Adding pity to piety

Adding pity to piety

What happened to our piety and holy hymns of praise for 'go-mata'?

I stepped out of the bank, pushing the plate-glass door, dodging the tangle of handle-bars, motor bikes and fresh visitors thronging the entrance. I politely let a woman and a senior sidle past me: it was not out of chivalry, but just an old-world habit.

It did spread among cultured people, but mainly among familiars within a circle. Everyone is in a hurry, wanting to be given priority if not instant service. A burly man nudged me aside, perhaps replete with cash from the ATM cabin,. A large cow was on the road, with a hide of black and white blobs; a sub-species of a lost lineage from Jersey, perhaps. Somehow the shapes of the blobs suited the topography of the urban jungle. The cow seemed to be aware of its place in India and its domain on the road.

Some weeks ago, I had seen this cow among other cattle, calves too, festively garlanded with yellow marigold flowers, horns and foreheads adorned with sandal paste and kumkum, while folk songs and pipes proclaimed their sanctity. It was the fay of ‘go-mata.’ Many of us revere this giver of milk and sustenance. They are springs of wealth, owned and traded or stolen by covetous rivals. We let them share some space with us; we give them fodder and freedom of a kind to roam on roads and forage in other spaces. 

But the black and white cow, why does it linger near this throng? Its head is bent low. A rope around its dewlaps is fastened to its right front foot; it is hobbled and cannot venture far from its owner’s backyard without stumbling to a heavy fall. It may claim its domain on the road or fields, but is almost lamed when it ambles beyond the ambit of the slack rope that tethers it. 

What happened to our piety and holy hymns of praise for ‘go-mata’? Is there a new hit song, “Go away, Mata?” Mother-Cow is impassive, as if it knows the wild life and the human species in the urban jungle. Now it must find a way to the free space on the road. A mo-bike rider comes, parks his vehicle askew, and hesitates before the cow, scared by its proximity and curving horns. The cow bows lower in gracious dignity; slowly raises its tied-up front foot, as if to offer the man a reassuring handshake or to expose the cruelty that passes for devotion. The man sneaks by to enter the plate-glass entrance of the bank. The cow regains an empty space. It is four-footed again, unless challenged by a car in a hurry. I walk back homeward with pathos in my heart and angered by shame.

Must we permit such cruelty? Let us as caring citizens protest against this kind of torture to creatures we profess to revere. My wife and I have met a lady campaigner for animal rights, Mrs Maneka Gandhi, more than two decades ago on a protocol occasion. She said to my wife: “Your sari is Mysore silk? Do you know how many silk-worms have been killed to make that fabric?”