Rehmu was on his last tour of the day, carrying bricks from one point to another on his donkey cart. He needed to do at least five such tours a day in order to earn enough for a sufficient meal for him and his family. But today he could only do four and he knew that it would not be enough for his family. He was thinking that either he or his wife would have to pretend not to be hungry that night.
He had known since that morning that he would not have enough work today. His mind had been preoccupied with worries and when the body thinks through the stomach, it creates problems for individuals and hence, societies. But Rehmu was too old and too weak to create problems for the society.
His problem was the fire in the stomach; not the fire in the heart.
Suddenly, he was jolted out of his reverie back to reality. He was lying on the road and the cart had fallen since his donkey had fainted. Oblivious to his own injuries, he rushed towards the cart. Bystanders decided to help him unload the bricks from the cart. Thankfully, the donkey was alive but he had lost consciousness and received a few injuries from the fall.
People around him, the witty analysts they thought themselves to be, laughed and passed remarks at him. An ill-humoured man said,
“O baba ji! Your cart got some dents.”
Another one tried to give him some rational advice,
“Baba ji! Don’t overload your cart.”
An apparently religious fellow passing by said,
“You will answer on the Day of Judgment for the way you treat your animals.”
But Rehmu was already worried about his donkey. The donkey might have been the world’s stupidest creature but for Rehmu he was a true companion. He was feeling really sad and heartbroken but he had no other options. He realised that people around him didn’t know about his difficult life and lack of options.
People who think with their brain have a lot of things to worry about – new restaurants, new cars, new movies, new serials, new clothing. But people who are forced to think with their stomachs don’t have many options.
Their world starts and ends with fulfilling the needs of the stomach.
They don’t have to worry about where they sleep and they don’t care about animal rights but do they care for their own rights?
Do they even have rights, these poor donkeys and people like Rehmu?
Are they both equal in the so-called status quo of this world?
What would hell be like for them if this temporary world is so difficult for them?
He helped his donkey to the side and put all the bricks by the side of the road.
What were his options now? He had no other cart to transfer the bricks to the construction point. He didn’t have the modern ‘necessity’ of a cell phone to call for help. And even if he had one, who would he call?
His only option was to feed the donkey, re-load the cart and move on. But did he have the money to feed his donkey?
And more importantly, if he fed his donkey, how would he feed his family?
The harsh reality was that human rights overlapped with animal rights in this cruel world.
He knew people were cursing him as he overloaded the donkey cart yet again but no one helped him or his beloved donkey.
No one really cared about Rehmu’s life.
No one cared that he had to worry about his wife and children before he could think about his donkey.
This post was published on Express Tribune on February 25, 2014.