MEERUT: Ali Hasan, 61-year-old, starts his day at 6am.
After winding up house-hold routine, he arrives at Meerut’s Gopal Gaushala with his friend Noor Hasan, who is 45 years old now.
Just like any other caretakers at the ‘Gaushala’ (home to cows), the Ali Hasan and Noor Hasan pick up buckets and start washing the cows. They then feed the animals and go to a nearby farm to cut feed from them.
Ali had been doing this work religiously for the past 48 years, while Noor has given 20 years of his life to the Gaushala, which houses as many as 800 cows.
Unstirred by the debate surrounding Muslims’ relation with the animal, considered sacred by the Hindus, the duo has been serving the cows and also worships them.
Ali, who was sitting on floor to milk a cow in the 108 years old Gaushala, appeared in content with his life. With an orange ‘gamcha’ (cotton towel) tied around his head, Ali said proudly that he also takes part in Goverdhan Puja (worship of cows).
“I was 13-year-old when I started working at this Gaushala. We earn our living from here and I love these cows as much as I love my family members. I have a special attachment with each of these cows. We also take part in Goverdhan Puja and worship these cows,” he said.
For Noor also, the cows are like family members.
“Cows have become a part of my family now. On days when I am not well and cannot come to work, my sons ensure that the animals are taken care of,” said Noor, while he fed cow number five.
The over 800 cows have been allotted numbers to establish their identity. There are a total of 60 caretakers at the Gaushala, located in Mohkampur area of Meerut.
When asked whether anyone from their community ever raised objection to their work, Noor shot back: “It is no one’s business. I earn from this work and work is no less than Allah for me. Some people raise questions but it doesn’t bother me. I am faithful towards my work.”
Unlike other Gaushalas in UP, Gopal Gaushala — run by a trust of 21 members– does not insist on keeping only the milch cows.
Umesh Pandey, manager of the Gaushala, told TOI, “Out of the total 800 cows, only 100 give milk. Others were either saved from slaughterhouses and sent here or left here by farmers, who don’t have enough money to take care of their animals after they stop giving milk.”
Asked if the crackdown on slaughterhouses has had any impact on Noor and his family, he said, “Honestly, it doesn’t matter much. What will happen at the most? We will stop getting non-vegetarian food in the market. We are ready to quit meat, it is no big deal,” Noor retorted.