I read the letters from the birds of New Guinea with interest. I thought that the little ones always wanted their moms.
I wish to share a rather sad phase of my life as a racing camel in Dubai. I still hear the cries of human toddlers for their moms. But before I tell you the heartbreaking stories from my past, let me start with a little bit on our species.
Camels are either one-humped or two-humped. I am a single humped dromedary found in North Africa, Arabia and India. Our cousins who live in China’s Gobi Desert and in parts of Mongolia are the double humped Bactrians. We are so well adapted to the harsh conditions of these regions that we are the pivot around which people make their lives. We are their transport; we provide them with food and fuel; and also provide them with entertainment.
Entertainment — that is where my story begins.
In the oil-rich country of the United Arab Emirates, it is a tradition, nay, a passion to race camels. There is a huge amount of money and pride at stake at the races. The competition is fierce, almost maniacal. That’s why camel-owners would do anything, yes, anything to win.
Do they weep when they hear a two-year-old scream in terror? Do they have hearts of stone? Ah, but you do not know what I am saying, do you?
Let me explain. A camel obviously can run faster without a heavy load on his back than with one. However, you need to have a jockey to guide it during a race. If your jockey were to be a small, thin, two or three-year-old child, then your camel would have a better chance of winning the race. Hence, satanic men snatch toddlers from schools, marketplaces, parks, even from outside their own homes in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh.
What happens to these little things?
They are smuggled into the U.A.E. to be trained as jockeys. They get neither enough food nor medical attention. They have no passports. They belong nowhere and nobody cares for them.
These children are strapped to racing camels’ back during training as well as during the races. They holler in terror. I still hear the agonised screams of those children. I will always carry in my heart this burden of being part of this cruelty.
Reply from Aristotle
Is it true that nomadic men of Africa and Asia used to follow closely behind you in order to take a handful of your warm just-done dung as a cure for dysentery? Is it also true that Nazi army doctors isolated the “good” bacteria from your warm egesta to make antibiotics for this stomach ailment which afflicted their soldiers?Published as part of a series titled ‘Aristotle’s Mailbag’ in Young World, The Hindu, dt. January 1, 2013