In a land where the cow is considered sacred, the ancient scriptures have foretold that the descent into Kalyug or the dark ages begins with the disrespect, abuse and illtreatment of this gentle creature.
On my bus journey from Bhopal to the farm, I witnessed hundreds of cows huddled together in the middle of the highway. I didn’t think much of it, assuming that their owners would soon arrive to round them up. Until I saw my first cow carcass. And the next. And the next. By the time I reached Deori, I’d seen at least ten dead cows rotting in the middle of the road.
This isn’t a rare site in this part of the country. As agriculture shifts from bovine centric to more modern methods, the use of the cow is rapidly dwindling. Male cows which were once utilised to plough the fields have been replaced by giant red tractors. Cow dung, traditionally used as manure, is being supplanted by DAP and urea, which are incredibly harmful. From the most valuable asset of an Indian farmer, the cow (especially male) has become a liabilty. And so, the number of cows that are being abandoned is increasing expeditiously. Old cows who have lost the ability to lactate. The Desi cow, in favour of more milk yielding varieties. Thus, these docile creatures are forced to fend for themselves with no one to take care of them.
In order to tap into the religious sentiments of their vote bank, the government has set up Gaushalas across the state. Pristine buildings erected, with not a single cow in sight. Of course, there are many ongoing community projects. One such shelter is the Ma Ambe Gaushala that has been dedicated to cow welfare since 2016. Located in Dugaria village near Deori, it is a refuge for over 150+ old, sick, and unwanted cows.
For the past eighteen months, Shashi has made Gau seva a weekly ritual.
Every Tuesday at 8:30 am on the dot, the residents of Madman’s Farm pack into Shashi’s trusty Maruti Suzuki and make the thirteen kilometre drive to the Gaushala. (When the car is overloaded with people, I sit in my favourite spot: the boot). For three hours, we sweep, scoop, and wheel out barrows full of dung. My favourite part about going to the Gaushala is connecting with and being around these gentle souls. Scratching them under the chin: their favourite place and the only place they can’t reach. And of course the sugar shot of piping hot chai that we are served by the ever smiling caretaker once we’re done. There are two friendly dogs who have recently become proud parents to nine little nuggets, cosily nestled under the hay machine.
According to Shashi, we really don’t know if the community project of Gaushalas is really helping the larger crisis of the Indian cow. It’s the least we can do to solve the cow problem. We talk a lot about changing the world and making a difference. The question is, if you notice certain problems in your community, are you on the side of the problem, or the side of the solution?