The incident that I am about to relate to you took place on 29th July 2012 in Pune. It was a Sunday. I was just leaving home to deliver a couple of boxes of books to my niece at Fatima Nagar. As I was about to get into the rickshaw, one of the boys from our Youth Wing called, asking if we could meet at the Ashtabhuja Durga Mandir to discuss the script for a play to be placed at the Lotus Feet of Bhagawan. He had come all the way from Pimpri, a suburb of Pune City, for a District Bhajan Group Audition and was going to be there for only an hour. I agreed to meet him at the temple as soon as I had finished handing over the books. As I left my niece’s place, the rickshaw driver decided to take the camp route to the temple at Narayan Peth. Though I found this a wee bit strange, since I am not too familiar with the lanes and bylanes of what involves the ‘city’ part of Pune, I left it to the driver’s discretion.
We passed Bishop’s School and turned left onto the side lane that connects to East Street. As we sped through this lane, I noticed a cow being dragged behind a tempo. She was tied with a short rope to the back of this run down vehicle. I could see what appeared to be a part of her placenta beginning to hang out from her rear. Being horrified at this sight, I asked the driver of my rickshaw to stop immediately. I actually jumped out as soon as he slowed down a bit.
There were a couple of men running alongside the tempo. When I asked one of them why they were dragging the cow in this manner, he replied aggressively…asking me how else were they to transport the cow. Citing the rules, I firmly told him the cow should be inside the van and certainly not made to run behind the vehicle in this manner. He then said that she had just delivered and that she was aggressive. Aghast at the fact that she had just delivered and was being hauled behind a vehicle, I raised my voice a few decibels and told him that then she definitely needed more refined care. As far as the cow’s aggressiveness was concerned, I informed this man that this wasn’t my problem – if he had raised an animal from infancy, the onus was on him to care for it and know how to handle it.
I was left with no other option but to stand in front of the van, stopping all traffic. I insisted that the cow be released and refused to take a ‘no’ for an answer. Picking up my cell phone I told him that I was calling the police. That did it! Their fear of the police seemed more than that of the bovine, so they hurriedly untied the cow and sped off behind the tempo…for, this ‘first time mother’ was indeed showing aggression and running amuck…as she knew her calf was being taken away from her.
The vehicle stopped a distance away and I too followed knowing that if I didn’t do so they would once again put the cow through torture. Those men thought I was calling the cops but my instincts made me dial my niece asking her what to do.
I must tell you at this point that my niece is a tremendously courageous young lady and an animal rights activist to boot. She has worked with several NGOs and takes personal care of abandoned creatures with little or no concern about her own health. She is petite to look at…but gutsy, bold and highly spirited. However ferocious an animal, she somehow, through a natural blessing placed upon her by our sweet Lord…connects to them and calms them down in no time. She has this uncanny inborn knack with any and every animal! Together we have been instrumental in bringing solace to many hurt, wounded and abandoned creatures.
This scenario reminded me of the time another friend and I were involved in confiscating 6 blind lionesses who were in an emaciated condition from the Golden Circus in Mumbai, way back in October 1997.
My niece was on another call and I was in a great hurry, so I dialed a dear friend who was ever so kind, considerate, brave and an angelic soul who had deep feelings for all sentient and insentient beings…and who knew all the animal welfare laws since she worked with an NGO linked to such welfare activities.
She answered immediately and said she was on her way and she would pick up my niece too and bring her along.
Now I looked out for the cow and the van, but both were out of sight. I ran back to the same lane but couldn’t locate this ‘first-calf heifer’. Extremely disappointed, while I was wondering what to do, I noticed the boy in charge of the parking lot gesturing that I should look into the bungalow by the side of the road.
Though the tall gates of this bungalow were locked, there was a smaller gate in the middle with barely enough room for people and two wheelers to pass through. Agitated as she was, this mother bovine, with majestic horns, had somehow managed to squeeze through this gate and was grazing on the green grass about halfway up to the bungalow. She looked back at me warily.
I quickly stepped back out and closed the gate.
As I waited for help to arrive in the form of these animal-rights angels, I prayed to Swami – He had made me come face-to-face with such an appalling situation and He had to help bring respect and dignity to this four legged child of His…and He had to reunite the mother and calf.
My niece and friend arrived soon enough and began making calls to concerned authorities to send a van to transport the animal to Blue Cross, a non-profit organization that looks to the welfare of animals. Meanwhile, I explained to the caretakers of the bungalow that we were grateful for their support but needed some time to shift the cow. The owner, though ailing, was known to my friend and this helped to a great extent.
I asked for some water in a bucket for the cow and went to the closest retail shop to bring some jaggery and chana dal – split chickpea. My niece gave the cow some water and fed her the jaggery, which she seemed to relish.
Just when we managed to get our van to ferry the cow, the ‘owner’ came by enquiring after her. I asked him just where he had been for the last 3 hours. He kept apologizing for the behavior of his colleagues but my niece said that the procedure for confiscating the callously and carelessly treated animal had to be followed. Once the cow had been taken to the animal shelter, a case would be registered and then they could take it from there. They had to be taught a lesson. We asked the owner of the cow to bring the calf as the udders of the cow were full and though she did not make a sound, we knew she must be in a lot of pain. Besides, the mother and calf were meant to be together.
This supposed owner promised to go and fetch the calf but did not return. Instead another person came striding in, talking in a high pitched tone and trying his best to coerce and frighten us by saying he had contacts with the police and we should accompany him to the concerned Police Station. However we remained undaunted!
When the caretaker of the bungalow asked him to lower his voice and discuss the issue outside the premises, he became even more aggressive and rude. I asked him his credentials and he replied saying that he was the ‘owner’ of the cow. My niece let him know that we were not going to be intimidated and asked them all to decide first and foremost, as to who was the actual owner of the cow. Much later I realized that this was the same person from whom a friend of mine had confiscated 20 cows that were being ill treated even as they were being taken for slaughter.
That is when I decided to rope in the help of the police and dialed 100. One of the policemen had a keychain with an image Shirdi Sai on both sides…my niece noticed this and drew my attention to His Presence, in the middle of all that hullabaloo.
I had forgotten to carry vibhuti with me, though I normally never leave home without it. But the youth-wing boy I was to meet at the mandir came by when he heard what we were doing and he happened to have a packet of this miraculous ash – a panacea for all ills. I took some vibhuti from him and applied it all over the cow’s abdomen and mixed some in the jaggery that she was being fed. She needed an energy boost, as by now she was flat out on the grass and in the process of sloughing off the placenta. We were told that this expulsion takes 7-8 hrs or so. A few moments after the vibhuti was applied she made an effort to sit up. Meanwhile the cops ordered the cow handlers to take our tempo and get the calf as they were not paying any heed to our request. The moment the mother saw her calf…she was rejuvenated.
Meanwhile a compassionate lady, who had an office in the next building, and who looked after a whole lot of stray dogs in this area, came by asking if we required any assistance. A youngster who worked for her was an expert in handling cows and she sent him along to help out. This boy, my niece and I kept coaxing the cow, amidst chants of ‘Sai Ram’ and fresh applications of vibhuti…and soon the cow was standing up. The placenta had taken 5 hours to drop off. My niece carried the calf and walked towards the tempo, the other boy led the cow…slowly and steadily we managed to get her close to the vehicle. Here we were faced with a dilemma. We needed a plank for the cow to climb into the van. It being a Sunday, the concerned shops were shut. Somehow we managed to get an elongated piece of a wooden board but that too was not broad enough. All our attempts were turning futile.
Meanwhile more policemen came in. Even as I was attempting to maneuver the cow in to the van, one particular officer came ‘charging’ at me; after he had been in conversation with the same high-handed person who professed he was the owner and who was trying his best to scare and bully us and who later admitted the bovine belonged to his friend…this policeman asked me what was my identification and how could I take this cow away from the owner. Stopping to look at him, while I was adjusting the plank on to the van, I quite simply told him that my identification was – I was a human being who cares and I was a citizen of India. Beyond this I would furnish any other required proof only ‘after’ I had accomplished the task at hand – taking the cow to a shelter. When he insisted, I asked him how would he feel if he had rushed a sick relative, who needed urgent medical attention, to the hospital only to be told that he must first pay the deposit money and only then the treatment would commence.
My niece and friend showed their ID proof as Animal Welfare Officers from the AWBI (Animal Welfare Board of India). The policemen kept asking my niece for further details and address and that’s when we reprimanded them that they had not as yet taken any ID particulars from the perpetrators of negligent behavior, but were asking for proof in detail from those who were helping the animal in distress.
Since our vehicle had left to attend to other distress calls, we now had another task to deal with – we needed a transport to shift the cow and calf. Accompanied by 2 policemen, I briskly walked to the corner of the road where there were tempos available on hire. We were in the holy month of Ramadan. It was nearing dusk and most of the van drivers had already gone to say their prayers. I kept praying and a van drove by. The cops stopped the driver. He looked at his watch and said that he had to say his prayers and break his fast. I pleaded with him that if he extended help to this animal…the Lord would definitely be pleased with him. Besides the calf hadn’t had any nourishment from morning…though my niece and the other helper had attempted to get her close to the mother’s overfull udders. We had brought a milk bottle and a packet of milk but had kept this as a standby, since there is no replacement for mother’s milk.
This man agreed to come with us. We tried, yet our attempts to maneuver the cow into the vehicle just wouldn’t bear fruit. By now, the owners were pleading even more so. It was getting dark. The weather had supported us so far…restricting heavy showers at this peak monsoon period to a very fine drizzle…interspersed with sunshine.
I did a quick mental assessment of the situation – the hungry new born calf barely able to stand; the tired mother who had just gone through the ‘after-birth’ process and was licking her offspring (mammals lick the face of their new born so as keep the nostrils clean in order to stimulate breathing as well as a sucking response, if contact between mother and calf is delayed by 5 hours…the calf may be rejected, she was trying to bond as well as make her calf stand on its wobbly little legs); nighttime was fast approaching; the fact that it being a Sunday, though we could have walked the cow to the SPCA there was no response from their office; the only option of Blue Cross Animal Shelter had to be ruled out as we couldn’t get the cow to climb into the van.
These thoughts necessitated that I invoke Bhagawan’s grace to help me make a decision that would be ultimately correct and beneficial for the mother and calf, also that decision should have the unanimous consent of the Animal Welfare Officers, for by now another officer had walked in. They dealt with such atrocities daily and followed a particular regime so as to teach people to treat animals in a more humane and ethical manner.
Dignity for all living beings was important to me. While slaughter could not be stopped completely, since so many of us were ruled by our taste buds…why couldn’t our society at least ensure a fair semblance of dignity for our mute brothers and sisters till they were breathing?
I went up to the owner of the cow and told him that I would give him back the cow but there were certain conditions that had to be met. By now what I understood was that they had a Tabela – a cow and buffalo shed, and were willing to oblige with any conditions. I said that I would be visiting the cow shed every now and then and they were to deal with the animals in a more compassionate way. Rebuking him in a voice that was heard by all in the crowd, I firmly reminded him that he got his income, his ‘aamdani’, only through these animals, and he had to look after them as his own children or else he was laying the seeds of bad karma which would eventually catch up with him and his family.
The police decided to file some cases too. Meanwhile the Animal Welfare Officers enlightened me that a male calf is of no use to these people and most of the time after 3 weeks it is sent to the butchers. They decided to ask for the male calf to be handed over to them and the owners of the cow agreed immediately.
Though the tabela people got their vehicle…the cow wouldn’t get in to it and sat down in sheer exhaustion. I asked one of them to hold the calf and walk in front…the mother was sure to follow. My niece and I had brought her till the vehicle in just such a manner. Initially my niece had held the calf then I had taken over as she had by then learned how to handle the aggressive mother – with gentle persuasion and a lot of love.
And so we marched on through the busy streets through a distance of probably a kilometer and a half to the cow shed. Halfway to our destination, the policemen accompanying us asked me to meet the lady Senior PI in charge of the central Police Station of that area. She happened to be passing by and had stopped at the local police station enroute to the tabela. She looked me up and down, asked for verifications but patiently heard me out. She asked why I hadn’t called the police earlier. I replied that I didn’t think it was necessary till the arrival of the person with obnoxious behaviour. She then most graciously asked if we could do an Animal Awareness Programme in that area for which she would extend full police support. She asked me to come and meet her in a couple of days.
She sent an escort with me to check on the mother cow and her tiny new born.
Such is the concern and grace of Beloved Mother Sai for all creatures both great and small!
Needless to say, four of us who would like to see a change in attitude towards animals, for animals have feelings too and do feel pain, met up with the lady PI and have scheduled an awareness programme, beginning with the police force of our area.
“Compassion towards all living beings is spiritual discipline. Man is the crown of creation; he is the highest among living beings. Therefore, he bears great responsibility. He has to love other living beings, serve them and save them, for they are his kith and kin and they too have the Divine Principle at their core.” (Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol 14/pg.182)
Nothing happens without a reason. Perhaps this episode took place so that human beings realize that to be called a ‘human being’ we need to earn the title ‘human’. We cannot mete out heartless, insensitive, inhuman, callous and shabby treatment to any living being ignoring their pain. Since human beings were placed on the top rung of the ladder of creation, the onus rested on each member of the human race to bring about a harmonious co-existence – thereby ensuring peace for all creatures of the land, earth and sea.
The only motive behind sharing this episode is that perhaps all those who read about this incident or maybe at least a few would be inspired to stop any kind of cruelty inflicted upon our mute brethren of the land, earth and sea…or will pay heed to the voice of conscience and be there for any being, human or otherwise, facing injustice, unable to stand up for their rights and in need of assistance.
I came home pretty late that evening.
My brother, who is normally exasperated because I am forever trying to put an end to roadside shows involving snake and mongoose fights…or inducing pet shop owners not to overcrowd cages with birds, puppies, etc… and a myriad other acts that transgress animal welfare…that day, for a change he asked me what gives me courage to do all this. Smilingly I replied, “I care…so I dare! Bhagawan gives me all the courage I need ceaselessly…for at the end of the day I mustn’t hesitate to sit before Him in my prayer room. With complete conviction in His omnipresence and also in Him being the in-dweller of all, I must have the sincerity of purpose, the absolute satisfaction and the unhindered unobstructed ability, the ‘courage’ to meet His all-knowing gaze. I cannot let anything come between me and Bhagawan…all minuses have to be given a facelift…I have to put His words into practice…for truth is not just a word it is a reality!”
Love and Compassion are the true inheritance of our soul…it gives us courage. In the fast flurry of activities in the material world, compassion which lies dormant in every person is on the verge of extinction. No one has the ‘time’ or ‘courage’ to indulge in compassion.
A mass awakening to humane ways for the masses…is required to usher in winds of change…for us earth beings to make mother earth and mother cow smile once again… for animals not to think scathingly of the human race.
The Cosmic Being and the Cosmos are watching. Together we can make that happen.
Dare to care…care so much that you can dare…
Samastha Lokaah Sukhino Bhavantu. Samastha Jeeva Sukhino Bhavantu.