People For Animals (A4 Maharani Bagh, New Delhi 110 065, India).184 pages, paperback; 1993. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12498154-heads-and-tails
Reviewed by Merritt Clifton
“I have always detested milk,” Maneka Gandhi opined in the first line of her first syndicated column, entitled “Milk, Meat and Animal Violence.”
“My son too refused to drink cow’s milk when he was weaned,” she continued, “and was given, from the age of three months, a liquidized mixture of lentil and vegetable, which he loved. Most children hate milk,” Maneka Gandhi continued. “As soon as a child reaches the age to make decisions, the first thing to go is that nauseating glass of milk.”
Maneka Gandhi knew, of course, that she could not have devised a more provocative debut. It is an article of Hindu faith and traditional Gandhian politics, named for the first Indian prime minister, Mohandas Gandhi, no relation to Maneka, that the cow is the Mother of India, and that milk is the perfect food.
But Maneka Gandhi stood accusations of blasphemy on their head by pointing out the frequent abuse of cows and other bovines in milk and meat production.
Among her primary sources she cited Laxmi Narain Modi, one of the staunchest advocates of the cattle-based rural Indian economy. If cattle are sacred, Maneka and Modi both argued, they should be treated kindly.
A collection of Maneka’s early columns, Heads & Tails mingles expose with polemic and pet care tips, all with an inimitable Indian accent.
Indians, she asserts, are failing abominably to live up to a 2,400-year-old tradition espousing consideration for animals. She equates the failure with loss of self-respect. Only when Indians live up to their ancient ideals, she declares, can India realize her latent greatness.