Durga Puja is just around the corner. All of you are rejoicing in the victory of good over evil, in Mother Durga’s triumph over me. I have no quarrel with that. We had a fair fight and she won. She had a lion to help her, but that’s fine. What I’m not ok about is my buffalo. Why do you have to drag the poor thing into it?
Look at what’s happened – in the midst of the festive season, a miasma of gloom hangs over the cattle sheds of this ancient land. Our buffaloes are desperately
unhappy. For Durga slays not just me, but also my buffalo.
Oh, I know all those legends about me being a ferocious half-buffalo, half-demon. Could anything be more ridiculous? Could you find no other animal? Wouldn’t a snake have been the ideal choice for a demon? Nope, because some of you worship them on Nag Panchami. How about my galloping around on a huge hairy rat? No chance, for isn’t the mouse, the rat’s close relative, Lord Ganesha’s mount?
The thought of a buffalo being a demon is terribly silly. Buffaloes have been domesticated in this country for thousands of years – believe me, I know. They are quiet, docile, well-mannered creatures. They are cousins to the cow, whom so many of you worship, but you don’t even respect buffaloes, preferring to sacrifice them instead.
Is that fair? Does the buffalo not give you milk? Milk richer in proteins, fat, calcium and phosphorus than cow’s milk? Buffaloes can plough deeper than oxen and haul huge loads for you humans. They give you ungrateful people loads of dung for fuel. The cow does all that and gets worshipped. The ox is an object of veneration. And what does the buffalo get? India is the largest exporter of buffalo meat.
Saraswati rides the swan, Kartikeya the peacock, Shiva the bull. Guess who gets to ride the buffalo? Yama, the god of death. Do you know what buffaloes across the land are thinking at this very moment? They are all sitting sadly, meditating on this slightly altered piece from Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’: ‘Hath not a Buffalo eyes? Hath not a Buffalo organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as an Ox is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?’ No sir, Buffaloes can expect no justice from you, for your society is rabidly racist. The reason you are all against the buffalo is because he is black. It is, put simply, animal apartheid.
You don’t even make fairness creams for buffaloes.
Buffaloes suffer everywhere. Look what the palefaces did to the bison, a close cousin of the water buffalo. Sometimes you humans take animal names for your nations – the American eagle, the Russian bear, the British lion and the Chinese dragon. Why not the Indian buffalo? You folks make sure every dog has his day, but do you do anything about buffaloes? Frankly, I’m buffaloed by your behaviour.
There is, though, one way you can make amends. Your ‘Make in India’ campaign has a ludicrous lion as its logo. The least you can do is change it to a charging buffalo.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed by the author are personal