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By  Saravanan Mani

I wasn’t surprised to see there were no reds in sight that morning. They are, after all, well-known for permissive, if not lazy, temperament. In hindsight, perhaps I took it too easy when I still could without having to navigate my way through their infestation. Not very long ago, they were just a few; strutting about with dignity. Slowly, and to everyone’s surprise, there are too many of these silent aliens. Crowding the streets, the coffee shops, the bars and yes, our schools and hospitals.

I cannot recall the first time I saw one of them on the overhead bridge that I traversed every morning to reach my workplace. I am sure I had politely nodded along on the way even when I was surprised by the strange presence. You must be struck by now, how very amiable I am.  I may not particularly enjoy talking to strangers, but I have always had a good word for someone who chanced upon me. And yet, an alarm went off in my head on seeing these exotic types. Not at first, but surely I had learned to be wary of their presence.

Before long, there were more of them. And then even more. Soon enough, they had become a large part of my erstwhile pleasant walk to work. I was annoyed that nobody had done anything to curtail their numbers, but I too, like many of my neighbors, ignored that on the account of more pressing personal and professional matters. I am ashamed to admit that we all thought that it was not our problem to take care of. In this game of passing the buck, the situation went unattended, when it could have been nipped in the bud. Had we known that it would lead to the series of unpleasant events last fall, we surely would have done something about it.

I sometimes suspect that the reason why we had allowed such a long time to pass before realizing the problem is because of the technique these reds had employed in their creeping into our society. They never made a fuss about it. Despite sticking quite close to each other within their community, you would never be able to see more than two, or on a rare day, three reds together in a public place. They were much smarter than our authorities would admit it. Not in the good way of being smart, but in an underhanded, shifty-eyed, sneaky manner. I am not the kind of person to espouse the hate rhetoric of some extremists; no, I do not think all of them are bad. But even I, with my all-embracing rational liberalism, cannot deny that most of them are up to some sort of mischief. It is our stubborn liberal extremism that left us stunned when the horrific events came to pass. Some things simply cannot be explained by reason. Perhaps, it is in their nature to be so, and just like we find it hard to resist our nature of good and honest living, they too cannot help but behave vilely—ungratefully.

In retrospect, I must admit at being surprised by the capacity of our patience to tolerate the reds for as long as we did. Many considered them uncouth, brash and a nuisance. I would be lying if I said that I did not think them as offensive to the aesthetics of our great city. But we let our kindness dictate our methods for too long, until it was too late. There were hushed tales of heroism by some of our youths who burned a few rowdy reds outside of town. We should have celebrated this as the beginning of a required cleansing, an awakening of resistance—but instead, we kept our silence. Some went as far as to criticize the youths for rashness. Do you believe that? Rashness! How ashamed would those ivory-tower critics feel now? Do they not see the smallness of their vision? Of course, I urge you not to judge them too harshly, for did we not remain embarrassingly passive in our hitherto dealings with the reds?

It all started with one red. It is customary for the reds to behave according to their station; something that our deluded friends take for a sign of nobility and intelligence. To them I say, yes, intelligent only in the same way a trained animal is. It has no real empathy or humanity. Perhaps that is our greatest fault; assuming that everything that we come by is the same as us. Anyway, that is not the point, as I was relating to you the story of how the red menace started. While it is customary for reds to be deferential, more and more reds started behaving in an abrasive and arrogant manner. One such typically small-minded red practice of defiance is the irritating ‘not giving way’. Now you must understand how such a simple act reveals the graciousness and generosity that underpins our great way of life. When reds violate this code, they presume to offend our entire civilization. While most of us gently nudge the said red to the side of the way, sometimes it is necessary to sever a limb or two to adequately chastise them.

But not this one notorious red, they say. He was looking for trouble. It was still early in the evening when I heard about the Assault. I am rattled to think of the events even now, for they had transpired on the same route I take on my way home, and about the same time of the day. Had I not obliged a colleague’s invitation to tea, I might have very well been the first victim to that vile mutiny. Ours is a compact of equals, one that expects all living creatures to abide by our rigorous standards. It shocked us all at how little it takes for a complete outsider to shake the very core of our values. But regret is a bitter pill that soothes no pain. So I shall continue relating the sequence of events surrounding the reds.

Before that, I must take a moment to talk about the fogwits. I almost find them more revolting than the reds themselves. Some of my highly qualified colleagues have called for their heads, and I do feel the truth in their rage. It baffles me how some of these well-educated ‘intellectuals’ could abuse their privileges by slandering us with the unkindest epithets. While we were merely trying to assert the laws of this land, they called us intolerant extremists. I have always felt it better to be outraged by malice rather than to suffer in silence. Thankfully, the media strongly remained on the right side of things and looked at the events from a larger historical perspective. They wittily termed these misguided sheep appropriately, calling them fogwits; for their obviously limited sense of the world. The government was late in acting against these detractors, but soon, correctional measures were enforced. It wasn’t long before the entire city was aligned with the goals of common good. To think of it, the events with the reds were probably a good thing. Maybe we needed such a crisis to pull us all together. In a way, they exposed the flaws in our well-adjusted society—our excessive indulgence towards these rotten ants.

As I was saying, it started with one red. One malicious red which had no regard for our unwritten laws of social propriety. A tired, hard-working citizen over a certain age was finding his dreary way back home after a long day. The route, being too short for any vehicular transport and too long to be called a walking-distance, often tired the gentleman in question. He did, take the support of the railing to help him along the way. It was there that the deviant red had lurked, calculating an assault so vile, for it had no specific victim, as if to make a statement against our humanity. The red stubbornly refused to let the gentleman pass. In a collected moment of frenzy, it charged at the gentleman and attacked him several times. Using sharp pincers, it injected serums that caused the gentleman to endure pain for many hours after the attack. Overwhelmed by anguish and surprise, the gentleman turned back rapidly, stumbled and fell crashing down two steps, further injuring himself. There was no respite, as the malevolent had jumped from his position and crawl onto the gentleman, further attacking him on the neck and his back. Suddenly, there were three other reds, biting and clawing at the gentleman’s leg. He kicked them aside and scrambled to gather his things. Who knows to what terrible extreme this attack would have gone if not for a brave youth who chanced upon the scene and acted quickly. He rescued the gentleman by kicking the red to the proverbial curb. The other reds escaped the scene of their crime. But within hours, this isolated incident had caused great strife all over the city.

The reds showed remarkable ferocity. Surprising I know, considering their lazy nature. But they were no match to our superior strength or intellect. I would go into further detail of these events, if not for the consideration that they may be misinterpreted without the exact context and paint our heroes in an unkind light. It must suffice to say that the reds were many in number but our resilience saw us through the darkest hours of battle. What I want to talk to you about, instead, is gratitude, or the remarkable lack of it. As we all know, isn’t something that comes naturally to these cretins and the mind of a simpler creature is incomprehensible to us. No one can rationally explain why a red, whose life is completely dependent on us, would turn against us. Today, some look upon the new laws with a certain degree of skepticism, but they too cannot deny the necessity of the same.

Better times are almost here, as scenes of mass burnings of the fallen reds have become less frequent these days. We still stumble upon a hidden lair of these crowding villains. It surprised us to no end that so many had managed to infiltrate our society in such a short span. New laws will stringently oversee that such things do not happen a second time. There are now several measures that control their entry to our nation and our forces check for the validity of their presence with greater rigor. The general sentiment remains that slowly, but surely, we must rid our society of these pests. The greatest illusion they seek to keep alive is that of their importance to us. With new machinations, we surely, albeit slowly, overcome such necessities. We will sustain as a homogeneous and self-sustained society in the near future.

These days, I do not see the overcrowding of the roads by the reds. The air is much cleaner now and the sky, clearer. A minor annoyance is that of the blankets, that have crawled in slowly in the absence of the reds. Their numbers are few but significantly on the rise. Unlike the reds, they make an effort to minimize their visibility. I have no remarkable hatred towards them, but it hurts no one to be a little wary. I swell with pride when I see some of the children gleefully squish a blanket, just to put the others in their place. I am more confident now that should a situation arise where our sovereignty is threatened, we are adequately prepared to tackle it. After all, these are just the insects of our society.