It feels terrible at times, to be honest. You know that feeling? You make plans, come up with grand ideas and theories, to win the world over, seven times in a row and then Life, or God, or whatever the higher forces are decide to loosen the belts around their waist, drop their trousers down and take a big fat dump right on them. It is a little disheartening really. I mean after the initial thrill that the planning gives and the expectations that it brings along with it, seeing it all fall apart is akin to getting into bed with a beautiful female, having all the foreplay and dirty talk and then coming within moments of getting in. That sucks. So does life.
‘What the fuck is this place? Where am I?’I thought the same thing once again after my cursory random wanderings were cut short by the huge guard who, after having rather unceremoniously hauled me out of the big truck I was being bumped along in, threw me on the ground. Joint by joint as a carpenter’s rule opens I lifted myself, groggy and nauseated from the chloroform. My senses were still coming to terms with the place and the harsh neon lights made me feel like I was in a brothel in Grant Road’s infamous Kamathipura red light district.
When I understood, vaguely, where I was, I immediately checked for stitches near my kidneys. Both Ma and Pa (God bless their kind souls) had warned me about strangers who would drug you and rob your kidney and leave you disoriented in the middle of nowhere. The industrial lighting, the disinfectant swabbed floors and the gleaming metal of the huge complex I was in, felt just like that - the middle of nowhere. ‘Thank God, or Life, or the higher forces (whoever they are). My kidneys are intact.’
The joy of my kidneys still being mine was replaced by the two men mumbling furiously. Something about slim pickings. Something that there were only the two of us today. The chloroform in its waning stages gave me another headshot and this time I vomited on the floor. That won me another kick on the bum. I squealed much to the guard's delight and my misery.
Today is Saturday. A week ago I was happily dreaming about my well laid plans. Going to Hollywood, meeting Porky Pig and Babe, and hopefully go to New York after that to start my career as a stand-up comic. For an ordinary pig like me from the salty marshlands of Vasai near Mumbai that was a big dream. I was even getting the hang of the process to apply for an American visa and was putting my papers in order for that.
Little do I now realise that putting papers in order has become a literal metaphor for me in this industrial complex.
The rogue-looking fellow, after kicking me on my bum swore a variety of colourful abuses questioning the virtues of my Ma (God rest her good soul) and my sister (who I last heard of, had run off with someone and had boarded a ship for Europe). My bum hurts now. The fellow has asked me to march on quickly. I am not scared, just saddened about not being able to go to Hollywood.
The guard goads me on with another kick to my well rounded posterior. I have a good hind. I don’t like kicks on my bum. I begin to walk.
My misery turned to absolute delight when I saw the endless lines of cows and pigs hung on gleaming meat hooks embedded deep in their rear. Many moons ago when I was growing up Ma told me, ‘When piggies die they go to the Meat Factory. That is our Heaven.’ Although two things puzzled me. First, I didn’t know that cows were allowed in ‘Piggy Heaven’. Secondly, I am pretty sure I felt those kicks to my ass and that means I am not dead yet, so what the fuck was I doing in Heaven?
A few paces further down, I got the answers I wanted. There was a gleaming blade mounted vertically. They are called Band Saws. In the summer vacation of 2010, when I had gone to Uncle Tom’s Farm, where he also had a cabin he had told me about them. Uncle Tom was my Pa’s older brother and he had a respectable farm and cabin in Khandala, which is a two-hour drive from Mumbai. I never heard from Uncle Tom after that vacation. Pa told me a few days later, that Uncle Tom just lived on the farm and the man who owned it, had sent him to Piggy Heaven to be chopped by the band saw.
Anyway, sorry to drift off. The band saw, with its gleaming blades in the neon lights looked grim. I don’t like grim. I trudged wearily. I swear I could almost see the saw going ‘Muhahahaha’ on me as I walked by past it.
Oh well that is that. That is how the best laid plans get thrown out of the window. And from America to a rather sadistic looking band saw everything had taken a nose dive. Sitting in a huge industrial room, which is called a cage, I feel bored. I am telling you, the JW Marriott in Bandra is better than this one. The guard actually told me laughing that this is the Marriott’s presidential suite for pigs.
Huh. Not much furniture in here. I think he hasn’t really seen a big hotel. The guards laughed somewhere in the distant background. The effect of the chloroform had nearly worn out and I was back to my normal senses again. Pig senses are better than spider senses. I don’t really know why Stan Lee never considered getting Peter Parker bitten by a radioactive pig. I guess somehow Pig-man didn’t sound as enterprising as Spiderman. There was something about Porker Ham, but I don’t think that lasted beyond the pilot project stage. A faint sound of a huge animal moaning softly barged through my Pig senses and disintegrated any thoughts of a radioactive, pig-based comic. I looked around more carefully for the first time and realised that the industrial cage was a lot bigger than I had imagined; crouched in a corner lay someone, or something, breathing heavily. I had no weapons to arm myself with save my shiny teeth hidden smugly under my snout and my little pig hoofs. I remembered Capt. Kirk of Star Trek and his team and how they ventured into the unknowns and I felt emboldened. Taking a deep breath myself I ventured into the unknown darkness, albeit cautiously.
Who is it? I asked once again. Caution giving way to fear, giving way to partial anger. I had ventured into the darker corners of the cage, which unlike the darker corners of the World Wide Web was really, really dark. I can say with some surety that the animal in front was at least three times my size and had a quarter of my own pluck. After waiting for a bit more, I threw a screw which had been lying unscrewed on the floor of the cage and yelled ‘Screw you’ at the huge beast. Almost instantaneously the huge thing leaped in my direction and began begging for mercy. I jumped, squealed, regained my composure all in a split second only to see a magnificent looking cow trying to lie prostrate in front of me with outstretched hooves resembling a ‘Namaste’ almost praying.
Come on up. No need to pray. I am just a pig. I said. The words seemed to have the desired effect on her. She sprang to her feet, with an air of moral superiority and brushed me aside and said, ‘How dare you touch me?’
Relax. We are both screwed. See the blades? I pointed in the direction of the Band Saw. Those will be for us in the morning. Calm down.
Hysteria overcame her air of superiority again and she fell down with a resounding thud and began sobbing. Now, now, I consoled. It really isn’t that bad. My ma says, this is Piggy Heaven. And even cows are now welcome here. Tomorrow morning we will be sitting on a cloud and will play the harp.
She yelled again, amidst the sobs. ‘Stay away, unclean animal. You and your kind are not meant to be in Swarg* (Heaven). You and your polluted kind represent the devil. I am clean. I am worshipped by the Hindus, and it is sacrilege to even let a Pig roam near me,’ she mooed.
Oh yeah, well then why are you here, your Cowness? Shouldn’t you be amongst the worshippers, being fed with hay and grass and oil cakes and other delicacies, in return for the people worshipping you and even drinking and sprinkling your urine as though it were the nectar of immortality? I replied.
I am pissed off now. I mean hey, I know I am a pig and I live in marshlands and all that. But I have seen the people from the West swear by their Ham, Pork, and Bacon. Besides aren’t Pigs more popular than Cows? I don’t remember seeing any cow have his own show on Cartoon Network. And how many cows even thought of actually saving the world? She and her urine can pretty freaking go to Pig Hell.
Where are you going? She asked me. This time, voice softening. I think she heard me speak to myself pretty clearly. Maybe I didn’t disguise my disgust for her thoughts, or I think I spoke out loudly. Whatever it was, it had the effect on her.
Back to my end of the JW Marriott Presidential suite.
She looked puzzled. I figured just like the guards she too didn’t know about it. Because I am essentially a good pig at heart, I explained her about the JW Marriott joke, she smiled a little, then hardened her expressions, trying to be all Sphinx like. The truth was far away from that. I mean even she knew had I walked away in abandonment she would have literally shit her pants. That is if she wore pants. That pant thing reminded me of the whole Donald Duck quandary. You know how he never wears pants, but whenever he walks out of a bathroom he has a towel wrapped around his waist. What the fuck is that?
I sat down maintaining a little respectful distance away from her, owing to the whole unclean, untouchable thing that she kept hankering about.
I realise something now about human beings here in India. They are divided over religion, caste, creed and cultures, but want to portray this out worldly face of unity, liberty and fraternity. Cow herself is a victim of this hypocrisy I feel. Although to verify that I will have to test my hypothesis. Let me try.
It was over two hours since we had come in. I realised it because one of the clocks in the mosque nearby chimed to signal the time. If my memory is not wrong, as it always is, I believe the unruly man kicked me on my rump at 12:30 am. Or maybe it was a quarter to one. Anyway the time was three am now. Two hours to sunrise and two hours to playing the harp alongside those pretty piggy maidens, that is if they allowed me into Piggy Heaven. Cow had ranted for over two hours. She was born in Central India in a wealthy farmer household. Had access to the good life. You know the hay and the good fodder and all that. She was all set to get married to this dude, ‘Very Handsome Ox’ and life looked rosy, but a few one night stands later, the farmer found out she was incapable of bearing calves or something like that. It is a very ‘Indian’ problem. If a female cannot bear any children then the fault is usually with her. The Ox found someone else, and she found my company with a Band Saw in tow for the grand finale.
I guess people never forget their first loves or their dreams. I think I have the memory of an ant. Besides I don’t really care for things much now. Nicholas Cage, in the motion picture ‘Lord of War’ said, ‘That is the key to survival. Never go to war with the self.’ I believe that fully. I contemplated patting her. Then I didn’t know if she would be fine with a lowly fellow, as she described me, doing that. I decided to concentrate my energies on a huge bowl of food that was kept within one hoof distance from the cage. I finished it all up and burped. That felt nice. Way better than this patting, petting business, I tell you.
Cow began sobbing again. And amidst the ‘Why Me’ and ‘this is not fair’ she tried, rather unsuccessfully to break the cage bars by ramming against them. She managed to hurt her hooves and I think the pain got to her and she sat down, crying this time more about the injury rather than her disownment and heartbreak. Females are wired differently, and even their plumbing is different. If you ask me it is enough to even drive a sane pig insane.
I first cajoled, then pleaded, then finally yelled at her to stop crying. Stunned she tried to retaliate but she was feeling hopeless from the kicking and the crying so she just sat down and mumbled.
For a second time she went on ranting again about how cows were worshipped as Gods and they weren’t supposed to be killed. Well if we are granting wishes then I want rock hard abs, a million dollars, and a giant pig shaped mansion with pretty piggies in it dressed as bunnies. I mean how hard is it to understand simple things? People die. Animals die. People get their hearts broken. Animals get their hearts broken. For a second time I explained the same thing. Logic and common sense are expensive. It doesn’t come easily. I know I sound rude but her caterwauling was getting to me. I didn’t want to spend the last few hours babysitting someone five times my size. She continued to mumble about heartless humans. For all her mumbling, the line about humans being heartless struck me the most. There was something in it that got me thinking.
There is this whole beef ban thing going on in the country now, you know. Apparently eating cows can land you in jail. In my home state of Maharashtra you get a prison term of five years now for eating, or smuggling or selling beef. But sexual harassment with a female human being gets you only two years. I can understand a little why cow was unhappy. There was a joke a few days back, where the educated, forward-thinking lot of humans said that cows were safer than the female human beings. Clearly not Cow, who is with me here, but some of them are. At least in the eyes of the general public.
As we continued our mooing and squealing, the recent murder in Dadri came up. Looking very vengeful, she said that she had put a curse on her body, and on her meat. Anyone who ate it would be stoned to death. I laughed. Not about the murder but the issue. So a bunch of right wing Hindu activists, barged into a 51-year-old man’s house and brutally beat him to death. The mob had been instigated by the activists who claimed he had slaughtered a calf and eaten it. The cops who came in later on (as always), decided to send the meat to a forensic lab rather than arrest the culprits.
Cow reminded me of the fear she would strike in the hearts of people who ate her meat. After I had finished guffawing again, I calmly reminded her that one of the members of the legislative assembly, also a lawyer, who said he would defend the accused in the Dadri incident tooth and nail and bail them out of the ‘innocent mistake’, was the owner of a meat factory just like the one where we were in. Irony abounds in India. Hypocrisy abounds here too. And so does religion.
It is a strange time in this nation. Forget the dreams of wannabe stand-up comedian pigs, but things have changed. Tolerance has left this land, and you cannot escape the collateral damage. Always the collateral damage. Honestly speaking, it has never been there. Or maybe it has. I don’t care. Or maybe I am too numb to care. I wish there is peace someday. Someday when they accept everyone just for who they are. And people can eat anything. I also wish everyone learns to love and be peaceful. And since we are wishing, I really hope they give me better food and better air conditioning in Heaven. I want to go to McDonald’s too. And maybe eat that famous hamburger of theirs. Will that make me a cannibal? Who cares really? Its food right. Pigs from the Middle East don’t go to Heaven I guess. Thank God for India.
I reminded Cow that it was nearly time for us. The two rogue-looking men came in too. They looked calm and peaceful as compared to last night. Or maybe I had reached a Zen Nirvana state (whatever that is) to give a fuck. Cow had stopped sobbing. She had relieved herself in front of the two rogues indicating her anger and walked out with an air of superiority. I didn’t get kicks but I was yanked out myself. With emotionless faces we walked.
En route Cow spoke to me in a very friendly manner for the first time. “What are you singing?” she asked.
Hallowed be thy name, by Iron Maiden. It’s a song about a guy who is on the death row and is going to die now. It seems fitting for the occasion. I replied
She replied with a very pensive sounding ‘Hmm’. That word really riles me up. I don’t like ‘Hmms’. I never know what they mean. It drives me mad thinking, whether it means, ‘Ohh yeah I see your point’, or ‘Oh man you are such a prize dumbfuck’. I frowned at her.
“Hey guess what? I took the curse off my body,” she said, sounding half excited and half peaceful. Good for you, I said. I wasn’t as hep I guess, to put curses on my body. But I did evict a few fleas off my body. God dammed lousy tenants. It felt so much more relaxing evicting them.
Cow had apparently found her luck back. She actually told me that if I were an Ox, we could have had a future perhaps. It made me feel nice. I know for a fact that if she was a pig I would have definitely humped her. Males, I tell you. They usually have just one thing on their minds. They are so predictable. So ordinary. Females on the other hand have a way around things. Around everything. Let’s just say they put the extra, in ordinary.
We were being segregated now, into two different lines headed for a common destination. “Meat hook,” she said and winked at me. Touché, I winked back.
In the far distance, the gears of the Band Saw bought it to life.