(This article was posted in the "Meditations" column of the Hindustan Times on 23 December 2002.)
IF IT doesn't work, dump it, blurts the trash culture mantra. Loyalty is pinched these days, especially when it comes to our four legged friends. Krishi go rakshya is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita (18.44). Apart from the Gita's non-violence messages, the cow, along with many species, requires human protection. But those who serve us may also save us.
Check this out. Govinda, the family cow, one day stopped giving milk. Exasperated, Kharagpur agriculturist Dutt said, 'No milk! You're useless! Time for you to be taken away'.
'Taken away, but I've been giving milk for 14 years, and the whole Dutt family has drunk it, made it into cheese, yoghurt, butter and ghee every day. Why does he speak like this - is it memory loss or cow-abuse?' The cow's doe-like eyes became sad.
Just then farmer Dutt started up his tractor. He wanted to go to the lake, and preferred driving to riding Hayagriva his horse. 'I hope he's not using that noisy smelly thing just to go for a drive!' Hayagriva whisked his tail angrily.
Something made Dutt change his mind, however, and he set off downhill to the lake on foot. Suddenly, Govinda saw the tractor roll. Farmer Dutt had left the engine running and the machine was following him!
Govinda raced. How to warn farmer Dutt? The machine was hurtling behind him. Couldn?t he hear it?
It was too late for any warning. She ran across the hill as fast as her hooves would carry her, and bumped straight into him. He lurched sideways two yards, as the roaring tractor just missed them, whizzed past and plunged into the lake.
'I suppose I'll keep you now. Govinda, after all you did save my life,' the cultivator muttered, 'and Hayagriva is a lot quieter than that awful tractor. I think I'll ride him around.'
Deer, elephants, spiders, snakes, birds, bees, butterflies, and fish, are called gurus in the Bhagavata (11.7.33-35). One can also learn loyalty from a pet dog and a 'useless' cow.
People like George Orwell, who wrote the classic Animal Farm in 1945 (now being performed as a stage play in a central Beijing theatre), Walt Kelley (author of cartoon character Pogo Possum), Aesop, and the authors of Hitopadesh and Panchatantra have shown us that stories of thinking, talking animals can teach us all many lessons. Life-long education depends on our protecting cows, observing animals' behaviour and adhering to shastric wisdom.