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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Mohinder's proud possession : Sheru, Equus africanus asinus (the donkey)

Equus africanus asinus, a domesticated member of the horse family, Equidae – is also found in the city…. In villages, it could be a common sight – nearer VivekanandaCollege in Sivasami Salai, one can find a few donkeys, an animal used extensively by launderers. A male donkey or ass is called a jack, a female a jenny or jennet.  As beasts of burden and companions, asses have worked together with humans for millennia. Somehow, in many stories (and in life too) they are ill-treated !!

There is common belief that donkey’s milk boosts immunity in newborns; though Doctors disagree its curative property. Doctors say donkey milk is not harmful to babies, but lack of hygiene could pose the risk of infections.  Yet people do line up to buy little quantity of donkey milk and give it to children, especially new-borns.  That way, there is some demand for donkey (its milk !!)

Couple of years ago, despite economic meltdown riding ‘monkey on the back’ – the donkey market reportedly was alive and kicking.  A record number of donkeys - 2,000 to be precise - was sold on the opening day of the nine-day donkey bazaar in Ahmednagar district, and that too at record prices. The prices reportedly ranged from  Rs 7,000 and Rs 15,000-nearly 50% higher than the previous year.  The donkey bazaar, held each year in drought-prone Pathardi tehsil in Ahmednagar district, attracts traders from not only Maharashtra but also Gujarat and Rajasthan.  The price of a donkey, the official explained, depended on its physique, height, colour, age and the number of teeth. Donkeys from Kathewadi in Gujarat are the most expensive-between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000.

The official attributed the unprecedented demand for donkeys to the acute shortage of power and labour. In rural and hilly areas where construction work is in progress, labour is hard to come by, and workers are demanding higher wages. Under such circumstances, he explained, many builders were finding it more productive to use donkeys.   According to market experts, the output of a donkey was equivalent to that of seven to ten human labourers. "By and large, donkeys are used to move construction material such as bricks, metal and sand from one place to another,'' he said.

Donkey is a prized possession of a resident in Punjab – and why it would not be. Brought from Bikaner in 2012, Sheru, a donkey has turned on the fortunes of his owner Mohinder Singh-a resident of Punjab. According to a report in TOI, Sheru stands 54 inches tall and commands a hefty amount of Rs 3 lakh, equal to the cost of two Nano cars.

He was recently on display at one of Haryana's most popular animal fairs at Beri in Jhajjar. Many wanted to pay his price ­ that's Rs 3 lakh ­ but owner Mohinder Singh of Lehragaga, Punjab, refused, calling Sheru his prized possession. Singh said that he uses Sheru only for crossbreeding with horses to produce high-quality mules. He charges Rs 5,000 for one mating session and earn between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 2.5 lakh a season, especially during summers.

Mohinder reportedly goes to almost every Punjab and Haryana cattle fair to “create a mating market“ for Sheru. "I stopped using him as a beast of burden once I realized I can make a neat packet from mating horses with Sheru,“ its proud owner says. He spends Rs 400 a day on Sheru's diet -five kg channa and one kg of jaggery . He also feeds the giant donkey 10 kg desi ghee over six months. Mohinder lives on the Punjab-Haryana border and Sheru's fame has travelled far ­ to Sirsa, Fatehabad, Jind and Hisar.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

30th Mar 2015.

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