73 pages 2 hours read

Indra Sinha

Animal's People

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2007

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Symbols & Motifs

“That Night”

“That night”—the 1984 Bhopal industrial disaster in which methyl isocyanate gas leaked from a Union Carbide plant, killing and injuring thousands—is at the core of Animal’s People. It is described by Animal as the night “which no one in Khaufpur wants to remember, but nobody can forget” (1). It is the reason Animal’s back is bent and why he has no parents, the reason Somraj’s wife and son are dead and why Somraj no longer can sing, and the reason so many people continue to suffer with debilitating illnesses. Animal believes that without that night, he might even be with Nisha: “[I]f only things were different with me, if I could walk upright, it might be my praises she sang instead of Zafar’s” (36). Zafar, Nisha, and Somraj have made life’s work out of helping those injured by the events of that night.

The novel contains many reminders of the ongoing effects of that night. Because the factory was never cleaned, new generations of people continue to be harmed, including little Aliya, who dies at the end of the novel. In Paradise Alley, Elli and Animal witness a woman expressing her breastmilk onto the ground, saying she “won’t feed [her] kid poison” (107).

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