Friday, February 24, 2012

Cattle Fair – the real one!

Don’t confuse it with the Cattle fairs which reportedly happen in the IIMs. It’s about the real cattle fairs where the cows, buffaloes, camels, donkeys, horses etc are brought to be sold. They also come to participate in the competitions like beauty pageant, races and bull-fights. Some people even come to look out for their lost or stolen cattle.

So what is special in the cattle fairs which led me to think about it and write this blog? Yes, it’s the psychology of the buyers and sellers which intrigues me.

The preparations farmers or cattle herders make before taking their cattle to the fair are quite elaborate.   The buffaloes and cows, generally painted in mud, get a good bathe, and then an oil massage. Some even get their horns and tails painted. They even tie a necklace of colored rope or peacock feathers and human hair around neck almost suffocating the poor animals. Camels get a nice haircut with designs brought up on their dark brown body. So elegant they look that all you want is ride on their back, at least once!

So far so good, the real fun begins in the fair. Farmers from all the nearby places bring them to the market, laden in the tractor- trolleys or trucks, most of the times its too crammed for the spaces that poor animals feel suffocated. You don’t need to be an expert to see the pain in their eyes.

A buyer may want to know, how much milk a buffalo produces daily? So, live demonstrations happen. The owner milks it in front of the potential buyer. The little ones are deprived of their mother’s milk as she has not been milked for two three days before bringing her to the market. They must believe that it’s better to keep the milk accumulated in her udders for a better show!

The evaluations go on for whole day, buyers keep coming, most of the times leaving them just after initial inspection, roaming around, checking the features of the animal. Looks of the buffalo is one of the most important parameters. Looks? You must be wondering! What do looks have to do with the quality of the cattle? But you guessed it right, we are humans after all. We are so much worried about the looks of anything feminine that we tend to simply ignore other important factors! The breed has to be good; it’s the matter of pride to have a Murra or Khundi at home.

At the end of the day, most of the cattle are sold off. The owners who have reared its cattle for so many years just let them go. For the emotional types it’s a tough choice which they have to make. But the deal is done; they have to send them, this time, laden in yet another vehicle.

For the rest, who are not sold, it’s the journey back to home. I don’t know whether the animal feels happy about returning home, to be with rest of the herd, but the owner is definitely not! How will I feed it in the times of inflation, when there is no fodder in this dry season? Monsoon too has not been favorable, and I need the money to pay the debt, to purchase other house hold items or to pay off the tuition fee of the kids who have just got into a college. The questions keep busy his mind as he return home.

The animal must be wondering, what was lacking in me? They didn’t buy me just because I didn’t look good enough to be accepted into their herd? For an Oxen, the owner might be heard whispering, had you been able to pull the cart, why would have I brought you in the market? There are no buyers for you in the fair. I’ll have to sell you to the Butcher now! I can’t help it. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A testimonial from my pillow

Hello Roomie,

It’s the time when you and your batch-mates are going to leave the Kampus, everyone is busy writing testimonials to their close friends. You too shall write to some of your close friends and hopefully some of them will also do the favor for you. I too thought of leaving a note while you are still asleep.

You know it well that I’ve been your closest friend over these months you’ve been here. It’s another matter that you’ve not even changed or washed my cover in these two years, and I smell like a rotten pig, but its only you who had to smell me, I don’t complain much. I’ve been lucky that you’ve not burned me with cigarettes and did not puke over me after your daru-parties. I'm thankful for it.

All said, there are many memories of yours which I’ll cherish. The way you cuddled with me in not so cold nights of Kerala. The giggles I used to have when you shouted WTF, whenever you were bitten by the ants who roamed on your bed to collect the food particles and the dead insects. I’ve also seen you watching not so civilized kind of videos and wasting time on facebook, but I kept quite. It’s your personal life and I don’t believe in being too possessive.

I need to confess that I tried to eavesdrop on the talks which used to go on in your head, I don't know whom you talked to in your dreams. But, I also got quite angry once when you showered a torrent of blows on me without any mistake of mine and in the end it was I who wiped your tears when you cried. I hope your remember that.

You’ve got a job, though not as high salary as newspapers wallas want people to believe. I’m sure you are going to start a new life with a new pillow and leave me here. It’s ok! I don’t want you to get emotional about me. You need to move on! You’ve got a life ahead. I’ll be happy with Chechi, if she agrees to take me with herself or I’ll walk away with the goonj people.

I hope you’ll have wonderful time with the new pillows. Best wishes!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Matki and the Restless Soul

It starts getting really hot in Rajasthan by the end of March and as the air gets hotter, it forms heat waves which become unbearable by the beginning of May. The scorching Sun and the dry air suck the life out of humans as well as the birds and animals.

If my memory serves me well, the scene of the story must be of earlier than 1991, before we started building our current home. In the afternoon, our grandmother used to force me and my brother to sleep so that we don’t roam around and catch the heat waves. We on the other hand preferred to play under the Neem tree, which was in the same place where we have built the drawing room now.

The birds, specially the parrots were fun to watch when they drank water from the water pot hanging by the Neem branch. There used to be membrane like thing with strange shapes running randomly, which could be seen in the bright Sunlight. Airplanes used to fly shining brightly and leaving a white trail, which I later came to know were clouds. The planes must have gone to land in Delhi. It was almost unimaginable for us that real people sat in those planes. If they really did then we’ll sit in those planes and go to Delhi, my brother used to say!

I told my grandmother that I see some strange shapes in the distance which come down on the earth and disappear and it goes on. I still don’t know what these were, but she got a new idea to keep us indoors. She said that those were ghosts and they’ll catch us if we go out in the afternoon. I don’t remember listening to her. I’m not sure if watching ghosts or was it that watching airplanes fly in the sky more fun.
Another amusement were the new earthen pitchers (Matke) being brought from the potters. These were mostly bartered against wheat instead of being purchased in return for money. My mother and grandmother used to go and bring these pitchers on their head and the Tayi (wife of potter) also accompanied them to take the wheat from home. A few earthen cups (kullad) were given for free if we accompanied our grandmother. Now we wouldn’t drink water in a glass as long as the kullads lasted. They generally broke in a matter of days.

The matka used to survive for a week and then it won’t keep the water cold for any long. It was always fun to drink water from the new matka as it has a totally different taste in it. The water used to be brought by the ladies over head from the wells nearby. My mother used to bring two matkas over her head and one small one (matki) in her hand to avoid many trips to the well.

The matki used to be kept over matka and it used to become quite high for us, so we used to struggle to reach up it. One day I left it uncovered as the lid fell off and I could not reach up to matki’s mouth to cover it. My grandmother saw that the matki doesn’t have its cover, she scolded me and asked not to leave it open. I thought it may be because insects might fall in the water. But the reason she gave was totally different. She said that there might be someone’s mann – the restless soul, which might come to drink water from the matki and get into it. How was it possible? I asked. Then she explained, suppose you are having a tight sleep and feel thirsty. If you are lazy and don’t want to get up to drink water. Your soul will come out of your body. It'll get into the matki to drink water and quench its thirst. Now, if someone covers the matki, the poor soul may get trapped in it. In that case the person’s body will be without soul for some time and he or she may die!

It’s obviously quite tough to believe it now, but it was perfect explanation. After that, whenever I used to go towards the matki, I used to think whether there is a soul entrapped in it. Once I even brought my friends. We climbed on a chair and opened the lid to see if there was really any soul inside it.

It’s not summer yet and there are no pitchers nearby. But sometimes I feel as if my soul has left me and it is entrapped in some matki somewhere. What if someone has put the lid on matki’s mouth? Will the matki realize that I belong there itself and bring me to life by quenching my thirst? Will there be someone who’ll come and remove the lid and take my soul out of the matki

*On a lighter note, M.Tech junta in IITs is called Matka / Matki and the B.Tech junta is called Bhatke, which means restless souls!