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To the abattoir, with tears

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A brief friendship ends, and many questions remain on human attitudes

It was the month of December in 1999. The winter vacation had just knocked on the door, bringing with it chill, fog and mist. A time when most kids staying in a boarding school would be excited to go home.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t so for me. The thought of heading home always disheartened me as I did not have any friends in my village, consequent to my prolonged absence and staying in the boarding school. So I had no choice but to sit at home.

Since I had not gone outside the house for a couple of days, my mother asked me to bring milk from the nearby dairy farm. I took the vessel and slowly and shyly moved towards the farm. There I saw Shruti and her little child Gamlu, and the uncle who owned the farm.

Shruti was a mid-age cow with black, shining and lustrous fur. She appeared to be a little shy and ignorant of the world, and completely engrossed in her own life, and that of her Gamlu, a 20-day-old male calf. He was elegant like his mother. He had slender legs with shining hoofs as if god had polished them before sending him to the planet; the grime of mother earth had not dusted them yet. He was very naughty and completely unaware of the ‘rules’ of the planet. He still hadn’t learnt to be shackled by the almighty human’s wish. Whenever an opportunity came, he cavorted around in his own world.

As I approached Gamlu, he hesitated for a moment and we looked at each other like long-lost friends. I placed my fingers on his shiny fur. He started licking my hand.

That day on, whenever I went to the farm I would straightway head to the corner where he was tethered. He would be either lying smugly, or looking at his mother in the opposite corner. I would sit beside him and place his head on my lap. His eyes would penetrate my eyes, as if he was telling me all the stories from the previous day. He often seemed to say: Your uncle did not allow me to have enough milk today. So, as usual I am very hungry. This unbreakable rope keeps me in thrall all the time.

He would look deep into my eyes and ask:

Is mankind always unkind and brutal like this? Do you always take away other animals’ rights, even their right to food, and don’t even bother to express gratitude for sacrificing their rightful food? You call yourself mankind. Where is kindness, my friend? Do you really don’t understand the meaning of mankind or choose to ignore it?

Now, you don’t need to worry about that. I am learning to eat fodder and I will stuff my stomach. Your uncle may take away my mother’s milk completely. I may not need those. But there is one thing that is haunting me all the time. My mother is not feeling well over the past couple of days. Sometimes I feel like running away, never to come back to a human being’s farm. I am here solely to see my mother’s face.

Gamlu, once ignorant of all the rules, is now shackled by a human’s wish and understands the rules of the planet and of course also the compassionate side of human beings. I cuddled him and used my persuasive skill to convince him to drop his idea of running away. My dear Gamlu, humans are compassionate animals and uncle is here to take care of you and your mother.

He would close his eyes as if he didn’t want to listen to my blabbering. He lifted his head from my lap and placed it on the soiled floor, where he felt he rightfully belonged.

Since the winter was bone-chilling, I requested my mother to make a sweater for him. She made one. Excitedly I brought it to Gamlu but he ignored my presence. He appeared to be sad and feeble. His mother was in poor shape. He was himself unable to eat fodder and was becoming feebler by the day. I brought chapatis for him but poor Gamlu ate them as if he was hitting his mother’s udder. He did not even know how to eat chapati.

Almost on the 25th day of my vacation when I reached the farm, I did not find Gamlu. Someone said somebody had taken him away that morning.

I sprinted to towards the dilapidated, rusty building nearby, and as soon as I reached the door my eyes met with Gamlu’s eyes. It was as if he was just waiting for me. His body was trembling with pain and the eyes were gasping for breath. Blood was oozing out of his slit throat. I fell beside him in rage, anguish and desperation.

His eyes asked only one thing. Why did you lie to me? Why did you say humans are compassionate? Do you think the animal limping on two feet with an ugly sphere on top and holding a blood-thirsty knife in his hand, which slit my throat a moment ago, is a compassionate animal? Do you think similar animals, greedily and impatiently waiting in the queue, waiting for my skin to be taken out and my loin to be chopped in few pieces so that they can carry home, chill it in the freeze, burn it an oven and show it off as yummy delight, are compassionate animals? Don’t you see my blood and tears in the so-called yummy delights? When do you post images of my burnt body on Facebook, do you tag blood, tear and cry?

Do you think you are the compassionate animal? Do you think I don’t see your belt, shoes and the bag that smells like my mother’s and aunt’s skin?

I had nothing to say. While gasping he shouted once again: Why did you lie to me? Don’t you think a human should be deprived of the glorified crown of a compassionate animal? I have the same right as you have on the planet, and no human shackles are strong enough to hold me, but it’s your world. I have now lost my mother and my life.

You don’t have an answer. Tears ran through his eyes; evidently it hurt a lot. After a prolonged silence, he closed his eyes, once and forever.

It haunts me still. Why do we use multiple adjectives with our names? We call ourselves kind, compassionate, empathetic, humane, emotional and what not. Do we really understand the meaning of these words, or of the self-glorifying crown that we have placed on our own heads?

Give it a thought. Let us hope that one day the answer will come knocking on our door.

vimal256@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 10:24:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/to-the-abattoir-with-tears/article20921310.ece

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