The Cock Fight

This is my seventh trip to India.  All of these trips have had one thing in common; a really long and expensive flight and return flight, with connections usually taking over 24 hours each way.  Then there is the worst “jet lag” possible…12.5 hours!  People often associate jet lag with a disruption in the sleep cycle.  I can confirm that there are other severely interrupted cycles such as the eating cycle; the pooping cycle…I’ll spare you the rest.  The point is; you don’t go to India unless you expect to experience something radically different and really crazy.  The good news is that Hindustan (the land of the Hindu’s) never disappoints.

crowdIn most of my trips I’ve had “insiders” (either Indian Rotarian friends or Indian family friends) to guide me to places that no tour operator would ever tread.  This includes walking for several hours amongst the residents of Bombay’s Dharavi (of slum dog millionaire fame), night walks through areas of Indian cities that would scare the hell out of the average Philadelphia gang-banger, and visits to some pretty remote villages where few have ever seen a white man.  I once had a village kid come up to me and wipe my arm to get that “white” powder off of my skin!

All of these “edgy” experiences get the heart pounding heavily with the realization that (1) you’re a hell of a long way from Winona, Minnesota, (2) that you’ve invaded their space, and (3) that they are going to do with you what they wish.   But there is also the anticipation of getting that one great photo, or those few precious seconds of video that will blow the minds of the folks back home.  You’ve got to balance the risks with the rewards.

Right now I’m living with a family whom I’ve known for 15 years.  There is a guy living down the street that raises fighting roosters, known as Cocks.  I’ve been asking him to take me to a Cock fight since my visit 8 years ago.   Two days ago he told me and another white guy (we will call him “Dave”, as he doesn’t want his true identity disclosed) to go with him to a real, honest to goodness Cock Fight!  Needless to say, “Dave” and I were totally IN !

We got in the car with our “host” and headed across the city.  All of a sudden he pulled up to a corner, nodded his head, and another guy got into the car!  Who was this guy?  Indian mafia?  A reporter for India’s UFC (Ultimate Fighting Chicken) network?  A hit man?  We asked for an explanation but these two guys spoke only Konkani and we speak English, so the conversation wasn’t too enlightening.
ring
It turns out that both men are well-known Cock Fight attendees and have been known to drop a few bucks gambling on the birds.  As we rumbled along and got into the more isolated and rural parts of the city, the roads narrowed, the corners tightened and I told Dave that my adrenalin was rushing.  “I feel like we’re somewhere between a chicken fight and a drug deal”, I said to “Dave”.  He smiled reassuringly, but I could see his lip quiver a bit.

We finally parked on a back road strewn with motorcycles, rickshaws and cars; lots of vehicles.  We walked across some railroad tracks and eventually right up to the cock-fighting ring.  As we were walking up the trail to the ring, “Dave” remembered that he had forgotten to apply his bug repellent cream, known as Odomos.  He started to reach in his pocket to grab the tube containing his Odomos, but then said. “If anybody sees me applying cream to my body at a Cock fight, they’ll certainly think I’m less of a man”.  With that, the mosquitoes ruled Mr. “Dave” for the rest of the afternoon.

There were at least 500 people around the ring and none of them looked like they were from Eyota Minnesota.  Our hosts used their “pull” and got us ring side seats.  I suspect that the seasoned attendees knew that the white guys wouldn’t have the stomach for too many bloody Cock fights.  They were right.

A Cock fight features two roosters that are bred and trained to fight.  On the day of the fight a 4 inch, razor sharp blade is attached to one of the talons on each of the roosters, making a “strike” very damaging indeed.  The Roosters are brought into the ring and displayed to the crowd.  The crowd then enters the ring and places their bets, which can be surprisingly large, even when converted to American dollars.  Those making the bets are then encouraged to leave the ring when whistles are blown and water is sprayed on their heads.  Once the ring is cleared the trainers bring the cocks into the ring.

The fight lasts between 15 and 60 seconds.  The loser dies…period.  Either his head is severed or his chest is punctured, leaving him to bleed out.  If the fight goes longer, perhaps more than 45 seconds, the “winner” often sustains life-ending injuries and dies a few minutes later.  Normally both Roosters end up in the cooking pot at the end of the day.  Some Roosters do live to fight another day, but not many.  One thing for sure, no rooster has a record of 4-2!  Ironically, the Rooster that “wins” the fight probably suffers the greatest before he dies…the “loser” on the other hand, has his misery ended quickly.

Our values are formed as a result of our environment.  I’m not going to condemn Cock fighting in India, or the Philippines, or Mexico, or wherever else it takes place.  If Cock fighting was legal in the United States I doubt that I would attend even one more match; it is unbelievably brutal.  In the United States we raise chickens inside buildings for their entire lives (6 weeks) and then slaughter them for our plates.  One could argue that the proud Indian Rooster, who is raised outside, well-fed, trained, and cared for until his life is over, has a better existence than his American chicken counterpart.  The end for both animals is the same, whether it occurs in the ring or in the slaughter house.

One thing is for sure….the phrase “You’re a Chicken” will never have quite the same meaning for me.  Indian Roosters are technically chickens, but I could never call anything or anybody that fights to the death a coward.

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One Response to The Cock Fight

  1. Donna Bryan says:

    Very descriptive.

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