Dzongkha or Tibetan word for animals is Semchen, which is roughly translated as one that possesses mind. This in turn implies that one has feelings and emotions, assuming one that has mind can ‘feel’ also. So, I am wondering … do animals have the feelings? I always ask this silly question. But if you look at the Dzongkha word for animals one more time, everything is clear. Of course animals can feel! Now if some scientists can prove that even plants have feelings; then surely one that has a mind has to feel. Although they may not enjoy the power of speech like the wise humans, they can at least feel.
It was in late 1990s I was in Phuentsholing for the first time. Everything was new to me … sheer number of people, cars and traffic…everything amused me. So, I accompanied my uncle to a market in Jaigaon. And as we rounded a corner, a horrible sight stuck me. Even now when I think about that, I get choked up. A group of vendors were selling meat. And right beside him a man was holding down a goat onto a big bowl. Blood was oozing out like waterfall. I didn’t understand what was happening. When my uncle busy at a shop, I went to the place for a closer and look better look. I could never forget the sight I saw that day! A butcher had already slain a goat. He was collecting blood in a big bowl.
And that was not it, near the scene, tied to a log is another goat waiting for his turn. Believe me I saw it with my own eyes; the goat was shivering in fright. How could it not feel the terror when right under his nose his friend was being slain? I saw human tears in the goat’s eyes. That scene of crying goat made an indelible impression on me; one that repeats in my nightmares and I cry.
At home, one of our favorite cows called Phurjan fell off a cliff and broke its leg. It could not move from the spot where it lay. We consulted a man who knew the art of fixing the dislocated limbs. With the help of a group of villagers, the man fixed the broken leg and padded the problem area with small pieces of wooden shingles and bounded it with ropes. It was such a terrible sight. Every time, Phurjan saw us, it used to look at us from her place and call us for help … bey bey. But how could we help her? That broke my heart and even after a month, Phurjan showed no sign of improvement.
One early morning, my mother took some fodder and some food. I accompanied her. The sick animal tried to move in sheer happiness, but when the food was laid before her, she showed no sign of appetite whatsoever. My mother cried and said something like this:
“It is all your karma. What can we do? We cannot help you. Don’t suffer like this for long. It is better to die and go to heaven. Phurjan …don’t worry about the calf … please leave…” I saw tears falling off the cow’s eyes and my mother cried like never before. I could not contain my emotions either.
Towards the evening, Phurjan left us and her dear lovely calf.
In loving memory of our dear Phurjan and the two goats that went to heaven right under my nose, I am a pure vegetarian today.