If you are a regular traveller on the Delhi or Noida roads you could not have missed them, the wretched creatures. They travel on cycles, cycle rickshaws, two- or three-wheelers, jeeps, or trucks. They are packed in dirty, dingy wire boxes kept one over the other. If you are anywhere near them, you cannot miss the stench from the boxes. They are usually packed so tightly that they have no room to keep their legs anywhere. Some of them stand over their brethren. They shift their legs every now and then when the ones below them cannot bear their weight any more or when they feel extremely uncomfortable standing on other equally unfortunate souls. I have no idea how far they have to travel or how long they will have to suffer this ordeal. But what I know for sure is that they will end up satisfying some human beings’ appetite. They call it with the mouth-watering name – chicken! Some people turn their heads away with extreme disgust as soon as they happen to be near the vehicles bearing the unfortunate souls due to the nauseating stench. I wonder how they will react when the very same poor souls rest in their plates: killed, cleaned, and cooked!
All the birds have white feathers, surprisingly the symbol of peace! One look at them and you know they have been water-cannoned after being stuffed into the boxes. They are all drenched. Sometimes water drips from their feathers. You can see them shivering. You can see their crimson body through the wet feathers. They want to dry them with their beaks. But how will they? Poor fellows, they can’t even stand still. What do they do other than silently suffering? Have you ever tried to think what would they be talking to you if they could? If my sympathies can give them some solace, they have all my sympathies. I don’t want to follow them. I can’t bear to even think of what becomes of them.
One day several years ago, I was travelling by bus from Uttam Nagar to South Delhi. The bus stopped at the traffic signal in Sagarpur, Janakpuri. It was my habit to look out and enjoy the scenery while travelling. You see several people in different moods. You see owners sitting in shops expecting the next customer. You see people just standing and gossiping. You see other vehicles. Have you noticed the drivers? All of them have the same grim expression on their faces, as if the movement of the world depends on their driving! I used to wonder, why can’t they try to enjoy driving?
Right where I looked was a chicken shop. What I saw froze my senses and my blood. This man was talking to his friend. There was a curved sword fixed slanting away from him. He caught a chicken, held its body with his left hand and head with his right hand. In a split second he ran its neck along the sword, threw the body to the left and the head to the right, into the large dishes kept there, all the while continuing to talk with his friend. Then he wiped his hands on a cloth kept for the purpose. I felt feverish. I felt like vomiting. How disgusting! For several days the scene refused to vanish from my mind.
I invite you to give a little attention to the hapless souls when you see them (which you are sure to do) on the roads of Delhi or Noida and maybe several other places as well. And think of them again when you have them in plates in front of you. Can you, can you, really relish them?