When cows had separate toilets
When most villages in India still lack proper toilets, when movies like Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, goes viral, we bring Shubhasish Maitra's story of Hari Ghosh and his huge cow shed.
It was not just any shed but one that kept expanding in girth as more and more cows joined, necessitating land expansion for accommodating them. Soon it became a country and by natural norm, Hari Babu aka Hari Ghosh took the mantle in his hand and became the Prime Minister of the bovine-land.
I bumped into Haribabu at Prinsep Ghat recently. I noticed an old man in a turban, facing the river and humming Hori din toh gelo/ Sandhya holo/ Paar karo amare (God, I have reached the twilight years of my life, please help me cross over to the other side of life). I was curious, so I went to him and introduced myself. Soon we got talking and I realized he was a treasure-trove of stories. Here I am reproducing one of his tales exactly the way he told me.
It was long long ago. I had crores of cows in my bovine country. All of them were pristine white cows, quite unike the ones you often come across, with brown or dark patches spattered on them. In my state, all cows were fair and looked similar. The cow owners were levied taxes based on the number of cows they owned: greater the number, higher the tax amount. After all, cows were our only source of revenue and they were revered as our mother.
We had a Moo Akademi like your Bangla Akademi, to study cow language. High-breed cows went around with interpreters. Those who mastered bovine language were highly respected. Many draped sarees around their cows and respected them as their mother. It was then, I had initiated the 'Swachchha Desh' (Clean Country) plan and doled out crores of cash from the state treasury to build separate toilets for cows. One of my businessman friends, who traded in mobile phones made huge profits by supplying special commodes suitable for cows. I would be busy most of the time staying abroad and paid brief visits to the country. Anyway, everything was running smooth, when I discovered that many big-time cow hoarders, in a move to evade high taxes levied on them, painted their white cows black and sent them to safe custody abroad. I was aware that cash is deposited in banks but I discovered Swiss banks had options for depositing black cows as well! They would scrub and clean the black cows and return them to the owners!
In an effort to please my subjects, I announced my decision to collect and bring back all the tainted cows, scrub and clean them white and then distribute them among citizens. I assured each one would get at least 100 cows. People were elated but by then I realized my folly. It was practically not feasible. Next, I decided to implement Plan B. I announced my decision to reject all white cows and ordered to release them in the wild.
There was a provision for those who were willing to bring their cows to us, we would exchange and give them brand new white cows with the Swachchha Desh slogan stamped on them. People came in hoards with their old white cows and happily exchanged them with new ones. We amassed large number of old white cows, who were taken to the deep jungles and released in the wild.
This trend went on for months, nay years. Banks went on exchanging cows and gradually, one by one, they all shut down for good. We then installed ACM (Automatic Cow Machine) at every street corner. One could approach these machines, dig ditches to put the old cows and take delivery of the new ones with Swachchha Desh inscribed on them, instantly. Exchange of cows continued through the ACM and we went on releasing old cows in the wild. Meanwhile, the jungles became overcrowded with cows and they exceeded wild animals. Now the meek bovines began attacking wild animals in packs and consumed all lions, tigers, elephants, rhinos, hippos, crocodiles etc and turned into ferocious carnivores.
They forgot to communicate in their sweet bovine language and instead started emulating the tiger's roar as they marched towards human localities. Meanwhile, some miscreants wrote the Swachchha Desh slogan on the old cows and this led to total mix-up between the old cows and the new ones. The new ones quickly got initiated to the aggression of the old ones and turned into carnivores. Pandemonium ensued and my state's economy went for a toss. A dejected Haribabu smoothed the gunny bag lying next to him as he looked the other way, lost in his thoughts. I was curious to find about the content of the gunny bag he was guarding so zealously. When I asked him, he looked at me wistfully and said it contained a few pieces of the broken and crumpled economy that he could gather. "Let's see if I can manage to join the pieces together to complete the jigsaw puzzle," he wiped his eyes dolefully.