During my childhood days, most of the roads in my home town Pune, were never metalled and were very dusty. Occasionally, whenever any motor vehicle would pass through, it would raise a huge cloud of dust. Yet, there were few occasions, when I felt that the dust cloud created by a passing motor vehicle was just a small aberration of the beautiful and clean environment of my lovely old Pune. This major catastrophe would come about very suddenly, when I would be cycling on the road. A giant dust storm would suddenly appear on the horizon with sounds like “Zyack, Zyack” being heard. It was always an act of prudence to get down from the bicycle and wait patiently on a road side. Within a minute, a running squad of fifty or sixty donkeys associated with their care taker donkey-boys would pass me and after another couple of minutes, when the dust was settled, I could brush off the excess dust on my clothes and proceed further. All those donkeys would be loaded with construction materials like sand, crushed stones, bricks or excavated earth. For construction industry of those days, donkeys were the chief mode of transport and not the trucks or three wheelers of today. Later it became uneconomic to use donkeys for transportation and these four or three wheelers took their place.
Donkeys are seen no longer in Pune. Few days before, I read somewhere, that donkeys are still is use in Bengaluru city and was reminded of the donkey fleets of yesteryears. The Bengaluru donkeys however, have been promoted now. They no longer carry the construction materials. Benagaluru washermen now use the donkeys to transport clothes to ‘dhobi ghats’ and back. Besides that, donkey fleets have found other uses too. Bengaluru washermen have at least 250 donkeys as on date.
Donkey milk is considered as a remedy for throat problems such as cough, for infants and small children. Some society ladies in Bengaluru use it in their daily beauty make up. Cleopatra, queen of Egypt is believed to have bathed in donkey milk. The modern day descendants of the queen in Bengaluru, wash their face in this milk. The washermen owning donkey fleets, sell this milk to any one who wants it. This milk is sold at an unbelievable price of Rs. 250/- per 100 ml or Rs. 2500 (US$ 5o.00) per liter. Some people prefer donkey meat because of it’s low fat and high protein content. Some donkeys are specially raised for this purpose.
Donkeys find some ‘Bengaluru special’ uses for donkeys. Donkey are in demand for shooting of many Kannada films. The daily rate for the donkeys is Rs. 2000 (US$ 40.00) now for this purpose. Donkeys are also used many times in protest marches by Bengaluru’s political parties. Donkeys are seen in protests against ruling party, many times in front of the Karnataka state assembly.
The number of uses for the donkey fleet, does not match with their availability in Bengaluru. Donkeys get stolen sometimes, if they are bot carefully watched. A donkey these days costs between 150000 to 200000 (US$ 4000.00) in Bengaluru. Washermen owning the donkeys have to ensure that the donkeys do not get stolen.
In Pune and entire Maharashtra, municipal elections would be held over next few months. I hope that no one would get inspiration from Bengaluru and import donkeys for the election propaganda. Things are already bad enough here.
27 January 2012