It was N.H.45 Highway near Villupuram, heavy traffic as usual.
The car was traversing at 70 km/h speed. Gokul started nagging his mother, ‘Mom, you’re driving it like a bullock cart… drive at 100 km/h speed.’
Although Selvi had that idea, she was scared. That was the first time she was driving to Sri Sarada Ashram at Ulundurpet which she visited quite often.
‘Alas! See, how many cars are overtaking us,’ said Gokul restlessly as he helplessly looked back and forth.
Looking at every vehicle passing by, the 15 year old Gokul frowned, ‘This one is going at 100 km/h speed and that must be going at 120 km/h.’
Prompted by his comment, Selvi attempted to get at 80km/h speed when suddenly a lorry from the side appeared in the front.
On the lorry were a lot of cows and bulls closely tied. The pathetic look of those animals was disgusting.
She tried to overtake the lorry. As she horned, the lorry driver noticed her through the rear view mirror. Haunted by the pride that he was about to be overtaken, that too by a woman, he refused passage.
There was no other way except going behind the lorry which was carrying the hapless animals.
Gokul’s attention was drawn towards the cattle.
It was a sweltering day in the peak of summer. It was a pity that those cattle had to travel standing as they were tied together. Unable to bear the heat, some had froth coming out of the mouth. Some became semi-conscious with their mouth wide open thirsting for water. Some of them displayed their agony through tears in their eyes.
‘Mom! Why do they torture them like this and where are they taking them?’ asked Gokul.
Selvi was equally disturbed. How to make him understand that they are on their way to slaughter house?
In a playful mood, the lorry driver again swerved the vehicle to the extreme right to prevent her from overtaking, in spite of her horning again. The exhaust fumes from the lorry added to her irritation.
‘You brainless scoundrel,’ she shouted angrily. Gokul, seating in the front, was watching the cattle.
Gokul felt sympathetic and asked, ‘Look, mom! That bull is looking at me. Poor one, it feels so thirsty. We will give water to all of them from our 10 litre water container.’
Selvi did not say anything as she continued to horn.
The nagging Gokul continued, ‘See, mom! The rope tied on that hornless bull is stuck around its nose, won’t it be painful?’
The rear of the lorry displayed the typical words ‘Horn OK Please’, which confused both of them thinking simultaneously in different contexts.
‘Look, mom! That black one is looking at me and asking something.’
She horned again, the lorry swerved once again…
‘How terrible? Can one be so brutal like this?’ thought Selvi disturbed.
‘Mom! In this heat, not even a shade for these cattle. We cannot even stand for four minutes. Quickly overtake and stop before the lorry, mom. We will catch them and hand them over to the police,’ blurted Gokul unable to control his anger.
His mother tried to pacify him.
‘Gokul, you will feel bad if I say this. It is their fate,’ Selvi hesitatingly told him, ‘people eat these bulls.’
‘Why? When so much is available for people to eat, why should they kill these poor creatures?’ asked Gokul in frustration.
The angry Selvi horned again as she tried to overtake the lorry. She told Gokul, ‘These animals become prey to the greed of human food habits. Not satisfied with vegetables, man started eating leg-less fish. Then, the two-legged chicken. Prior to that, the eggs. Not satisfied with two-legged ones, he looked for four-legged animals. Now to appease his gruesome hunger, these bulls are getting killed.’
After listening, Gokul was shocked and became silent for a while and then said, ‘Don’t horn, mom! We will go behind them. It looks as if these cattle are talking to me…’
Selvi appreciated her son’s maturity to understand the merciless nature of human beings and accept the reality.
‘Gokul, if you are hungry, take the fruits from the basket. Use the knife carefully,’ Selvi said.
‘No, mom! I don’t want. You just now said. I will not become one like those greedy eaters.’
Selvi expressed her happiness by caressing his head with her left hand as she drove along.
The car stopped at the traffic signal. Gokul hurriedly took some fruits from the basket, lowered the glasses and threw them towards the lorry for the sake of feeding the cattle.
Alas! They fell on the back of one of the bulls. Not one got them!
‘Don’t do like that,’ Selvi stopped him. Other drivers were looking at Gokul’s action as a childish prank and entertained themselves. Car started moving.
Having counted the cattle, Gokul started worrying, ‘See, mom! They have tied up 25 bulls in this small place. If he applies brake suddenly, they all will fall on the road.’ She could not console him any further.
‘Gokul, pray that these cattle get better birth next time,’ said Selvi.
Immediately, Gokul reverentially touched the small photos of Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Sarada Devi pasted on the dashboard.
‘Normally, this fellow would hesitate to pray even when told, but now he is doing it himself,’ thought the amazed mother.
With the inquisitiveness of his age, Gokul retorted to his mother, ‘Why next birth, mom! Can’t we do something to them right now?’
The lorry was cruising with a loud noise as it turned to the right side. While turning, the horn of a bigger bull brushed against the body of a smaller one and it cried in agony; that part became red.
‘That driver is a rogue,’ said Gokul angrily. He kept narrating as if he understood the agony of every bull. Selvi was awestruck.
‘So much mercy within him! Is it because he is named Gokul (pastoral Krishna) that he is all merciful to these bulls?!’
The lorry now whizzed into a side lane deviating from the main road. The bus drivers coming from the opposite side abused the lorry driver as they drove past.
Selvi followed the lorry from a safe distance of 20 feet away. Her intuition indicated her that something terrible was going to happen.
It was a dusty and badly laid road. Unmindful of these conditions, the lorry driver was speeding at 70 km/h. Seeing another lorry rushing from the opposite direction, he tried to turn hither and thither. Oh, my God! B A N G…. The driver applied the brake all on a sudden. The lorry slid into a pit and came to a halt after hitting a tree.
The bulls got panicky and cried in extreme fear and pain. They tried to jump over unaware that they were tied together.
Selvi now drove past the lorry and stopped. She ran down with the water bottle in hand. She found that the cleaner of the lorry was also drunk. She sprinkled water on the driver’s face.
‘Madam, I told him umpteen number of times not to get drunk while driving. This wretched fellow, not only drank, but also made me drink, and now has hit against the tree,’ said the cleaner profusely abusing the driver. Then he added, ‘Thanks, madam. Please carry on. We will repair the vehicle.’
There was no danger to their lives, not even bruises, and the lorry too had escaped from any major damage. Sensing that there was nothing more for her to do, Selvi moved on.
As she reached the car, she became restless when she realized that Gokul was not in the car. She began to look around. Gokul was standing nearby with a gracious look.
She furiously asked, ‘Where did you go without helping these people in distress?’
Gokul winked his eyes, carefully folded the knife in his hand, and pointed his finger to a sticker on the rear side of the car which had Swami Vivekananda’s golden words, ‘Be Brave. You can achieve anything.’
Selvi could not understand anything. Looking at the knife in his hand, she thought he had eaten the fruits and she started the car to continue the journey.
As they passed by the lorry, Gokul lowered the window glass, waved his hands to the driver, and said with a mischievous smile, ‘Bye, driver uncle!’
The driver gave him a blank look and subsequently recovered from drunkenness. As he began to drive the lorry, he was surprised that the vehicle was moving so smoothly. Sensing something is amiss, he became restless and called, ‘Hey, Gopaalu! What is this? The lorry is effortlessly climbing up?’ He then looked behind and was utterly shocked. The cattle were running away to save their lives.
Gokul brought this scene to his mother’s attention and smiled triumphantly. Selvi looked at Gokul with pride.
Source: Speaking Flute (Book)
Sri Ramakrishna Math