While my car was getting serviced, I walked into a multiplex this morning in order to while away the three hours demanded by the service provider. My wife suggested watching a movie and the ticket was available for the Malayalam movie, Godha.
Godha is just an average movie about the sport of wrestling which is dying in Kerala. There are a few individuals in a village who still live with nostalgic memories about the wrestling trophies they had won in their youth. Into their midst walks a young girl, Aditi, from Punjab. Aditi is a wrestler. She revives the akhara and brings laurels to the village and the state.
There’s a bit of romance to add the necessary spice to the plot. Anjaneya Das, the protagonist, had gone to Punjab to study where he met Aditi. It’s that connection which brings Aditi to Das’s village. While Das is in Punjab he tells a companion about what beef means to the people of Kerala. “It’s not just a dish,” he says, “beef is a sentiment for the people of Kerala.” Listening to the description, the companion goes in search of beef roast in Punjab and gets beaten up by people who ask him, “The cow is our mother and you want to eat her?”
The city supplements of today’s Times of India is dedicated to the ‘beef sentiments’ of the people of Kerala. The headline is taken from the movie mentioned above: For Malayalis, beef is not just a food but a sentiment. The movie was released much before the Modi (government) of India banned beef in the country for all practical purposes. I watched the movie purely by chance: just because I couldn’t get a ticket for Bahubali 2 or some other movie. I loved the coincidences, however.
I was reminded of what Swami Vivekananda said in response to a question about beef eating. “There was a time in this very India when, without eating beef, no Brahmin could remain a Brahmin; you read in the Vedas how, when a Sannyasin, a king, or a great man came into a house, the best bullock was killed; how in time it was found that as we were an agricultural race, killing the best bulls meant annihilation of the race. Therefore the practice was stopped, and a voice was raised against the killing of cows.”
Killing of bulls and cows was banned in the country because of a practical requirement: to prevent the “annihilation of the race.” Not because of religious reasons. So when did religion enter into the business? Obviously, when politics found a convenient scapegoat in the cow.
I lived in Delhi for a decade and a half and was struck by the sheer callous indifference of people as well as authorities towards the cows that roamed the streets eating whatever they could get from garbage dumps. Of course, there were occasional devotees or some such people who offered food to the cows. Generally the cows were a neglected lot. So when I hear the war cries on behalf of cows today, I wonder what the warmongers did for the cows on the streets. If their love for the animal is genuine, why don’t they take care of them in the first place?
I live in Kerala now. But I never bought beef in the last two years except once. Today, however, while returning home after the movie I stopped at a meat shop and asked for beef. The owner who has kept pictures of about half a dozen Hindu gods on the walls of the shop told me with a pregnant smile, “Beef was sold out at ten today. Unusual.”
“Is it because of the ban?” I asked.
“Could be. Forbidden food is tastier, isn’t it?”
I smiled because what he said was more true about me than about his other buyers probably.
Coincidentally, again, the book which I’m currently reading is Standstill Utopias? Dalits Encountering Christianity by Jose Maliekal. The book is about the Madiga people in the Telugu country. These people earned their livelihood by skinning dead cows and making leather products. They even ate the flesh of the dead cows and bulls which were given to them by the higher caste people. There are many such communities of people in other states too. What do such people do now?
Just like the demonetisation exercise which was carried out whimsically and achieved little significant purpose, this beef politics will also probably end up achieving little but creating a lot of ruckus in the country. The people of Kerala, at least, have openly shown their reistance. Yesterday they held beef fests all over the state. Even the law makers and law keepers of the state were seen consuming beef openly.
I don’t wish to jump to conclusions. But the BJP may do well to use the grey matter a little more than the saffron.
Maybe, the BJP has ulterior motives. Rumours have already been set afoot in Kerala that a temple in Malappuram district (a predominantly Muslim area) has been desecrated. Let us not forget that this is how most communal riots began in the country. The coincidence of beef ban with the beginning of Ramadan also smells ominous.
The national borders are resounding too. The avalanches on the Himalayas are waiting to roll down. Ominously.