Go on... call me a “cow”. I’ll accept that as a compliment. Seriously. Millions of women across India are happy to be compared to cows these days — if that makes even the slightest difference to their miserable lives. Indian cows enjoy privileges women certainly don’t. We may work as hard, and provide the same services to mankind, but we rate much lower in the social order. As our former Prezzie A.P.J. Kalam had once reminded us rather sadly, women’s lives are worth less than the price of a bicycle. So many of us will get traded for much less. Sigh... as the summer heat fries our brains, it is time to chew the cud, lie down under the shade of a neem tree, and ruminate... as our more fortunate four-legged soulmates have been doing for centuries. I love and adore cows. My one fervent wish is to keep a few at the farmhouse. This small wish has not been granted by the family so far. Perhaps they believe one cow in the family is enough. I often feed temple cows. Not because I think they will ensure my prayers will be answered, but because I like to watch their mouths moving efficiently while chomping on fresh, green delicate and juicy grass. I wish someone would feed me with as much love. Last week, more than ever, I was gripped by acute cow envy. As were countless other women. We feverishly exchanged messages and texts, pointing out the obvious — we are a severely discriminated lot. We don’t stand a chance. We can be raped, brutalised, molested, kidnapped, murdered, maimed, abused, tortured, starved, traded... but not many folks will care or intervene to save us. Try that with a cow and see what happens! Noose happens. On paper, all these acts of emotional debasement and physical atrocities women endure are brushed aside by society as “things that happen to women”.
The State may or may not take cognisance of such blatant crimes against humanity. On paper, one more nasty statistic may or may not be recorded. And yes, we will be ordered to shut up and put up. Because we may be called cows, but we aren’t holy. We are the defiled cows, worth nothing. Easily replaceable, at that. One of us dies, gets killed, and there will be a thousand more in line to take our place. One mass-circulated text message put it all bluntly: “Please pray that in your next life you are reincarnated as a cow. You will enjoy many more privileges and be much safer.” But what of this life? Will any attacker be given a life term for our slaughter? Will assaults on our bodies and dignity be punished? Will there be fresh legislation in place to ensure that women “loitering” on the streets of their own country, will be protected... same as their four-legged counterparts. If our cows are revered in scriptures, so are our devis and goddesses. Technically, we worship both, if we are Hindus. The same amount of respect is expected, when we are performing aarti, offering flowers and prasad to a dazzling galaxy of gorgeous goddesses representing various attributes: valour, knowledge, courage, wealth, health — you name it. We have a goddess for all our earthly problems. Why don’t we extend the same conditions to protect our vulnerable women as we do our beloved cows? RSS’ Akhil Bharatiya Gau Sewa pradhan Shankar Lall recently declared: “We make pregnant women eat cow dung and drink urine paste to ensure a normal delivery.”
I wonder if the pregnant ladies have a choice in the matter. What do “expectant fathers” consume? Surely, they too have a role to play in creating a new life? Since I had several “normal” deliveries without following the RSS prescribed diet, I am a little bewildered by Mr Lall’s revelation. But then again — what do I know? I am just an urban cow with zero knowledge of the shastras. Be that as it may, my alarm bells last fortnight were not connected to pre-natal diets involving cow excreta. It was the stringency of punishments being announced by politicos when it came to impinging on the divine rights of cows. “I will hang anybody who slaughters a cow”, a neta thundered... nobody has ever issued such a threat to slaughterers of women — most of whom get away with zero punishment. This is just a humble request from a female citizen: While we are busy protecting bovines with such ferocious zeal, why not look at tightening certain provisions to also look after the safety of women? This is not to compete with our cows, but just to be equated with them, in the eyes of lawmakers. Please, please treat me like a cow — make it official. I will feel so much better. I promise not to moo out of turn... and vow to show my gratitude and appreciation by not blocking traffic, squatting on road dividers. I will also do my daily business in a shauchalaya, not on a crowded street, keeping Swachch Bharat swachch at all times — in thought, word and deed. Mera vachchan: I will be a better cow in future.