Home :: Sunday Sentiments

Sunday Sentiments

  • “Mataji zara raaste se hatiye!”

    Posted On May 1, 2000

    By Karan Thapar

    It wasn’t the horn that he had been blasting but the strange words that woke me up. I was slumbering at the back of a hired car and it was nearly ten at night. The road was empty but a couple of cows stretched across its surface had brought us to a halt. Their refusal to budge was the cause of the driver’s understandable excitement.

    “Na gaadi na insaan magar yeh gae ke kaaran saara raasta band ho gaya” the driver muttered as he got out of the car.

    “Hut! Hut! Saali! Hut!”

    It didn’t work. The cows – as cows will – stayed put. So, exhausted and desperate, the driver took to prayer. That’s when I woke up.

    “Mataji zara raaste se hatiye.”

    Now this wasn’t some dark lonely side-road in Dwarka or Rajouri or Najafgarh. It was the centre of Delhi, a stone’s throw from R.K. Puram and within shouting distance of the Hyatt. In fact, without discrimination, cows are a nuisance everywhere on Delhi’s roads. From Connaught Place to Chattarpur they are a definite hazard. It’s ludicrous but no one – absolutely no one – gives a damn.

    On this occasion the cows were only squatting on the road. The other evening, as dusk was giving way to night, I happened to be driving home. As I passed Munirka a solitary cow on the pavement divider cheerfully stepped down and started to cross the road. The only problem was that she gave no warning and the traffic was coming at quite a lick.

    I swerved madly. The two cars in front of me hit each other although not badly. The one behind only just missed hitting the cow. Everyone of us was shaken. But not the cow. With bovine indifference to the confusion and damage she had caused she continued to saunter across and eventually disappeared into the gullies off the main road.

    For a nation that supposedly worships cows we treat them with indescribable cruelty. It’s not respect that permits them to roam freely on the roads but utter unconcern. Most of them are emaciated, bent, unwashed, uncared-for as well as ill and injured. They need care and treatment. Instead we set them loose and forget about them.

    Have you ever seen a cow hit by a passing truck? It probably happens frequently. Ten days ago I was witness to such an encounter. Strangely, it was much like the ones our police are said to stage.

    I was on the Masoodpur-Mahipalpur bypass which links Chattarpur to the Jaipur highway. At night this stretch of road is the special preserve of speeding lorries. They thunder down knowing the road is empty. The few cars around crawl along the pavement for fear of passing trucks.

    Just before the Nelson Mandela turning I saw it. A buffalo – it was too big to be a cow – had been hit by a truck and tossed across the divider. It lay half-on and half-off. One of its legs had been crushed flat. Its sides were bleeding.

    It was still alive but it was clearly dying. A gentle persistent groan was all it was capable of. In the dead of night it was not a pleasant noise. I suppose the sound of approaching death never is.

    There was no one around. The owner was as indifferent to its plight as the offending truck driver. I too did not stay long. I slowed to a crawl, took in the sight and left as hurriedly as I could. I’m as guilty of indifference as anyone else.

    That’s why I want to ask a few questions this sunday morning. Why do we permit cows (or buffaloes) to wander freely on our roads? Why can’t we enforce simple, sensible, straight-forward rules? Why does the facade of worship blind us to the criminal negligence that lies behind it? Why? WHY?

    I may not be a good hindu but at least I care about what happens to innocent cows. I may not worship gaomata but I don’t recognise their present treatment as worship either. Will the Government of Delhi please put a stop to this. I’m confident that every hindu – starting with the majority who are better than I – will support this demand.

    Mera Bharat Mahaan

    They say punctuality is the politeness of royalty. Of course, we in India would not know. We don’t have royalty and, sadly, we are no longer polite. But I am told The Queen is never late. Her hosts could set their watches by her arrival. How very different is our behaviour.

    If I was of a mind to do so I could complain about how late everything is in India, but I won’t. It would be pointless. Yet there are occasions when the deliberate delays simply get my goat. They lie at the core of my ire this sunday morning.

    Have you noticed how special events never start on time? Be it an official inauguration, a premiere or even a formal conference, the clock will cheerfully tick past the appointed hour but nothing will happen. Sometimes the chief guest is still awaited. Frequently the organisers aren’t ready. More often than not the audience hasn’t turned up.

    This happened repeatedly at the India Habitat Centre last week. The festival of Feroz Khan plays was an inspired idea and the productions were outstanding. Undoubtedly they were the best thing to happen in Delhi so far this millennium. I or my family or my friends saw all of them but not even once – literally never – did the plays start on time. On the 27th Salesman Ramlal was twenty minutes late. On the 30th Saalgirah was twenty-five minutes delayed. On the 29th Mahatma versus Gandhi was forty minutes behind time.

    If you had asked the ushers – or any of the officials around – why the curtain refused to go up (overlooking the fact there wasn’t one) the answer was unchanging : “Ji abhi tak sab log nahin phonche.”

    I wonder if the organisers realise the implications of that explanation? By holding up a performance to accommodate late comers they reward the tardy at the cost of those who come on time. Instead of punishing those who deliberately came late – and therefore deserved to be denied admission till the interval – they chose to penalise the punctual by forcing them to sit and wait.

    In any sensible society it would be the other way around. We, in India, revel in being contrary. Mera Bharat Mahaan.

Share this Video:

There are no comments on this sunday sentiments yet.

Characters remaining (3000)

Will be displayedWill not be displayed

Will be displayed

Please answer this simple math question.

6 + 5