The Germ

No one knows where the germ first came from, no one ever will, in all probability. But we do know that it took a long time in manifesting itself, thousands of years in fact. It lay dormant while Adam courted Eve, and when humans first started living in caves. Until it finally manifested itself that fateful day almost 40,000 years ago, which changed the course of history.

Ever since he was a child, Jebel had been mocked by everyone around him. Not because he was intellectually or physically challenged, but because he was as mild-mannered as the proverbial cow (Note: Proverbial, because actual cows can be deadly, they have been categorized as the most dangerous large animal in Britain based on annual number of deaths caused by them, for example). When his friends started bullying younger children, he tried to tell them how it was bad for the psyche of the children. That led to two repercussions:

  1. He became a member of the ‘bullied’ club from then on
  2. He no longer had any friends to try and influence

But Jebel did not care, because even at that young age, the germ had started influencing him, as it had recognized that this particular host offered it the best opportunity to finally gain recognition.

Time passed, and Jebel grew up into a handsome young man. It was time for him to go on his first hunt. It started off as a proud and exciting day for his father, and ended up a disaster, with his father ruing the day Jebel was born. The hunt in those days, you see, consisted of all the men in the tribe leaving their caves together, and in a bunch, running towards any animal that they saw.

But when Jebel saw this, he refused to participate in the hunt. “This is no way to hunt,” he told his father and the tribe elders, “No wonder you have to chase 10 animals before you can catch even one. I cannot be a part of this ineffective technique.” He did not know it then, but it was the germ talking, he was just the medium.

Of course it resulted in him getting a right royal beating from his father, and  a fresh round of hazing from the young blood in his tribe. But he did not care, the germ was growing in him.

His father decided to marry him off then, so that at least he could bear a boy who could contribute productively towards filling the collective stomachs of the tribe, since Jebel was a burden on everyone. Not being able to come up with a convincing-enough argument, Jebel agreed to get married.

Zenda was pretty, and smart, and had a pleasing personality. By any definition, she was everything that a cave man could ever wish for. But right from their wedding night, whenever she wanted to lay with her husband Jebel, he just said, “Not tonight darling, I have a headache…I think it is the germ.” For by now, Jebel knew that something was not right with him, there was a germ that was causing him to be different from everyone else.

And then, the great famine arrived.

There was a drought, and the number of wild beasts in their area reduced drastically, with only the fittest among them surviving. The ones that were left were, by now, so used to the crude hunting tactics of the tribe that they detected them from miles away and evaded them easily.

Many a nights went by in the caves of the tribe without the cooking fire being lit, and deaths due to hunger became the norm rather than the exception. Hardly a few hunters were left now, but for how long? The situation did not seem to be becoming any better.

And so, a meeting of the surviving members of the tribe was called. They came, thin as skeletons, many of them hardly able to walk. The chief announced, “We have decided that we will go on one last hunt tomorrow, and if we cannot find food for our tribe, we will disband, and each family can look for sustenance on their own, the tribe will have ceased to exist!”

There were cries of shock and horror on hearing this. The tribe was what had kept them alive, it was what had kept them happy, given them a purpose to live, and to feel alive. Without a tribe, they had no existence.

It was then that Jebel got up, walked up to the chief, and said in a booming voice, “I have a germ of an idea!”

Before anyone could react, Jebel picked up a stone from near the fire, and like a man possessed, started trying to scratch the wall with it. Everybody was stupefied,  cave walls were sacred, no one could even dream of spoiling them in any way. Jebel’s father got up to stop him, but Zenda held his hand and shook her head. She had no idea what her husband was doing, but she knew that the germ that had kept him awake for so many nights was finally making its presence felt.

Meanwhile, Jebel had drawn a set of figures on the wall, and now turned and beamed at the tribe. There were loud gasps, as people realized that Jebel had drawn figures that resembled them, but thin, like sticks, representing their current hunger-stricken state. This was blasphemy, they started shouting, our souls will get captured in these figures, and we will suffer for all eternity.

Jebel waited for them to run out of steam, and then said, “The wild beasts know that we will come rushing towards them, like this. And we can never catch them, as they are faster than us. So we have to do something different. We will divide ourselves into three groups. The first will quietly go to their left, and wait. The second will go to their right, and wait. The third will create lots of noise, like we do right now, and run towards the beast. They will panic, and run left and right, right into the spears of the waiting hunters there.”

They were all sceptical at first, but Jebel showed them everything on the wall step by step, and they eventually agreed to give it a shot.

And what a glorious hunt it turned out to be! Everything went according to Jebel’s plan, and that night, there was a feast like the tribe had never seen. And at the height of the party, Jebel’s father picked up a stone, and in a drunken state, carved out the highlights of that day’s hunt. He embellished it a bit, though, he made his son Jebel the hero of the hunt, who single-handedly killed tens of animals, that too with his bare hands. That Jebel had not even gone for the hunt seemed to be a minor detail to his father in his drunken, heady state!

He finished the drawing, and turning his head, shouted, “Jebel, come and see what I have created.” But there was no response. He shouted for Jebel again, but still did not get an answer.

For Jebel had gone off to his cave, along with his wife Zenda, to finally consummate their marriage. His job was done now, he had passed on the germ of writing, and creating stories, to his father, and others in his tribe. He did not know it then, but this germ spread like wildfire, and created civilization as we know it. And till this germ is alive, mankind will continue to grow and prosper. So keep spreading this germ, write, and encourage others to write, fearlessly, because if the germ dies, so do we!






About anuragbakhshi

At the age of 40, I decided to exit the corporate world, and enter the world of stories as a full-time writer. Wish me luck!
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