In the fourth book of Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift presents two species of creatures. One is called Houyhnhnm. The Houyhnhnms look like horses. They are very noble and live according to the laws of “reason and nature.” The other species is the Yahoo. The yahoos resemble human beings. Gulliver describes them as “abominable animals” before he realises with some horror that they are in fact human beings, though degenerate. They practise all the evils (including politics) that Gulliver’s counterparts do in his country, England. One of the funny habits of the Yahoos is collecting shiny stones, hiding the collection, and fighting over those stones.
Until some time back there were a lot of coins of the denomination of Rs5 and Rs10 were available. Golden coins. These coins seem to have vanished altogether from Delhi. In the last few weeks no shopkeeper has given me any such coin as balance to be paid. They would rather pay two-rupee and one-rupee coins. The fact is that they don’t have any five-rupee and ten-rupee coins.
In the metro station where I park my scooter I have noticed a heap of coins every time. I also noticed that in that heap there is no golden coin. What has happened to the golden coins? Have Delhiites become Yahoos storing up “shiny stones”?
Well, we can understand people storing up treasures in the banks and elsewhere. I have seen a lot of people running madly after real estate, jewellery, gold coins, and other such treasures. But who would bother to store up five-rupee and ten-rupee coins? That’s just curiosity.
A totally different subject now. Gulliver’s Travels in its complete original version has been prescribed by CBSE for class IX from this academic session. I wonder whether the experts in CBSE ever bothered to read it before prescribing it for students of that age group.
The third and fourth books of Gulliver’s Travels are totally unfit for those students. The third book is a blistering satire on every kind of impractical scholarship and vain philosophy and the absurd and pretentious schemes of economists and ‘promoters.’ The book raises anti-intellectualism to the stature of a virtue. Most of the vices satirised in the book are quite particular to Swift’s time (early 18th century). The very name of the place, Laputa, is derived from La Puta (the prostitute). One can only wonder what CBSE expects a class 9 student to learn from those who prostitute life.
The fourth book is even worse. It is a blatant condemnation of the human race. The horses are infinitely better than human beings in every way. Having learnt the morality of the horses Gulliver becomes unfit to live among human beings. In fact, having returned from the land of the Houyhnhnms, Gulliver abandons his family to live among the horses in his stable. Once again, we are left wondering whether a class 9 student can understand such a view of humanity.