TODAY -

An ode to Laika

By N Arunkumar *



Laika, the first living creature who was sent to space on November 3, 1957, had actually died it seems, soon after the launch of the Sputnik 2, Russia's manned space ship, to go one notch up on its rival of those days , the USA. Unfortunately, Laika was a scapegoat, a guinea pig, as the jargon goes, for specimens used for laboratory experiments to test something new on a living creature, in the name of scientific progress.

Laika was a street dog, a mongrel that was picked up from the streets of Moscow, in order to be sent on that ground-breaking mission to space. Of course the poor mongrel clearly did not know what was going to be her fate, or even what the whole thing was about that was being secretly put in place by the Russian scientists.

In that rigid Communist regime of the erstwhile USSR, it was impossible for anyone to question or even enquire about the activities of the highly secretive and often ruthless machinations of the coterie holding the reins of power in their politburo. Had there been a pressure group to speak up for the ethical treatment of animals, the story would perhaps have been different and Laika would have lived an average dog's life.

In fact, one scientist involved in that path breaking mission, had declared that it was not worth having sent the poor mongrel to its terrifying end, as they had hardly learnt anything significant from that experiment, according to his own admission. The craft had eventually crashed into the ocean floor after a while.

The poor dog had died within five to seven hours of the launch, though the regime withheld that truth till much later. The people were however given to believe that Laika had lived in space for many days, instead of hours, as news was never told in truth from behind the Iron Curtains of the regime. The poor dog invokes a tear in those who care to read the real story of the fate of the creature, available all over the Internet today.

There are detailed accounts of how she was prepared for the mission and trained to endure the stress of space travel, though the scientists knew that they were sending her to her wretched end all the time. Mans singular aim to realize a majestic scientific accomplishment took priority over other noble human values, in the case of this dog. The poor street dog had only wanted a loving home and affection from her handlers, and perhaps she had felt secure under their watchful eyes and the special treatments that were being showered upon her in the build up to the last days before the mission, after she was snatched from the streets of Moscow.

There is a particular picture of the poor creature sitting in her capsule inside the Sputnik 2, looking helplessly and almost crying out for some sympathy from her handlers, who had left her in the capsule to be sent to space. That picture refuses to leave my mind even at this moment as I try to feel like her, sitting in that death row. A dog was about to be sacrificed at the altar of science and quest for supremacy over a rival nation, equally ruthless in its quest for doing one better than the other.

A monument has been erected in Moscow by the Russians now, as a memorial to the sacrificed little dog, Laika. The language of love, which all mankind professes as the only solution to achieve a peaceful world and happiness for all, is more or less all the time put under the butcher's knife relentlessly. You might wonder why I should be musing over the death of a mere dog, who had been instrumental in mans pursuit for scientific knowledge.

It is of course insignificant to many who have no element of compassion for our speechless friends from the world of the animals of less important faculties. But, the simple fact is that they are also creatures, who have needs and fears just like us superior humans.

Man has forever been a major threat to weaker animals, and it would not be out of place to mention here that more often than not, he is even prone to be wilder than the wild animals roaming in the jungles of the world. Man has pitted himself against monster beasts, using his feeble body but far superior powers of thought and action.

But, Laika, my dear girl, you will forever be remembered and cherished as the brave girl who went ahead in your journey to death, and I take solace in thinking that you went away from our midst, nearer to God who treasures you now in his garden of everlasting joy. You will always remain alive in our memories Laika, my dear brave girl.

I heard your last bark that was recorded before you went silent eternally. Your terrified bark will forever travel in the waves of eternal time as a message to those who sent you up, as a bark to the horrors of being men.




* N Arunkumar contributes regularly to e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at hareedesiree(at)hotmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted on April 21 2011.


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