Last weekend the husband was in no mood to battle the weekend traffic for Shah Rukh Khan or Keanu Reeves. So we saw a rerun of 2005’s Madagascar instead. Hollywood-style animation is not exactly my idea of a weekend fix, but there’s something to be got from every movie, right?

Steak out: Alex’s friend/food dilemma.

Madagascar is the story of Alex, a lion, who escapes from a New York zoo and lands on a wild island with his friends, a zebra, a giraffe and a hippo. Awful movie—I hope you don’t plan to see the sequel that released yesterday—but here’s what made me think.

At the zoo, Alex is served his food in the form of neatly processed steaks and only after a few hungry/stressful days on Madagascar, the city-bred predator realizes that a steak doesn’t exactly grow on a tree. Suddenly, everyone around him, including his friends, begins to look like a juicy steak. Will Alex succumb to his predatory instincts and attack the nearest steak?

It’s not Japanese animation so you already know the answer to that question, but it made me think of the way we view the world, especially when we find ourselves in a difficult situation.

For example, every time I go for a late evening walk in the park in Delhi, all the exercising men look like potential rapists to me. The same men look perfectly innocuous when I encounter them on a late morning run, but just increase the shadows, dim the lights and hey, the picture changes.

It’s the reason why South Asian men, especially Sikhs, were targeted after 9/11. Remember Balbir Singh Sodhi, the gas station owner in Mesa, Arizona, who was shot several times a few days after 9/11 because someone thought that all Sikhs were related to Osama bin Laden?

Of course, some of us don’t need stress to trigger a steak’s eye view of the world. But sometimes, it’s easier to express our warped view of the world when we’re stressed. Remember Spike Lee’s slow burn brilliance in 1989’s Do the Right Thing, when the hottest day of the season eventually triggers a racial explosion?

The terror attacks on Mumbai allowed us to get a previously unseen glimpse of Simi Garewal’s steak’s eye view. Hell, even when she’s dining at the Four Seasons in Mumbai, she looks out of the window and sees “Pakistani flags" everywhere. Now who would have guessed that about a perfectly manicured, perfectly mannered lady who has worked so hard to maintain an all-white veneer of political correctness?

In Madagascar, Alex isolates himself from his friends, does some serious thinking, switches to sushi meals and manages to dismiss the steaks. But then, life doesn’t mirror a DreamWorks film; I guess we all have to battle our own steaks and work hard to see the world as it really is.

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