Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Kerbau Balar (The Albino Buffaloes)

In light of the recent controversy over the so-called cow head protest in Malaysia, it might be a good time to revisit a traditional fable from Melaka with a strong anti-racisim message. Ironically, the tale revolves around ... no, not cows, but ... buffaloes!

There was once a herd of buffaloes, among whom were a pair of albino buffaloes. The pair had been born with red hides, and not the black hides of the other buffaloes in the herd.

Because their hides were of a different colour to the other buffaloes, the red buffaloes were shunned by the other buffaloes. The other buffaloes would not talk to the red buffaloes. They would not graze together with the red buffaloes. And whenever the red buffaloes tried to enter the buffalo pen, they were kicked and driven away by the other buffaloes.

“You do not look the same as us,” the other buffaloes said. “So you cannot stay with us. Go away from us and live somewhere else!”

So the red buffaloes had to live outside the buffalo pen, sleeping wherever they could find some shelter and grazing wherever they could find some grass. They were sad and miserable because they were hated and scorned by the other buffaloes. They so much wanted to belong to and be part of the herd.

One day, the farmer who owned the buffaloes told all the buffaloes that he was going to take them over the nearby hill in the evening, to a field where he would give them all the gift of a beautiful red collar. The buffaloes were all very excited to hear this news but could not go out of their pens to see this wonderful field over the hill where they would receive this gift. However, because the red buffaloes lived outside of the pen, they decided to go to this field and come back to tell the other buffaloes about it. Maybe then, they could be accepted by the herd.

So the red buffaloes climbed up the hill and over it and arrived at that field. To their horror, all they could see there were the heads and legs of hundreds of slaughtered buffaloes scattered all around, with the ground soaked in their blood. Unknown to the buffaloes, the field was an abattoir.

The red buffaloes galloped back to the pen and tried to warn the other buffaloes. But before they could say anything, the other buffaloes all bellowed: “You do not look the same as us - go away from us and live somewhere else!”. As much as they tried, none of other buffaloes would listen to or even go near the red buffaloes, and would only charge them with their horns and tell them to go away from their pen.

The two red buffaloes could only flee to the forest. And true enough, when evening came, the farmer came and led all the black buffaloes away over the hill and to the field, where they all had their throats cut and were slaughtered for the market.

But the two red buffaloes were safe in the forest and they became wild buffaloes, which could not be caught. They lived alone, but free, for a very long, long time.

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