Make the cow our national animal? It already is!
My family is from Mangalore. This is information I'd normally withhold unless threatened with waterboarding. But it's relevant to the story, so dignity be damned. On one visit to the city I discovered Mangalore had a zoo and so, seeing as the city had (and still has) little else to offer, I went. The zoo was empty, even the ticket counter stood empty. I slipped through the gates alarming no one and barely eliciting a response from the monkey enclosure that greeted me.
The entire zoo was desolate. I thought I spotted a turtle in a pond before I realised that a) it was a tortoise and b) it was floating belly-up. The tiger enclosure was tiger-less, a large hole in the fence making the scene even more worrying. Still, the tiger cage wasn't empty, it was populated by a small herd of cows that had made the enclosure their own. In contrast to the mangy monkeys, the late tortoises and the non-existent tigers, the cows were well-fed, sedate and in no hurry to leave.
Fast forward to almost a decade later, the situation at the zoo has improved, but the status quo I experienced back in the day has now become a nationwide one. The stock of cows has only risen whereas that of pretty much all our other wildlife has continued to nosedive. Now things have hit a peak of sorts, with ministers actually advocating we replace the royal Bengal tiger with the cow as our national animal. But I'm not here to point out the ridiculousness of it.
I'm here to tell you it's pretty much already the case. According to venerable Haryana minister Anil Vij, cows deserve to be national animals because they need protection while tigers can defend themselves.
There are roving hordes of cow-crazed men wandering Indian towns and cities trying to protect them
To which I ask, protection from what? Long before this recent wave of bovine-related banality, cows have been the apex animal in the country.
Heck, they have more freedom than the rest of us.
Cows have free reign of both cities and towns. In this country there are places where Dalits probably look longingly at the freedom a cow enjoys as it wanders casually into a school yard or temple.
If humans have it bad, the other animals haven't got a chance.
While there are calls for the culling of stray dogs, and other animals have their habitats systematically destroyed, there is no place a cow is not welcome, or at least tolerated.
And they know it, which is why cows never seem to be in a hurry; wherever they are, they own. In fact, they hold up so much traffic that if not national animal, they should at least be the mascot of the traffic police. Tigers meanwhile have no such privilege; their habitat is constantly shrinking, and even within reserves and parks they are poached relentlessly.
41 of them have been killed this year alone, 2 of whom were killed fighting over their ever-shrinking territory. The protectors of our wildlife are too short-staffed to make a real difference, and even when poachers are brought to book it's usually long after the crime. Cows meanwhile have protectors who aren't even paid for their services - they volunteer!
There are roving hordes of cow-crazed men wandering Indian towns and cities trying to protect them. They're willing to burn vans and murder people over them. It's like an entire army of Batmen, if Batman was not trying to protect the people of Gotham, but its bats. Have you ever heard of a single case of a revenge-murder over the killing of a tiger? No. Because in this country, the tiger is a bit like the President, hallowed in name only. Perhaps if the tiger contributed more to sustenance, we'd revere it more.
Cows, after all, give us milk. Never mind that the vast majority (around 65%) of mankind is lactose intolerant post-infancy. Thanks to Gau Mata we are all able to enjoy flatulence, abdominal pains and severe diarrhoea while promoting sanskaar at the same time.
So yeah, let's make the cow our national animal, because god knows it already is. And, for all you beef-eaters who are worried you won't get any if the cow takes over the mantle, don't worry. If the tiger's pathetic treatment is anything to go by, there'll be much more beef on offer the second the cow takes over as national icon.