Not quite a dog eat dog world

Indian Mythology, Modern Mythmaking 19 Comments

Published in Corporate Dossier, ET, June 17, 2011

As she was being chased by the tiger, a deer ran up mount Kailas, the abode of Shiva, and sought refuge, “Save me from the evil tiger that hunts me every day.” Shiva took pity on the deer and gave her shelter in the palm of his hand. The tiger who was pursuing the deer saw this and shouted, “Excuse me, what will I eat now? Why do you feel sorry for the deer and not me? Is it because I have sharp teeth and claws?  What about my hunger and the hunger of my children? Don’t we merit consideration? If I don’t hunt the deer, what will I eat? Would you rather that tigers starve and die?” Shiva’s consort, the goddess Parvati, who is Annapoorna, the provider of food, therefore decided to give the tiger shelter.

Hearing about this, a rat that was being pursued by a serpent entered Kailas and also sought shelter. So did the serpent chasing the rat, for if the rat is given protection who will feed the serpent? Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati, gave shelter to both, the rat and the serpent. The peacock who was chasing the serpent, now wondered who will take care of his needs ? Kartikeya, the other son of Shiva and Parvati, took the peacock under his care.

And so it is, atop Mount Kailas, the divine family of Shiva and Parvati and Ganesha and Kartikeya provide shelter to predators and prey. They see the point of view of the predator and they see the point of view of the prey. They see the fear of the predator that haunts the deer and the rat and the serpent. They see the fear of scarcity and hunger that haunts the tiger and the serpent and the peacock. There are no villains. There are no victims. There are only creatures trying to survive. And atop Kailas, everyone finds a place.

This visualization draws attention to the laws of the jungle. Nature does not favor any animal: everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and the one who runs fast survives. But humans judge: we take stands, divide nature into predator and prey, choose to protect one over the other, deeming one more worthy of need than the other. We seek to improve on nature, and so go about creating culture, a place where the weak get protection, where the strong are restrained by rules. We create a worldview where there are villains and there are victims, and take decisions accordingly.

The union had called for a strike at a key Industrial unit. The owner, Shyam, was furious. “They have become highly politicized. They don’t want to work. They just want to create trouble, black mail us with more demands. We have met every condition we could,” he told his father, Anirudh, who had long since retired. Shyam’s grandfather Govind, had established the factory in British times. And he had been struggling to keep it afloat since the laws and regulations had changed since post-Liberalization. His products were no longer the monopoly in the market. There were local competitors and the threat of Chinese products loomed large. “Don’t they know how easy it is to shut the factory down!” he screamed.

Meanwhile the union leader was shouting, “They are forcing us to strike so that they can shut the factory and finally sell the factory land. They don’t care for us. They just want to exploit us and then throw us aside when there is nothing to exploit. Let us rise up and fight. Their children study abroad while our children cannot even afford to go to college.”

Anirudh tried to explain to Shyam that a confrontationist attitude helped no one. Everyone comes from need. While he was seeing the union leader and the striking workers as villains, and himself as a victim, they were seeing him as a villain and themselves as victims. “You both are behaving as if your survival depends on destroying or domesticating the other. For him, you are the tiger. For you, he is the tiger. When two tigers meet, they fight over territory by showing their teeth, taking care they don’t actually hurt each other with their claws. But when two humans, imagining the other to be a tiger, meet, there is bloodshed on either side, with each party feeling self-pity and self-righteousness. Be ware.”

But neither Shyam nor the striking workers believe that Kailasa is a possibility where both parties can be comforted. Both believe in the jungle where one party has to die. They genuinely believe in the Western construct, “It’s a dog eat dog world out there!”

  • Naren Kaushik

    Devduttji you have posed the question that both party feels other as villain or tiger but what will be the answer to the situation.
    I am confused as in whose shelter these party should go?? Kailasa is not visible to me..

    Waiting for your response.


      See its very simple, We fight because we fear. But Kailasa is the place where we dont need to fight because the fear is taken out by the Gods.

      Similarly, in the Factory’s case. Both parties have fear as well as need for each other. They cannot survive nor can kill each other.

      So this is the time to find God who can solve both their problem.


      They will come together, talk to each other, list down their problems, find a solution in UNISON and carry on the Good work keeping both sides satisfied.

      This happens in all Tata Factories as they are the only company in the World to never have a Strike in their Factories.

      So “TATA’S” have become the “KAILAS PARBAT” for both the Sides and protect both from fighting !!!

  • vinitha

    understand eachother’s concerns and agree on a solution that addresses the concerns of everybody involved. of course this will happen only if all involved believe in “live and let live”. ego and greed do not have a place in this situation.

  • kartik pandit

    Both parties feel they are victims. Are they both not victims of their own set boundries? Who stopped the owner from innovating and investing and expanding and becoming more profitable, and who stopped the workers from working towards improved performance to bringin value and wealth in the place that gives them thier daily bread? is co existance possible with out feeling of being a victim of the other? i believe it is possible but frankly dont know how as i face the same problem everyday for the unit that i run in a far of land from india in egypt in current times of turmoil

  • sudhir choudhary

    Hi Devdutt,

    A very nice article in which the feeling of mutual coexistence has been displayed.
    But i could not understand that even after going into the shelters, how can the hunger of those animals were satiated.
    Since they all are animals, they can’t live under the shelter for long time, they have to go back to jungle and survive there only, so how the solution of having food for every animal can be achieved?
    Please help me understand!

    • vijay

      It’s only the survival instinct that makes them animals.When their survival needs are met,the instinct passes of and they are no more animals(at-least at an emotional level).It’s the process of evolution.

  • Ajay Shah

    Nice article sir …but what should be the amicable solution to the unrest between both of them..and what does god give them to survive.if kailasa is possiblity what is it.solution kya hoga ?..plz reply

  • ashim

    Giving shelter is a minor solution to the problem of weak being chased by the strong. Nothing has been stated about the solution of the main/major problem … the problem of hunger that gives birth to the loss of compassion and makes the strong go after the weak.

    • vijay

      There’s no one line answer to it.It’s the law of nature that states might is right which humans couldn’t accept and formed culture so as to outgrow the animal instincts by ensuring the survival of every being which happens when there is no greed(in the human world).Compassion is something more of a human characteristic than that of animal characteristic.

  • sheril varughese

    devduttji! see i did not understand one concept here… how can the same person give shelter to both the predator and the prey? in this article we cna see that ganesha has given shelter to both the rat and snake…

  • Rohit

    The summary is right “They genuinely believe in the Western construct, “It’s a dog eat dog world out there!”

    Imitation comes with price.

  • Since they all are animals, they can’t live under the shelter for long time, they have to go back to jungle and survive there only, so how the solution of having food for every animal can be achieved?

  • drew bitsko

    of course this will happen only if all involved believe in “live and let live”. ego and greed do not have a place in this situation.mole removal cream

  • It looks similar to this doha:

    Bandahu sant asantan charna
    dukhprad dau beech kachu barna
    milat ek pran har lehi
    bichudat ek dukh darun dehi

    courtesy: Ramcharitmanas

    but still Tulsidas here talks about sant and asantan referring to dual nature of humans ?? (which makes situation simple)

    But yes this is also a fact that Sahnkaracharya propagated the theory of advaita (non-duality) which exist on the level of self(Atman).
    So the question is if we talk self everywhere we will not be able to take decisions in “situation” perspective. No??

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  • Bala Nair

    Ok,so what if the other party refuses to sit down & bring out a compromise??
    In the end,as u,Devduttji,always remind..Its prakirti(natue out there)..Its intrinsic that jungle law prevails..
    Might gets right in the end,agree or not.

  • Unchained Melody

    Dog eating dog may be okay in the jungle. But not in the human world. Let the tiger eat the deer. It is necessary for both a) the tiger to survive b) the deer population to be kept in check lest the deer overgraze and disrupt the ecological balance. However, it is not okay for us humans to behave in such a manner. We need not kill each to survive. And yes, the strong among humans should be restrained by rules and ethics. And the weak protected by the same. Else our wives/sisters/daughters/nieces (who are special to us) will be victims of rape whenever they step out of the house. As per the law of the jungle, a rapist is the tiger and the rape victim is the deer. And so it is okay for the rapist to rape just as it is okay for the tiger to eat the deer. As per the law of the jungle, corrupt politicians are the snakes and we are the mice. So there is nothing wrong if politicians expropriate taxpayer’s money. This shows that applying the law of the jungle to the human world is absurd.

  • Deepak

    In the world of animals, the predator simply kills and eats the prey. In the world of humans, the predator takes an ugly form. That of oppression, abuse, mistreatment, exploitation, dishonesty, high-handedness, subjugation. Which is why folklore condemns and portrays human predators as villainous objects of hate. Like Gabbar Singh in Sholay. Predators may be necessary in the jungle to maintain ecological balance. But in the human world, ‘predators’ only make life miserable for others.

  • The Last Samurai

    Your idea is great. But for that to become a reality, the mindset of humans (at least the majority of them today) has to change.