foxes unhinge themselves from the Banyan trees in the old graveyard and drift across the city like smoke.  When the bats leave, the crows come home.  Not all the din of their homecoming fills the silence left by the sparrows that have gone missing, and the old white-backed vultures, custodians of the dead for more than a hundred million years, that have been wiped out.  The vultures died of diclofenac poisoning.  Diclofenac, cow aspirin, given to cattle as a muscle relaxant, to ease pain and increase the production of milk, works - worked - like nerve gas on white-backed vultures.  Each chemically relaxed, milk-producing cow or buffalo that died became poisoned vulture bait.  As cattle turned into better dairy machines, as the city ate more ice cream, butterscotch-crunch, nutty-buddy and chocolate-chip, as it drank more mango milkshake, vultures' necks began to droop as though they were tired and simply couldn't stay awake.  Silver beards of saliva dripped from their beaks, and one by one they tumbled off their branches, dead.
     Not many noticed the passing of the friendly old birds.  There was so much else to look forward to.

-Arundhati Roy,  the prelude to The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

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