Simba is sad - With their paws selling for as less as Rs. 500, how many Simbas will ultimately grow up to rule the jungle?
Train Number - 2142
Journey - From Patna to Mumbai
Date - June 12th, 2010
The train is somewhere in the border area of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, (most probably in the territory of Maharashtra, although I am not 100% sure of it) when this hawker comes into my compartment S10. She is a lady, looks tribal, is obese and is carrying a home-made, dirty, cloth bag on her right shoulder and is trying to sell a white colour round object that she claims is the nabhi of the Kasturi Hiran (Musk Deer?). I have just woken up after my afternoon sleep in the Side Upper berth and am still sleepy. But the name of Kasturi Hiran is more than enough to jolt me back into the world of reality. I ask her to hand that over to me so that I could see it for myself.
The object is pale white, is very-very soft due to the fur that surrounds it and has a small dark spot on one side. And it does smell great.
Kahan se late ho ye sab? I ask the lady.
Jungle se chunte hain. Hiran ke pet se nabhi gir jaata hai. Wahi hum uthate hain aur bechate hain. She replies.
Hiran ko marate bhi ho iske liye?
Nahi. Jo gir jaata hai khud-ba-khud wahi uthate hain.
I remember hearing a number of childhood stories where Kasturi Hiran keeps running all over the Jungle in the search of the sweet smell that surrounds it, but is never able to find the source of it, which in fact lies not outside it, but inside. This is often compared to the search of man for God wherein he keeps looking all over the world, builds temples, mosques, churches, et all for the said purpose and wages bloody battles on those who follow religions different from his own, never realising the fact that God resides inside him and not outside.
But this is for the first time in my life that I am actually holding the body part of the said deer which is responsible for the restlessness of the beautiful creature.
The smell is so great that I am tempted to purchase one for myself. But I am not very sure of her claim that they just pick up those pieces that fall out naturally from its body and do not kill the animal in order to acquire it. Moreover, I am not sure whether the nabhi does fall naturally at all.
Thankfully, no one in my cubicle buys the stuff either.
But wait! The lady has other things to offer as well.
She fishes out a small plastic jar from her bag and offers nails of some animal to the public. She claims they are the nails of the lion cubs whom they catch in the jungle, take the nail out from the paw of the baby and then leave it alive. The object that she is offering for Rs. 500 a pair is a single small, very sharp nail covered by soft, brown fur and in order to actually touch the nail, you have to remove the fur that is surrounding it.
Suddenly all her claims about not killing the Kasturi Hiran to procure the nabhi seems dubious. After all, how can you simply catch a baby lion, take the nails out of its paws and leave it back in the jungle? What are the chances that the poor creature will survive the injury which is bound to get infected and cause greater harms to it especially at a time when its natural immunity is still not properly developed? And why only take the nails of the cub, when you can actually take the complete skin which will no doubt fetch you a far higher price in the black markets of the wild animal body parts? Why be so generous to the baby cub?
She persuades me to buy a pair which I refuse continuously. However, the man on the upper berth opposite to me seems interested and bargains on the price. I try to persuade him not to buy. I try to put across my point by saying that there are only around a thousand tigers left in India today and that we should not buy the body parts of wild animals and encourage their poaching. But he hears me not, goes ahead and buys a pair for just Rs. 50!
Ridiculous! What peanuts are we ready to kill non-human species for?
However, the whole incident did have a lesson for me. It showed how easy it is to write blogs and forward emails to your friends asking them not to buy stuff made of body parts of wild animals and how immensely difficult it is to persuade even a single man from actually buying it in the real world. Especially, when all that you have to pay for the prized possession is just Rs 50.
Going at this rate, how long will it be before we lose all our tigers and lions and other beautiful creatures for all times to come?