Trapped in an apartment in the debris of what once was a pensioner's paradise, millennials rarely get to experience what the poet John Keatscalls, "the grass, the thicket and the fruit tree wild, hawthorn and the pastoral eglantine." Instead, they endure the cacophony of a zillion horns, inhale the fumes of a million carbon-monoxide spewing vehicles while running their fingers listlessly over dusty potted plants which have replaced the city's fabled green cover.
I'm not the only one with a doomsday scenario; an excerpt from an IIT Kharagpur- IISc study strikes an even more alarming tone. "Here is a glimpse of the transformation - the paved surfaces of Bangalore have increased by a whopping 1005%, yes 100 times, in the past 40 years! The city's green cover has reduced from 68% in 1973 to 25% in 2012 while the area covered by ponds and lakes has come down from 3.4% to just1%. If the trend continues, Bangalore would be left with merely 3% of green cover by 2021."
Forget about wild fruit, most city kids wouldn't know the difference between a Sahiwal and a Jersey cow if it butted them. Much as I would like to delude myself that I am a humble farmer from Mangalore, professional obligations have confined me to the urban sprawl for the last few decades. Sometimes the call of the wild becomes too powerful to ignore and I hotfoot it to the Nilgiris in the company of those of my near and dear who are similarly inclined.
Some years ago, a Parsi dowager gave me the lowdown on a livestock exhibition on the Kolar highway. "My little babas loved the goats and the little piggies," she gushed and since my impressionable children were present, there was nothing to do but bite the bullet and keep up with the Khergamvalas, in a manner of speaking.
Unfortunately half of Bangalore seemed to have been bitten by the rural bug and Gowdas, Guptas and Ghoshals, they rode and they ran. To paraphrase Walter Scott there was racing and chasing on ol' Kolar lee but no sign of the entrance 'er did we see.
We were dauntless in love and gallant in war but we couldn't get close to the livestock by far. Ultimately we entered through a scrimmage of autos, bullock carts and ice cream vendors plus one sweaty livestock dealer attempting to wrestle his Quaalis through the scrum.
On entry, we realised why we are referred to as Asia's teeming millions, make that screaming millions. As for the livestock; every duck, cow, bull, goose and piglet was subjected to a mauling a rugby player would have found stressful.
Sleeping animals were prodded awake and encouraged to exhibit what Ms Rosario in high school would have delicately referred to as their "arts and parts, child." One hapless emu stuffed in a 3x3 cage was having its tail feathers pulled by two snot-nosed boys.
"Aren't you going to do something?" asked my 12 year old, arms akimbo and an expression on her face that said, "Are you a man or a mouse?" So I asked them to stop whereupon their aggro parents rounded on me saying, "Ai, kids are enjoying, why for you are poking nose, man? Are you bird owner, eh, ehhh?" "Well, no, but how would you like it if I pulled yourtail?" I ventured.
"But I am not having tail, I say," roared the father ofthe emu tormentors to the considerable amusement of his brood. Suffice it to say that kindness to dumb creatures is not one of our national traits. There is however, a divinity that shapes our ends, hew them how we will.
We moved on to the Aseel fighting cock section; this is a ferocious bird with a razor-sharp beak, vicious talons and the instincts of a pit bull. Macho man, still chuckling from his "tail" witticism, thrust his fingers through the mesh, nudging his brats and rolling his eyes in my direction.
This Aseel was probably well fed and ignored him disdainfully as we did. Emboldened by his success, he repeated the dose at the next cage and that cock, his primal urges aroused went into combat mode and gave him a savage peck drawing copious amounts of blood. I am ashamed to say we all laughed like hyenas while wondering whether the Aseel was intelligent enough to prove the truth of the adage, "Birds of a feather flock together." "I'm sure the fighter cock saw him pulling the emu's tail and punished him," said my 12 year old with the conviction that comes from instant grievance redressal.