One of the more puzzling aspects of initial visits to India is the revered status of cows. Not that I have anything against the things personally, but the way they are able to wander around at will and cause general havoc amongst the already incredibly chaotic traffic is a bit hard to understand…
However a chat with almost any Indian about cows will reveal why they have such a special place in the overall kaleidoscope that is India.
It all harks back to the village, which is at the core of the Indian ethos. Village life in India is very basic, and still is for the roughly 70% of the population that still resides in them – some 840m of the estimated 1.2bn total!
The cow provides many things to thOSe villagers – from fresh milk daily, fuel to cook with from its plentiful droppings, its urine is believed to have some incredible medicinal properties and it is all delivered in the most calm, composed and benevolent manner.
How could you not love them? However as more people move to the cities and life becomes more urbanized, cows in the suburbs are being abandoned and left to fend for themselves.
No longer cherished and bathed in the river every night by their owners, the sight of these holy cows left to fend for themselves, unwashed and seemingly unloved touched the consciousness of the urban Indians.
A movement was born, with local and national charities created to collect money from local communities so that they can provide what are basically “bovine retirement homes”.
I managed to visit one such retirement home on the outskirts of Jodhpur, in the desert state of Rajasthan, and sure enough there were a lot of clean and seemingly happy cows who appeared to being well looked after by the “wardens”.
Only in India… just not sure about that cow urine beer!