Cows in the Funhouse
And I Walked Into India
My Very Own Personal Armed Guard
Dance Party in Esfahan
And onto Tehran
First Day in Iran
Crossing the Border into Iran
A Travel Companion for Iran
From Greece to Turkey
February 24, 2004
Cows in the Funhouse
"Whoa!" I yelled at the cow that had thrown me off balance in attempts to get cuddly and nuzzle my leg. I gave in and pet the soft coat between her big black eyes. No, I'm not on a farm- I'm in Udaipur, India- a city of a million people, where cows wander the streets and cars swerve to miss hitting them.
Cows in India are sort of like dogs in the States; they wander in the streets and get fed by people. The main difference, however, is that cows get fed a lot more and don't bite. You'll also never see a stray cow as they are probably owned by someone. If for some strange reason a cow is left homeless, then it is quickly snatched up, for having a cow, it is believed in India, brings one closer to God.
Cows are sacred in India. They are seen as an all-giving mother, providing milk which is a staple in the Indian diet. Hindus would never dream of eating one; to do so would be sacrilege.
So the cows leave their homes in the morning, and wander around their neighborhoods getting fed. A cow is a unique form of social welfare. To feed a cow is to be blessed by God. So you see Hindus holding out chapatis and fruits that the cows eat with their big fat cow lips, the Hindus touch their ears and eyes afterwards, like how Christians cross themselves to pay homage to God. To feed a cow is to be blessed. And because everyone wants to be in the godsí favor, the cows are happy and fat and give their owners lots of milk when they finally shuffle home in the evening.
I haven't gotten tired of studying the cows here in the state of Rajasthan where I've just spent an amazing six weeks. A rainbow of saris, bejeweled camels, and ice-cream scoop roofs of Mogul architecture, Rajashtan is a whirlwind of candy for the eye. Here in Udaipur-a city of palaces and temples and shiny lakes- I am nearing the completion of my travels around Rajastan and will depart from this lovely kaleidoscope country in a few days to make my way further down south to Bombay.
And so for now, India is the biggest of these new countries. When we think of a country we think of a culture that dominates that country. Of course there are regional differences, but normally a country shares the same language, race, and style of dressing. In India, you have every color of skin imaginable. Black in the south, white in the north, yellow in the East, and red and brown everywhere else. In India, you have fourteen languages, twelve scripts, and hundreds of dialects. In India, you have Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and Jews just to name a few of the many faiths there. With every religion, race, and dress represented you sometimes get the impression that the whole world has been compressed into this corner of the world. And it does sometimes feel like that when walking down a crowded Indian street; the whole world is bustling right along with you, elbowing and vying for a bit of space.
Going from Rajasthan to Bombay isn't like going from, say, Ohio to Florida. Sure, both are roughly the same distance from each other. But I will dare to say that going from Rajasthan to Bombay is like going from Finland to Morocco: worlds away in language, and worlds away in culture.
I don't really know what to expect from Bombay. I do know that it's more crowded, cosmopolitan, and has a different language reverberating down its streets. The only thing I know about Bombay is that it will be different.
Posted by Tina on February 24, 2004 03:38 PM