article was first published in Horizon, Winter, 1965, volume
vii, number 1. The views are the writer's own. Writer Denis
Shaw was rector of St. Wilfrid's a downtown parish in Manchester,
England. Before his ordination, in 1959, he spent ten years
in India and Pakistan, where he studied Hinduism, taught English,
ran a tea estate, and had charge of a paddle steamer on the
Ganges. He has also been an actor, a stage manager, and a journalist.
is no easy job running an animal welfare society in Pakistan.
When I was general secretary of the Society for Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals for Eastern Pakistan, I found myself in some
very rum situation. I shall always remember, for instance, the
uncomfortable half-hour I had trying to explain to my honorary
president, who happened to be the Governor's wife, that my plan
for the humane killing of the diseased and homeless dogs that
infested the bazaars could not be met by sending an army of
municipal sweepers out to wallop the dogs on the back of the
neck with hockey sticks.
it is very swift and painless," she assured me. "I
had a demonstration in the garden yesterday."
the most awkward problem arose when I looked out from my bedroom
verandah one morning and saw a carriage driver beating his horse.
I lived in an unfashionable part of Dacca (Dhaka), the capital
of East Pakistan, in the shadow of Jehangir's fort, and the
address of my house was Islamabad Villa, Light-of-Victory Lane.
Light-of-Victory Lane was no more than a rough track which played
havoc with my car in the monsoon season, and which separated
Islamabad Villa from the maidan (the common). On the common
was a "tank," or large artificial pond, made, probably,
a few hundred years ago. In it the local people bathed, washed
their clothes, scrubbed their buffaloes, and watered their horses.
horse which I saw as I was doing my deep-breathing exercises
that morning was a pathetic creature: she was skin and bones,
and when her rascally owner, a big, evil-looking man, struck
her with a stick, there was a sound as of wood upon wood.
saw you beating that horse," I said in my stumbling Bengali,
"and it can be seen by all that you do not feed her. You
will hear from me again." He did not know that I was the
"Animal Cruelty Sahib" so his reply was unconcerned,
terse, and offensive. I went to the back of the carriage and
took down his municipal registration number from his painted
tin plate. He had to have one of those. I was then that I became
conscious of my dressing gown and pajamas, and marched back,
with what I hoped was some sort of dignity, to Islamabad Villa.
morning my two uniformed inspectors reported for duty. One of
them had the official status of a policeman and he had powers
of arrest. I gave him the number of the offending carriage driver
and told him to go into action.
days later he was able to report that justice had been done.
My evidence about the beating of the horse had not been necessary
because the creature was so obviously in a state of chronic
neglect and ill-treatment. The man had been fined as heavily
as the law allowed. When I returned to my house that evening,
as my car heaved and bumped along the ruts of Light-of-Victory
Lane, I heard a strange sound. A high-pitched wailing, the grief
of many voices.
had visitors, about twenty of them: some women, shrouded in
dirty-white burkas and wailing uninhibitedly and many small
children who were all dry-eyed but their faces were screwed
up with frowning concentration. They were all sitting outside
in the middle of them, like a chorus master at a community hymn-singing
session, was the carriage driver, urging them on. At an upper
window of my house, wearing wide grins of astonished delight,
stood my servants. They loved nothing better than to see the
sahib in some sort of embarrassing situation. There was nothing
unfriendly about this; it was just that these experiences were
one of the delights of working for that extraordinary race,
are all these people?" I asked the carriage driver.
are my family, sahib," he said, "and you are their
mother and father."
certainly am not, " I said, "and they are stopping
me from getting my car through the gate."
are their mother and father, sahib," he repeated, an expression
of indescribably villainous humility contorting his face, "and
you have taken the bread from their mouths. These are my wives
and my children, and they will now starve."
crowd had fallen silent to attend to this conversation, but
he rounded on them murmuring something I couldn't catch, and
the keening rose to the skies with renewed fervour.
this time there was a large crowd of onlookers. Everybody who
had been doing his evening washing, all the idlers and strollers
and those who had been taking an evening meal in a little bamboo
tea-shop nearby, had gathered round.
is very bad talk," said one of them, "that an unbe
is doing zulum to a son of Pakistan." zulum is oppression,
and a very useful word in a dispute. "He's a good sahib,"
said my driver loyally, if rather feebly, but the fact that he
spoke Urdu and not Bengali was enough to disqualify him as an
advocate. There was a rumble of disapproval from the onlookers,
and the wailing women and children redoubled their efforts.
only one thing to do. I asked the carriage driver to come into
the garden, and Nizamuddin closed the gate behind us. Away from
his audience the man came immediately to the point. "You
must buy that horse, sahib. You have caused me to be fined most
cruelly. That horse is too unhealthy for me to use her again
with safety. Her condition is hopeless now that you have arranged
for the court to say she is sick. But you sahib, love that horse,
Allah knows why, and therefore you must buy her. I shall then
get another horse, my family will not starve, and they will
pray for your long life."
seemed unanswerable. We agreed on a price of about three pounds
("too much!" my servants told me afterward with glee),
and the horse was led into the garden while the women and children
she was difficult to handle and to feed. She was so accustomed
to ill-treatment that she had only to see a human hand coming
near her and she snapped viciously. Soon, however, she learned
that human hands meant friendly pats, or meals of soaked lentils,
or lumps of rough brown sugar. She became a great pet. She was
christened Rosie, because the children of friend declared that
she was obviously the original of the drawings of Rosinante,
in their copy of Don Quixote. But even with good feeding and
rest she was still not able to take a man's weight. But she
could take children, and she soon agreed to give rides to my
friend's children when they visited me.
problem arose as a result of my new pet. A few days after she
arrived, I spoke to my gardener. "This is very good,"
I said, "that we now have a horse. The manure will be even
better for the compost pit than the bull's droppings. Each day
you must collect it and put in the pit." He looked at me
with sullen horror and walked off without speaking. Later in
the day I received a petition, through my khitmatghar, or butler.
It was from the gardener, but he had it written, at no small
expense, I guessed, by a professional letter, writer, in English.
due respect and humble submission," it began, as they always
do, "your poor gardener, Lal Mohun, wishes to place before
you the following facts for your merciful consideration."
The petition went on for about three foolscap pages, and the
gist of it was as follows.
like most of his calling, was a Hindu, and was therefore bound
by the laws of caste. His was a minority group in Pakistan,
but as he pointed out, the minority groups had been guaranteed
religious freedom by the government. "Now, however,"
the petition ran, "your Good Self is depriving your poor
servant of his religious freedom." I was appalled, and
read on in growing astonishment. It was true, I was told, that
the gardener had been "ever joyful to pick up each day
the dung of the sahib's bull," but then the bull was a
sacred animal and the vehicle of the Lord Shiva himself, and
its dung was one of the sacred products. A horse was different.
It was not sacred, and its dung was just dung. The work of picking
it up was the work of a casteless remover of dung, an untouchable,
"which", the petition ended, "kindly note and
ever oblige your humble and obedient gardener and servant, Lal
Mohun, who will ever pray for your long life."
first time in my life I practiced zulum in my dealings with
a servant. I expect it was wrong of me, but I really could not
see my way to employing yet another servant simply to walk round
picking up Rosie's droppings, and I lacked the moral courage
to do it myself. My staff would have been outraged and ashamed.
Yet there was not one of my seven servants who could do it.
Even my sweeper belonged to the wrong subdivision of untouchability.
So the gardener and I reached a compromise. I would pay him
five rupees a month extra, and he would come back each day after
dark when nobody could see him, and collect the horse manure.
Further, when I left Pakistan finally, I would give him a lump
sum to meet the cost of purification rites.
time came for me to leave East Pakistan, I arranged for Rosie
to be given a home by the brigadier of the local regiment. "It'll
be nice for the children," said the brigadier's wife. Rosie's
departure was a major event at Islamabad Villa. She had become
a favourite of all the servants and they turned out to watch
as Ataul Haque, the houseboy, prepared to lead her away. Only
the gardener was missing; perhaps he still resented Rosie after
in peace! said the cook gruffly, offering her a last morsel
of brown sugar. Nizamuddin opened the gates ceremoniously. At
that moment the gardener rushed out of the little tool shed.
"Wait, oh wait!" he called. "I have something."
He gently placed a garland of marigolds round Rosie's neck.
She immediately started to eat them, and Ataul Haque led her
off, through the gate, and down Light-of-Victory Lane.
to Lal Mohun. "What is this, Lal Mohun?" I said in
surprise. "A horse is not a sacred animal, yet you garland
her as though she were the Holy Nandi, Lord Shiva's own bull."
smiled. "She is only a horse, sahib, it is true talk,"
her replied. "And yet she is my mother and father. She
has obtained for me an increment of rupees five per month, AND
a lump sum" (he glanced at me with an expression of anxious
intensity) "to be paid within the next few days for my
necessary ceremonies." I nodded to show that I had not
forgotten and his face relaxed.
that is not all, sahib,"-- Lal Mohun turned with a flourish
of his arm toward the shrubbery. "that is not all. Behold
that beautiful hibiscus!”