Animal kingdom

Amit Shah doesn’t get flood mythology. Whether in Israel or India, the animals survive the deluge, and repopulate the world.

By: Editorials | Updated: April 10, 2018 12:49:10 am
Blackbuck zinda hai The prehistory of the human race is also a survival saga, with a crisis brought on by fire rather than flood.

In his speech exhorting the troops on the founding day of the BJP, Amit Shah spoke of the Modi “flood” which had blown away the Opposition, forcing “snakes, mongooses (or mongeese, according to taste), dogs, bitches and cats” to hang together as elections near. Now, that’s no way to refer to your colleagues in assemblies and Parliament, but the flood motif is powerful. The idea of pralaya is found in mythologies from the Americas to India, and has a scientific basis — rising sea levels at the end of the last Ice Age must have caused numerous inundations.

It is a compelling myth of an existential threat that, once overcome, represents a new beginning. But Shah appears to have underestimated the second clause. In all the flood myths, the dogs and bitches survive thanks to a decent old codger named Noah, Manu or Tezpi — depending on whether the story is set in the Middle East, India or South America — who has insider information, builds a boat just in time to catch the rising tide, and herds all the world’s species aboard. And so, when the unpleasantness is past, the dogs, bitches and all other animals can disembark, go forth and multiply. Diversity is reaffirmed, and the deluge retreats into myth.

The prehistory of the human race is also a survival saga, with a crisis brought on by fire rather than flood. About 75,000 years ago, it is surmised, the supervolcano explosion at Toba in Sumatra, and the global destruction of food chains that followed, wiped out almost all of humanity. The global population which remained would fit into a banquet hall. All 7.6 billion of us are descended from those determined few. Which suggests that it isn’t very prudent to disrespect survivors. Whether human or animal, they have a nasty habit of flourishing, after the flood.

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