Saturday, September 3, 2011

It’s a donkey’s life

When I watched the news of angry cricket fans pelting donkeys to protest against the alleged match-fixing by the Pakistani cricketers, with the photos and names of the players pasted on the donkeys’ heads, I just felt sorry for the poor animals. Come on! Why beat or scold the innocent creature when it did not indulge in corruption, match-fixing, floor-crossing or took bribes. We shower donkeys with rotten tomatoes and eggs and sometimes hang shoe necklace from their necks at protests, perhaps because the real culprits are at large and this humble animal is easy to reach. There is no harm in protesting but why are donkeys dragged into it every time? A more common habit among us is to label our friends and kids with names such as ‘donkey’ and ‘gadha’ when we witness some stupidity by them. Again, why blame the donkey? Did it do something stupid or asked that person to be a donkey? I really feel sorry for this innocent and humble animal. Donkeys are complex creatures, capable of many moods. They can be friendly, affectionate, independent, patient and even sad, and there is no questioning their intelligence. A donkey is as smart as any other animal around. Donkeys can be trained and tamed very well, and hardly become too wild to be handled by men. Though they are capable of kicking with both hind legs — what we call “dolatti” in Urdu, this is only when teased and their nerves are tested. A donkey doesn’t demand much attention but carries a lot of burden and can walk for miles. In simple terms, it is very economical to keep one as a beast of burden. Pakistan happens to have one of the largest populations of donkeys, around nine million. This low maintenance creature is used extensively for transport, whether riding or pulling carts. Donkey is mentioned in the Quran at seven places and a Hadith teaches us to recite ‘Astaghfaar’ and seek refuge upon hearing a donkey’s bray as Satan is present. Islam also teaches us to respect the rights of animals too but we seem to forget this and show no kindness to these beasts of burden. Islam also teaches us not to burden an animal beyond its capacity but we all have seen donkey carts full of heaps of goods and the animals being beaten harshly! Donkey carts, though slow, are a pollution-free means of transportation. But those who have a grudge against this poor creature are going to blame it for being slow. I think being slow is not as bad as the hazardous smoke and loud noise of our rickety buses and rickshaws. Cities like Karachi are famous for donkey cart races. Donkey carts, with their single riders guiding them masterfully on the streets of the city and making noise due to the pebble-filled cans attached to them, may be deemed dangerous by some residents. However, they are a unique Karachi feature and demonstrate the vibrancy present in the local communities. These races attract a lot of crowd and much money is made by the winners but the riders walk away with the cash and the donkeys only get grass to munch on. During the recent floods that hit Pakistan, donkeys were among the rescuers! Yes, Mr Donkey to the rescue! Due to vast destruction and inaccessibility of large areas, rescue work and aid was slow in reaching the flooded areas. As people were reaching out to the international community and aid agencies to help, the police guided 30 donkeys strapped with flour, rice, cooking oil and sugar along narrow, muddy tracks and mountain terrain to reach some villages. Looking at the so many good qualities and uses of this harmless creature, I must say that I admire the donkey, but I would like to apologise to it for the mistreatment it receives from us humans.

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