Holy Cow, Holy Ass, Holy Mess!
I’ve blogged about India extensively. It’s a great country, my genes originate here, and it is my second home, since I visit her several times a year. India is also varied, complex and multicultural, she constantly elates and vexes me, and is a source of much pain, tragedy, and mirth. This is what happed recently:
So, I am in Bhavnagar, Gujrat, where Aliakber and I spend a necessary night before we proceed to Ahmednagar to catch a flight to New Delhi. A 6-hour drive afterward to Sirsi where we are to inspect CAI orphanages, school and the massive 100-home project for the homeless. It is a trying and difficult trek, made all the more testing by the cows that litter the streets. Hundreds of them, milling around, scouring for food. This holy animal for Hindus, by law, enjoy a special status. You can’t shoo or force them away, so they sit on any dry area, which in this monsoon season, are the roads and highways. Solo, and in pairs, they park comfortably in the middle of the road, gyrating their massive mouths and grinding away at the cud, staring at me unblinkingly in insolence and defiance; they most likely know they have me over the barrel. And loving every minute of it? The municipal authorities are either unable or unwilling to touch the animals due to the political ramifications. There are many unpalatable consequences, however.
In the town center, two bulls begin locking horns over seducing rights to a seemingly docile maiden, who sits uncaringly and watches them dance in war, horns locked in a fierce battle. The horns are not the small puny ones that the animals I knew as a kid in Arusha, Tanzania. These antlers are huge, curved up, akin to the longhorns in Texas. One animal is much bigger and the fight is over before long. The defeated cow retreats but the winning bull is in no mood to cease fighting without inflicting injury. He runs after the loser and gores him in the butt, who roars in pain and tries fleeing faster. Nothing doing. The second assault finds the perfect mark and the horn goes up to where the sun shines not. The loser shrieks in shock and agony and both of them slam into a standing rickshaw, picking up or dropping a ride, toppling them and the vehicle over; a hungama ensues… These uncared and unregulated animals have created many inconveniences, pain and even death across India. Religious sentiments and consequent political implications make it almost impossible for local authorities to act.
The drive from Sirsi to Halwaana is about 6 hours, and after a day of rest and CAI project inspections, we head there to inspect the finishing touches to a CAI school opening in November 2019 insha’Allah. It is a drive through many rural UP towns but my usual favorite is Muzaffarnagar, where some of the best combinations of haleem/biryani can be had from a roadside dhaba. This steamy, spicy blend of lentils and buffalo meat is made fresh and dispensed at a fast pace, with crowds vying for their share, so it is harmless to an unseasoned gut, except for a fiery exit the next morning. Perhaps.
I am so very disappointed; the Chief Minister of UP, His Honorable Yogi Adityanath, a fiery Hindu nationalist has banned the sale and public consumption of any type of meat for ten days in observation of the annual Kanwar Yatra trek. Millions in UP trek to Haridwar to honor Lord Shiva, I am told, collect water from the Ganges River and take it home to purify their local mandirs and other places of worship. Being a rational person, where logic always guides my intellect, I immediately sit up at this explanation. Isn’t the Ganges highly polluted, according to all official statics, including UP’s own? How will this tainted water purify anything, let alone a place of worship? But, as with all religions, the rationale is not always at play. So, I shut up and settle for a piping hot aloo samosa dipped in imlee chutney. I still smart from losing out on the haleem/biryani mix. How do nonvegetarians exist without chicken or mutton for ten bloody days? Good thing the 10 days of Muharram did not coincide with this festival this year, no? What’ll happen if it does in the future?
The drive from Halwaana to New Delhi, where we are to take a flight to Mumbai should not take more than four hours, even with the toe-curling Delhi traffic, except it takes ten for us; we miss our flight and have to take the last one that day, putting us in Mumbai at 5 AM the next day.
The Kanwar trek was a low-affair event all this time; no more. Bolstered with a crushing win in polls, local and national, the base Hindu nationalists turn the event into one that is impossibly surreal. We get stuck in the traffic almost immediately. The police have cordoned off one side of the only available highway and reserved it for the pilgrims. Fair enough, except it is not enough, as the throng of people spill over to the open lane. There is dancing and music and free flow of alcohol. I am petrified, as the crowds look all frenzied and animated, many drunk. Our vehicle stands out like a sore thumb in the saffron-clad melee, with four bearded men, evidently Muslim. These have been lynched on the mere suspicion of eating or buying or trading in beef. It would take a tiny contact with a devotee to set off a precarious vicious mood for vengeance, something entirely possible with the current religious sentiment across India, especially UP; I feel claustrophobic and begin to hyperventilate. There are places so clogged, our vehicle does not move an inch for about thirty minutes, we are forced to watch the incomprehensible movement of young gyrating bodies, mostly men, some branding the Trishul sword and listening to pulsating music.
The music from massive speakers, some as tall as twelve feet mounted on saffron decked trucks pulsate and push the moist air around us, shaking our vehicle with ease and giving my heart uncomfortable palpitations. This uncertainty and pain,100 miles long, seems forever to me. I’ve never been happier to enter New Delhi’s metropolis, a city I like least in India for various reasons. All the other three in the vehicle with me, Aliakberbhai, Asghar and driver Manzar, residents and seasoned travelers within India seem rattled with today’s experience. Aliakberbhai and I get dropped off at the airport; Asghar and Manzar have to return home to Sirsi; I feel so sorry for them.
Vivid Imaginations – A Memoir
I need your urgent help, please. I need to raise US$50,000 by December 31, 2019, to save 50 girl orphans in India. CAI is a major supporter of Sakina Girls Home, which was housed in a terrible, dilapidated building in Andheri, a suburb of Mumbai. I’ve been struggling to get them moved to safer accommodations for years but the prohibitive cost of real estate in Mumbai made this impossible. After the recent collapse of yet another similar building and death of several, I had to act fast. Alhamd’Allah, they are out into a building that is safe.
In short, CAI needs $320,000 but I need only US$50 from you, about the cost of a dinner out with the family. This investment means perpetual duas for you and so many lives saved. Please purchase my next book Vivid Imaginations – A Memoir that will be out the first quarter of 2020 insha’Allah. It is a story of how I ended up to be the eccentric dude I am today, together with the twenty most-read, popular Blogs of mine.
You will enjoy it immensely, I think. But even if you don’t, you can keep it with your other book collections or it’ll make a fine gift or if you hate my writings, you can use it for fuel or toilet paper; I don’t mind. As long as I meet my contribution of $50,000 of the $320,000 needed. I will retain nothing from the sale of all the books, not a penny, everything will go towards the purchase of the new building.
So PLEASE, for the sake of these poor orphan girls and for the pleasure of Allah only, please purchase a copy? For legal and administrative purposes, the US$50 is not tax-deductible and must be purchased online here.
Please purchase a copy, two or more so we speed towards my commitment. And please help share this message to your contacts. Remember, a poor orphan girl will live and flourish here in safety and comfort insha’Allah.
Alternatively, a cash contribution to the project or a combination of both?