The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated
I was witness to a strange incident recently while taking a Uber ride in Namma Bengaluru.
Bengaluru is quickly notching up an unsavoury reputation for its traffic woes and rash drivers. To keep my blood pressure under check while taking these rides I usually avoid looking outside, burying my head into the smartphone instead.
Ravi, my driver that day, was a particularly chatty one who spoke English – a rarity in Bengaluru as most drivers plug in their earphones and disappear into Sandalwood soon as you board.
Suddenly, a jerk, the screech of brakes and a dull thud. The driver cursed in Kannada. We had hit somebody.
It was an animal. Standing lost on the median, the cow had suddenly lurched across the busy street and come directly in front of our vehicle. The driver swerved but not before hitting the cow somewhere on the hind, near the left rear hoof.
My first thought should have been safety of the cow. Instead, I found myself worrying for my own safety. The last time one of my neighbours brushed against a cow on the narrow street outside our apartment complex, locals tracked him down, gheraoed him and demanded ₹50,000. I think the police intervened and they settled for ₹25000.
Poor animal, I thought as I cursed my luck. I should’ve taken Namma Metro instead. Now this may turn out to be my costliest Uber ride ever.
My driver obviously noticed something I didn’t. Initially shocked, his brow quickly loosened up and he pulled over; the right thing to do. But I was surprised. After all, this was India, he was a cab driver and we had hit a cow.
Many vehicles slowed down, passing by the injured animal as it limped around helplessly, the injured foot leaving small crimson pools on the tarmac. But nobody stopped. They slowed down, read the situation, but didn’t stop. People revere cows in India. Of late, this reverence has sometimes turned into mob frenzy leading to violence and even lynching. An injured cow could mean all kinds of trouble nobody wants to touch with a barge pole in these times.
As I watched, two men on a scooter stopped their vehicle, parking it across the road to shield the animal from oncoming traffic. They tore up strips of cloth from something they were carrying, washed the wound with a bottle of water from the glovebox, and bandaged the injured foot to stop the bleeding. As my driver looked on nonplussed, they gently goaded the animal to the pavement where it would be safer till somebody claimed it. Their beard, dress and stickers on the scooter gave away their identity. They were returning from Friday prayers at a nearby mosque.
Shortly, my driver returned to the car by which time I had called up PFA, CUPA, PETA and a whole bunch of animal rescuers from JustDial. “Saar, its closing time & we don’t have anybody for large animals” was the common refrain.
I finally managed to get the reference of few ‘large animal’ rescuers, all of whom either expressed inability or asked me to stay with the animal while they would try to summon help. Cows apparently had a different constituency.
My driver had other ideas as he came back smiling to his seat. “What happened, why are you smiling? You should be careful, driving like that and knocking down cows. You’ll be in trouble soon”, I cautioned him.
“No sir”, he told me. “Didn’t you see? That’s a bull. Nobody wants bulls these days. You can’t keep them because you have no use for them; you can’t eat them because you’ll get beaten up or arrested; you can’t afford them because where’s the money to feed a large bull in a city? So they just leave them to their misery on the roads. Don’t you see them roaming around, feeding off the garbage piles by the streets? If it was a cow, I would have feared for my life”, the driver replied as he gunned the car back to life.
“Oh I see. And what if somebody had an accident and died because of stray cows on the road?”, I posed to him.
“What Sir, who cares for humans here? Hundreds die on these roads every day. Who cares other than your family? You’ve seen how people have been killed in the name of a cow. Where are those people now? Did you see who helped the poor animal?”, he shot back.
I kept my phone down, gazed out the window and chewed over what Ravi just said. Another two wheeler overtook us from the wrong side, weaving through traffic to beat the next red light. Neatly hanging upside down from both sides of his moped were at least two dozen live chicken, their feet tied up firmly to the metallic carrier, beaks hanging open just a few inches above the metal road. Surely some of them aren’t going to make it, even if it was their last ride to the slaughterhouse, I thought. By the time I could unlock my phone and get to the camera, he was gone.
India is a land of many mysteries and contradictions. Please add ‘class system of animals’ to that list.
Next year is general elections. My vote will go to AAP. No, not the one Kejriwal started.
AAP as in All Animals Party. It’ll be a party of equals 🙂
©KP Sanjeev Kumar, 2018. All rights reserved. Views are personal.