Recently, I bought a bonsai cactus plant for my office desk. Its mushy stem was plump and dark. Its thorns dotted its entire length, all perked up and pointed. At the top of its stem grew a bright fuchsia pink flower with a radiance akin to freshly prepared candyfloss. My cactus plant sat among my work files with pride. Whenever I tried to touch one of its umpteen thorns, I felt a sharp poke instantly! Yes, the creator has blessed it with a fantastic defense mechanism.
However, over a period of two weeks, I realised that my cactus plant didn’t continue to appear all that pretty.
It seemed to have slightly shrunk in size. I should have understood that a shrivelled plant signifies that it is internally unhealthy. I sprinkled fresh water over it and let it be.
Another week passed, and as I always enjoyed playing with my cactus plant, I tried to feel the poke of its thorns, but this time there was no poke at all. Rather, I could easily bend its thorns inwards with my bare fingers. This obviously was a clear sign that my plant was unwell. After all, what is a cactus without its powerful thorns? I put it out in the sunlight for a couple of hours and brought it back to my desk.
A fortnight passed. By now, my cactus plant looked truly unwell. Its enviable candy floss pink was now a pale pink, resembling one of my old overused Tee. Though the stem was dark green, however it bent slightly sideways like a creature limping for help in the dark. Its thorns had turned a sad dry brown.
Thus, I had seen the constant changes in my cactus plant’s health moving towards slow degradation. Today, as I noticed few more changes, I wondered that despite being genuinely fond of my cactus plant and feeling a sense of responsibility for it, why was I so casually allowing it to die a slow death? Why I was being insensitive to the losing battle that my plant was fighting every single day? Why I was reluctant, or rather plain lazy, to do something substantial at the first instance itself i.e. the moment I noticed that my cactus plant was in distress?
I realised the plain and simple reason. My cactus plant could not speak. We comfortably inflict pain on all those forms of life that cannot speak. We conveniently turn our gaze away from ruthlessness around us when that ruthlessness is not experienced by all the five senses of our body. Maybe, that is why we cut trees and uproot plants with the greatest ease. We pluck flowers, arrange them together into bunches and use them for beautification. Would you still pluck flowers if they could whine in pain at being ripped apart from their parent plant? Little do we realize that these flowers are nothing but lifeless bodies from the very moment they were detached from the plant. They are only waiting to decay with time.
We ‘catch’ fish in thousands every day. But it doesn’t seem as bad as killing bigger animals for meat.
It is simply because fish cannot speak. Such facts escape our attention simply because living forms like fish, trees and others like them don’t have vocal cords to voice their pain and fright.
We have the gift of airing our views, and scream out when hurt. We have an advantage over other species to use our voice in multiple ways. We should not assume that living beings that are devoid of this crucial element in the journey of life, do not feel the ‘pain’, or ‘weep’, or ‘cry for help’ when we pluck, catch or slaughter them. They do feel pain, as much as we do, the only difference being that we refuse to hear it. My cactus made me resolve that in every action I take hereon, I will attempt to hear the voiceless.
This article was published at Speaking Tree.