The world I live in , is by and large a rather peaceful one , barring occasional skirmishes that get sorted out through fair means , involving a physical combat and sometimes , ahem , well , a bit of killing . Of course, like every good world worth its name , this one does have feuds of a bigger nature, dimension and implications that require mediation. I do not have much of a role to play in the proceedings, and I rarely find them interesting , though I have attended all of those sessions from as long as I can remember.
Let me give you a glimpse of the courtroom. It is actually a kind of ravine lodged between two hills in the southern plateau belt . At one time, it can accommodate around twenty living , breathing creatures of all shapes, sizes and colours. Quite naturally, the sessions held here are pretty exclusive owing to , as you see, a lack of space . Often those who cannot gain an entry into the courtroom, hang around the hilltops, trying to get a glimpse of the proceedings. The verdict pronounced at the end of the session is usually communicated to the rest of the population by a group of chimpanzees.
Today’s case is pretty strange and that is why I am all ears , metaphorically so. The Peacock has slammed a suit against the Fox for copying his dance moves. Apparently, the dance moves have gone international and people the world over are doing what has come to be called the Foxtrot. The Peacock has got to know about it from reliable sources and suspects that the Fox has had some monetary gains at his expense. He is terribly affronted, nay, outraged. The Prosecution Attorney is the gentle Deer , whose lines have been scripted by the Peacock, while the Fox is being represented by the Lion . The judge is the huge, pot bellied Bear, the oldest of the lot, well known for his prudence and wisdom. Many a landmark judgement has been passed by him which in turn has won him the respect and admiration of the entire jungle. The courtroom atmosphere at the moment, is electrifying with the opponents snarling at each other, and their supporters gnashing their teeth.
“Order ! Order !” The placid Judge grunts. No one hears him. He clears his throat and repeats himself a little louder. The pandemonium continues . Finally he bellows and silence descends.
“You may proceed,” he tells the Prosecuting Attorney.
“My Lord ,” the Deer stands up. “It is indeed a matter of great shame that a member of our own fraternity has stooped to such devious levels. I have sufficient evidence to prove that the Fox has sold the stolen dance moves of our friend , the Peacock . With your permission, I would like to produce my witness.”
“Permission granted,” the Judge grunts.
Poppy enters, wagging his tail. Apparently, he has spent a good part of his life in the city and has actually seen the Foxtrot being performed. He nods his head vigorously.
“Could you tell us, when and where you saw the Foxtrot being performed?” the Prosecution asks gently.
Poppy wags his tail excitedly and tries to stand on his hind legs, his tongue hanging out. I am a little bewildered at his response. It soon comes to light , that having spent much of his life abroad , he is not familiar with the native tongue.
“I object, My Lord. This is preposterous,” the Defence Attorney snarls. “The witness is a morone.”
The Prosecuting Attorney goes scuttling behind his client . The client spreads his wings and launches into the Dance of Anger.
“Objection sustained,” the Judge declares. “We admit only those witnesses in court, who comprehend our native language.”
The Prosecuting Attorney emerges , looking quite crestfallen and shaken. The Peacock glares at him. “Get your next witness, for God’s sake !”
“I don’t have any,” the poor Deer whispers tearfully and in return gets a whack on his head.
The Defence Attorney rises to his full stature, clears his throat and begins.
“My Lord, I seek your permission to question our friend, the Peacock.”
The worthy Judge nods his head. His eyes are drooping.
“Dear Peacock, sir,” the Lion begins. “Have you ever seen the Foxtrot?”
“No, but I have seen the Fox trot around, watching my moves.”
“That is sufficient proof, I must say,” the Lion says sneeringly. The three supporters of the Fox, who are present in court snigger.
“Perhaps,” the Lion continues, “You may have also witnessed my client negotiate with a human?”
The Peacock shrugs. “How else could the deal have been struck?”
There is some unrest in the court. Most of those present , the Crow in particular, are not well disposed towards the fox on account of his rather unscrupulous ways. There is a bit of tittering about how aggressive the Lion is being.
“Have you or have you not ?”The Lion snarls. “The court cannot function on the basis of presumptions.”
“Well, not,” the Peacock replies arrogantly, “But he has a reputation that speaks volume. There are many present here, who have been victims of his manipulative ways.”
“Yes,” a chorus rents the air. There is animated chatter.
“Order in the court” the Judge says in a heavy voice.
The Jackal , cousin to the accused, has hopped onto a rock and is shouting down the elephant who is protesting against the inconsiderate ways of
the Lion. A little pandemonium is underway. Suddenly, I find myself , catapulted across a distance of about some 75 metres till I land on a head. I roll off and hit the rocky ground below, just beside the little stream flowing by. Poppy, promptly comes running to retrieve me and happily takes me back to the Judge. Whew ! That really shook me. He does this often. To restore order in the court. I am a chip of the old block, he says and can duly serve his purpose without much damage to myself. Did I tell you , that he had found me some years back , during a landslide ? I had rolled down the hillside and landed right at his feet. He liked my shape and colour and picked me up. I was the size of an apple and apparently had a beautiful gleam. A day later, Mama Bear accepted his proposal. Ever since then, he has considered me to be some kind of a lucky charm and takes me wherever he goes .
Back to the present moment. The injured jackal is unconscious and order has been restored.
“My Lord,” the Lion announces in his deep baritone.”My worthy opponent has been unable to produce any valid evidence in support of his accusation against my client. I appeal to you to dismiss the case and penalize the opponent for wasting valuable of the esteemed court.”
The Peacock is livid. The Deer is racking his brains to think of a way out. He springs up suddenly.
“My Lord, I wish to speak.”
The Judge nods his head. “We have evidence that the accused is guilty. Last month , during the Jungle Carnival, we had all seen the accused and my client dance.”
A cry of agreement rises in the courtroom. “The accused thereafter, disappeared and could not be traced for almost a week. Barely three weeks later, my client got to know about the Foxtrot. The case speaks for itself. The accused had learnt the dance moves and then went off to meet a human to strike a deal. Our friend, the worthy Crow will be able to vouch for it.”
“Let the Crow be presented,” the Judge says, tiredly.
The Crow swoops down to the Witness Stand, takes her oath and waits for the interrogation.
“Tell us what you saw soon after the Carnival,” the Deer says with a new found air of confidence.
The Crow preens a wee bit, peers around, clears her throat and begins. Her moment of revenge has come. She can never erase the memory of being hoodwinked by the Fox into singing , which in turn had caused her to lose that utterly delectable, creamy piece of pastry one unfortunate summer day.
“My Lord,” she begins. “On the night of the Carnival, soon after I had reached my nest, I saw someone slinking away in the dark to the edge of the Jungle. I followed him and was shocked to see our friend, the Fox , talking to a human. They shook hands, embraced each other and walked off hand in hand. I followed them. They got into a big car and drove off. I was not going to give up. I flew behind them till they reached a big house. They went in. Soon after, I could hear music. I tried to peer in through the windows, but only managed to get a glimpse of the tail of the Fox, swinging from side to side, to the beat of the music.”
I am quite speechless. Well , I always am , but you know what I mean. I stare at her incredulously. That was seriously, an incriminating testimony. She spoke with utter conviction too. Even the Lion is staring at her.
“ And that , My Lord is the truth,” she takes a bow.
One really doesn’t know whether to believe her or not. She has in the past, proved to be a vital witness in some crucial cases.
I look at the Judge. Oh dear , I hope he hasn’t been sleeping. However, minutes later, he raises his head and clears his throat.
“Does the Attorney for the Defence have anything to say?”
The Lion is about to speak , but the accused puts a restraining hand on his shoulder. I am bewildered, to say the least. So is everyone.
“I have nothing to say, My Lord, “ the Lion says in a low voice, all the while wondering what had possessed the wily Fox to back down.
“On the premise of the Crow’s testimony, which has remained unchallenged by the Defence Counsel, I pronounce the Fox guilty. He has been banned from participating in any of our Jungle Carnivals and will be kept in solitary confinement for a month. He will also have to pay a compensation of a sack full of sweet grapes to entire community. The Court is dismissed.”
The Judge rises and wobbles up the hill. He has tucked me snugly, under his arm but I can still get a glimpse of the courtroom. There is celebration galore, with laughter and singing. The Peacock is beaming brightly as he watches his supporters perform the Dance of Victory. The Fox has disappeared and the Jackal is yet to regain consciousness. The Crow, in the meantime, has been given a seat of honour on the Peacock’s head.
A week later I get to know the truth. The Fox had surrendered without demur because he had a blasphemous secret to hide. On the night of the Carnival , he had eloped with the Lion’s beautiful daughter only to return a week later, after breaking up with her. The doting father still believes that his precious daughter had been out with her girlfriends that week and the Fox is happy to be alive and safe in his little prison cell !
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