Shehenshah, Rishtey Mein Toh Hum Tumhare Baap Lagte Hai

Animals

Shehenshah, Rishtey Mein Toh Hum Tumhare Baap Lagte Hai

Illustration: Akshita Monga

O

n most nights after dinner, the 9th Earl of Emsworth stood at the pigsty of his beloved pig, Empress of Blandings, hearing her breathing, drinking as absorbedly as if it were something from the Queen’s Hall. The image of the dotty Earl sighing over this noble animal is one that is familiar to every PG Wodehouse reader, but Narendra Singh Poonia, a dairy farm owner from Panipat, has never heard of the Earl or his obsession with his amiable sow, popular winner in the Fat Pigs Class at the Shropshire Agricultural Show. But something tells me, if Poonia was into Wodehouse, he would think of the old Earl as a brother from another mother.

I meet Poonia at his house in Didwadi village. He is busy massaging his own noble animal – the star attraction at the three-day Agri Leadership Summit, 2017, and winner of Uttar Pradesh’s beauty contest in 2016 – with large dollops of desi milk and ghee. Shehenshah is not a pig but a spectacular 1,500-kg prize Murrah bull with immensely curved horns and jet-black hide that shines in the sunlight. He stands at 5’10” inches, and spans an astonishing 15’5″ inches from head to tail.

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While the Earl has just one pig, Poonia has more than 100 high- breed cattle in his dairy farm including the Sahiwal breed, the Holstein Friesian breed, and more than 80 Murrah buffaloes. The Murrah breed is famous for its abundant milk yield, and for its beef in countries like the US and Brazil, but Poonia won’t let a finger be laid on Shehenshah, who is more precious to him than his sons.

“Shehenshahhhh, kaise ho? Idhar aao,” Poonia calls out to him every other hour, and Shehenshah replies to his master’s call by nodding his head like a doting child. He makes a sweet, deep sound from his throat, and Poonia showers him with affection.

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Today, Poonia makes about ₹12 lakh from Shehenshah’s sperm, and an additional ₹5 lakh annually in prize money, courtesy his army of Murrah buffaloes.

Courtesy: 101Reporters

Poonia was last offered ₹25 crore for Shehenshah. But Panipat may as well freeze over before Poonia entertains this blasphemous thought.

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Poonia’s wife much like the Earl’s disapproving sisters is weary of this obsession. Roshini Devi manages the accounts of Golu Dairy farm, which she and her husband co-run, and she does not know what to make of this unusual relationship.

One can hardly blame her. She is married to man who sleeps near his bull, just so that he can feed and water him three times every night because he doesn’t trust his employees to do so. Once their elder son went to visit a girl in the village to arrange a marriage, but Poonia sent his younger brother along, as he had to tend to Shehenshah.

So far have the tales of Shehenshah travelled, that foreigners flock to the village to get a glimpse of him.

An exasperated Roshini Devi says her husband travels in the same lorry as Shehenshah, when the bull has to be ferried around for livestock competitions. “We have a car. But my husband insists on travelling with Shehenshah,” she says, barely suppressing an eye-roll at the extent her husband will go for the bull.

Shehenshah’s care is a fully orchestrated daily production. Every day, Poonia’s employees prepare Shehenshah’s massage mixture. Poonia massages the beast himself by penetrating his fingers in the creamy coat of his prized bull until the mixture is fully absorbed. The entire process takes about an hour. After the massage, a barber gives Shehenshah a clean shave, and the freshly groomed bovine ambles off into his private pool for a swim. The rest of the day is devoted to imbibing copious quantities of food—10 kilos of milk, half kilo of pure desi ghee, and a special mixture of dry fruits, quality grains, and pulses.

But even though Roshini Devi’s ire is understandable, it’s true that Shehenshah is worth all the effort. In 2007, Poonia first introduced the Murrah bull to his family and it instantly became a veritable cash cow. Golu was their first Murrah, an incorrigible player, with valuable sperm. Poonia cashed in and started charging ₹1,000 per copulation. He soon began making ₹1 lakh per month only from Golu. As Golu’s popularity grew, so did Poonia’s reputation as a top cattle-breeder. So it was fitting that Poonia name his dairy farm after Golu.

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Shehenshah’s care is a fully orchestrated daily production.

Courtesy: Golu’s Dairy Farm / Facebook

One day in 2014, then Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda dropped by to take a look at Golu, who by then was the stuff of legends. Soon, another winter came and went, and Golu banged his last cow. In his place came Shehenshah, the last word on the Murrah breed of bulls in a land that has been trying to rear this special breed for generations.

Today, Poonia makes ₹4 lakh every month selling milk. Apart from that, he makes about ₹12 lakh from Shehenshah’s sperm, and an additional ₹5 lakh annually in prize money, courtesy his army of Murrah buffaloes.

So far have the tales of Shehenshah travelled, that foreigners flock to the village to get a glimpse of him. Roshini Devi tells me that in 2016 a few international journalists had visited Didwadi to see the ₹25-crore bull, but were so enamoured with Poonia, singing praises of Shehenshah for a whole hour without taking a break, that they forgot all about the bull and wrote home about the bond of Poonia and Shehenshah…which is exactly what I have done.

But then I guess if Wodehouse can pen an entire omnibus as an ode to the love story of the Earl of Emsworth and Empress of Blandings, a story is the least I can write.

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