Why I Don't Want You To Eat Beef: Please Don't

Anonymous Anonymous in Bakkar. Chai. Sutta on 18 June, 2017

It was a beautiful afternoon; the soft rays of the autumn sun touched every flower in my garden. I was returning home after college. I used to visit my parents once or twice every month as I was staying in my college hostel and used to travel by bus to meet them. My father is a Sanskrit school teacher, a lesser known occupation now in India. There are very few schools that teach Sanskrit literature these days. He is revered in literary circles for his unique teaching methodology. However, he left his lucrative job at an English medium school to take charge of my grandfather’s school as the principal.

That year my grandfather retired and my father took responsibility in his place. My mother was not so happy with the decision of moving from a city to a village only to keep the family's dreams alive but my father was a stubborn husband and my mother was an obedient wife. That made their marriage work I guess.

After school, my dad takes care of our garden. He loves planting trees and watering them. He feels plants reciprocate more than humans. He is an ardent admirer of nature’s beauty and he tries to contribute in his own ways to preserve the same.

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I entered Kuni’s room, she was standing there close to the window staring at the garden, and maybe she was looking for us; as soon as she noticed me, she looked at the ceiling fan which was switched off. I understood what she wanted to say. She does this whenever she feels hot; I told her with a loud and clear voice that there was no electricity for an hour now, so it won’t work. She stared at me blankly for a few seconds and I used my hands as sign language and told her again the same thing. She understood and looked away from me.

Kuni is our cow. Kuni means small in my mother-tongue, and that’s what we called her first when she was a few days old. Since then the name has stuck. She has an interesting story like my father. Kuni’s mother was a gift to my granny from my father but by the time Kuni was born, her mother died of snake bite.

The next morning my granny called my father and told him that you must take this calf with you as she was not interested in raising her. My father came back home with the calf with a sad face. I was hardly 6 years old back then. Soon, the next morning the contractor was called to build a room for her with cement flooring and a fan hanging from the ceiling so that she didn’t feel the heat. Trust me the room didn’t look like a normal cowshed, instead it was made like a room for a family member.

I was often teased by my classmates at school since they used to ask me questions like, “Do you also have a bed for the cow with cushions?” It was really annoying for me as Kuni was not a cow, she was my sister, my friend. She was fed milk from a bottle like a new born.
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My sister and I used to play with her and soon Kuni became a part of our family. We neither let her go nor left her alone. My father used to introduce her as a new member of our family to every guest who visited us and slowly the sneering eyes started to recede.

Cows are the most innocent and benevolent animals in the face of this earth and soon we realised it, when Kuni took care of our health with her never-ending milk supply out of which ghee, butter, cheese, paneer, curd, sweet dishes, ice-creams, buttermilks could be prepared. All such homemade dairy products were always available in huge amounts in our house, all owing to Kuni.

In return, all I did was I used to rub her neck, wrap her around my arms, her big eyes, her big beautiful eyes, her innocent face, her silence spoke more than all our words put together. Kuni grew up with us and now there was a maid who used to take care of her. But she was not that fond of Kuni. However, she was being paid for her job. My sister and I started going to college and our interaction with Kuni reduced. I had started going to college in the city but never mentioned anywhere that I had a cow as a pet. I felt it was embarrassing for me, since generally only old people had cows as pets and I didn’t find any of my peers having a cow as a pet. But that didn’t decrease my love for Kuni. I was still fond of her; after all she was the one I played with and spent my childhood with.

Slowly Kuni grew older, we used to sell her calves as we were not capable of taking care of more than one cow as it takes a lot of effort, labour as well as money. It was hard for my father to finance both his daughters’ education plus take care of her calves. Kuni must have cursed us a thousand times for keeping her away from her kids but she never showed any anger in her behaviour. She was still quite an obedient pet who my father loved immensely.

In our country, generally cattle gets beaten up by their master but whenever my father found the maid scolding her or beating her with a stick, he used to get very angry at the maid. Then it would take us a lot of effort to calm him down by telling him that she is just a cow though we knew somewhere within that she was not just a cow, she was one of us.
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But one fine morning, finally somehow pragmatism defeated emotions and in a moment of despair, my father called for a family huddle. He mentioned that the present maid of Kuni's wanted to go back to her village for good. Now since both he and my mum were working and had no time to spare for Kuni and there was no one to replace the maid, there was no other way but to sell Kuni.

There was a deafening silence in the hall and there were mixed emotions boiling inside me. I was angry, helpless, upset all at the same time. In a fit of rage, I got up and barged into the bedroom and slammed the door behind me. I could hear my sister arguing with my father to not lose hope and we could still find a replacement but now even my mum was convinced that selling was the only option left.

The decision was taken and the next day a man came to see Kuni, followed by another in the afternoon. We could hear the men bargaining for the price but my father was more concerned about the financial situation of the man, whether or not he could take good care of Kuni. It was as if he was giving away his daughter in marriage and searching for a good groom (read buyer).

For the next few days, many people came and left but there was an awkward silence at home. My sister and I were not speaking to our parents. Finally, not able to bear this plight of her children, my mother burst out at my father for pushing the decision on us, to which my father replied in an annoyed tone “you think I want to sell her? Is it easy for me? But what can we do? She needs someone to look after her”. The next morning my father was standing in the garden next to Kuni, and I could see him speaking to her in a convincing way.

I went near them and to my utter surprise she had tears rolling down her eyes. I asked my father what had happened to which my father replied: “she might have sensed that we are selling her as different people are coming to meet her”. This was the tipping point and I couldn’t resist shouting at my parents, but Kuni’s new master was fixed.

My father had agreed to give her to a man he trusted. I was heartbroken. In the afternoon, an uncle came to visit us. We were sitting in the dining hall, when he initiated a discussion on how these days some people from the Hindu community are buying cows and selling them to beef centres at a higher rate.

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The next morning Kuni’s new master came to take her with him. I broke into tears as I now knew that she was leaving us. My father went near the man and whispered to him, "I am sorry. I am not selling her. I tried but I cannot trust any other man with her. She would stay with me till the day one of us passes away.” We jumped with joy. I hugged Kuni and my father smiled back at us. I couldn’t thank him more that day.

Years passed and Kuni grew older, now she could neither give birth nor give milk. So she used to eat and roam around in the garden but always within our boundaries and sleep in her room at night. My father started spending more time in taking care of her health. Whenever I called home he would be worried and would discuss how weak she got. She used to fall sick but the doctors gave her injections and medicines for some relief.

I remember my father used to visit the doctor’s house even if Kuni fell sick in the middle of the night. Then that fateful day, her leg slipped in front of her room's veranda, she fell down and couldn’t get up. It was the fault of the careless maid who didn’t dry the veranda even after my father had warned her many times. My father knew very well that Kuni could slip on the wet floor.

Doctors visited her everyday post that incident but her health deteriorated. After the accident, she was not able to stand and was bedridden. She stopped eating properly. I was in Delhi and it was a Thursday morning. I had just woken up to find 12 missed calls from my mother on my mobile. Sensing an emergency, I called her back immediately as she never calls me so many times.

My father picked up the phone and dejectedly said Kuni had passed away that morning. I was speechless; the first thing I asked was “how are you?” He said: “I lost my Lakshmi on a Thursday morning”. Tears rolled down my cheeks and as soon as I disconnected the phone, I cried like a child.

I felt like I had lost one of my childhood friends. Her cute little face and my first meeting with her flashed in front of my eyes. Twenty years of friendship had come to an end. I couldn’t go back home for her last rites because of my work commitments. But I didn’t go out of my room for a couple of days. Mum told me that she was cremated in our garden area. I think Kuni was the first cow in that area who got cremated, otherwise people throw dead cows to be feasted upon by crows. My father dismantled that room where she used to live, and no wonder fired the maid whom he held responsible for the incident.

Author's Note:

I watch on the television and read on the Internet about arguments on whether to ban beef and all the hue and cry related to religion. But all I want to say is for some of us it’s not about any religion. It’s just that cows are pets in families like Kuni was in mine. The same way as people in the city keep dogs and cats as their pets. Simpletons from small towns and villages keep cows as their pets. How do you feel when the Chinese eat dogs; your heart cries for those innocent creatures, doesn’t it? The same way some people like me cry when innocent cows get killed. I am not in support of public killing of any man or any political speeches on religion, just in simple words “PLEASE DON'T EAT MY PET!"