Sunday, January 23, 2011

HOLY COW! And Pups!

It had to happen. At some point, I had to write a post about cows. I mean, Hello? I'm in... India? Land of the Sacred Cow?

I was rather surprised to find most of the cows roaming around the Mysore neighbourhood looking like dairy cows. Y'know... Like Western cows. Growing up in Singapore with a gazilion Hindu temples around, you always saw statues of cows on the temples, kinda sorta looking like this one:

Y'know... An "Asian" cow - white, with a hump on its back and with horns. I was in Goa about 7 or 8 years ago now, and vaguely remember most of the cows hanging out on the beach kinda sorta looked like that. Or were at least brown. Definitely not black and white patchy cows (according to Google, the black & white dairy cow is known as the "Holstein" cow).

In chatting with the local rickshaw drivers, I now understand that the cow in the picture above is basically a "working cow". One that's still used to pull carriages (kinda like a manual labour "blue-collar" cow). Whereas the black and white cows roaming the neighbourhoods are actually REALLY REAL dairy cows. Like, for reals.

I was dumbfounded when I realized they were milk-producing cows. I just thought the random cows in the streets were... Well, stray cows. Y'know? Like people just allowed them to roam coz well... Cows are sacred! Give them their freedom! But apparently ALL the cows in the neighbourhood belong to actual people, and they're allowed to roam around town in the day. At a certain time of day, they all GO BACK TO THEIR OWNERS, and spend the night there.

When I first heard this, I was like... "HUH?! So... Like a dog goes around and rounds the cattle up?" Umm... NO.

The cows INSTINCTIVELY head back to their owners at a certain time in order to be milked and stay locked up at the end of the day. Nobody herds them back, they (the cows) just do it.

HOLY COW!!! (indeed)

At first I thought this story was... Well... Bullshit (haha, sorry for the bad bovine jokes). And then I saw it happening with my own eyes. At about lunchtime, I was walking along the street and saw a whole bunch of cows trotting from all directions to a house. Kinda like a cow convention. So I just stood on the corner of the street and watched what was going on.

All these moo-moos were waiting around for their owner to milk them! SERIOUSLY!!! On closer inspection, I found a guy with a bucket milking some udders (he's squatting underneath this black cow).

And none of these cows were chained or tied to anything. They were just waiting around and chewing on grass. Just hanging out, waiting to be milked out of their own free will. Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? That's pretty wild, right? Sorry if I sound daft, but I'm a complete urbanite who's never been on nor have any desire to be on a farm, and the only kind of farming I've read about is the disgusting factory farming Michael Pollan writes about in his book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma". So seeing this completely different way of farming is pretty refreshing to me.

Right across the street, another cow was waiting with her calf to be milked. I thought it was extremely ironic they were hanging out by a Cadbury milk chocolate logo. That's the food chain in action. HAHAHA!

I guess they rotate the "paddocks" where they keep the cows at night, coz I've seen them locked up in different areas. Here's an empty lot right across my house that was being used. It was right after the Harvest Festival where the cows were painted yellow with tumeric.

These cows live a pretty good life, right? I mean... they behave more like goats in that they're always digging through other people's trash so I'm not sure how healthy it would be to be drinking that milk, but it sure as hell is much better than drinking milk farmed from a factory-cow who's never seen the light of day. These cows on the other hand, seem happy. I'm mainly vegan as much as possible, but it's pretty impossible to escape from Ghee (clarified butter), which is used in practically everything here. But seeing the cows living a pretty decent life like this, makes me happy to close an eye on the ghee in the food. And er... the milk in my Chai. HAHA!

I was leaving someone's house the other day and was confronted by this sight in front of the gate. I was trapped and locked IN! I went closer to the gate thinking I'd scare it away (just coz y'know... geckos and spiders seem to get scared away the closer you get to them. I figured a cow would too. HAHAHA!) But she seemed more interested in sticking her nose in my face and saying Hello!

And then a really sad thing happened yesterday. My housemate and I were coming home from lunch and looked over to the empty lot next door. There was a cow laying there in a really awkward position. We looked at each other and were like "?!?" then stopped to watch it. There was no breath, no movement.

Then across the lot on the other side, the neighbour's son, a boy of about 12 years old calls out to us and says "She's dead." And this poor, sensitive boy was crying as he said it. He jumped over the wall and patted her on the head, then proceeded to close her open eyes, all the while crying for the loss of life. :(

We rang the landlord's doorbell to let him know, and he chatted with the boy in Kannada. Apparently it had just happened and the boy's father had gone to tell the owner of the cow. It was quite a young, healthy-looking cow too so was quite a shock that it had died.

The saddest thing is this young cow had a friend who was sitting in the corner of the lot, just watching its lifeless body. There she is, on the right. Yes, the female cows here all have horns too.

Our landlord thinks this big cow might be the mother of the dead cow. The 2 of them were always roaming the streets together. He says maybe she ate some plastic bags and couldn't digest it - that's what usually kills these cows although it's the first time he's witnessed it in this neighbourhood. :( :( :(

For the rest of the evening and all through the next morning, this big cow friend was mooing endlessly, mourning for her friend. It was so, so sad. I could hear her at the other end of the neighbourhood, and then she'd make her way over to the empty lot (the body had since been removed) and would continue to moo loudly again.

Rest in peace, little soul.

Since that was a pretty depressing story, and since the circle of life continues, I'll leave with you some happier pictures of puppies seen out & about in Mysore.
A gang of boys were playing with their 3 Labrador pups. (See how the street dog in the right of frame wants to get in on the action too?)

And Shiva's pug puppies are just the absolute cutest, darlingest Mini-Me puppies ever!! They're so tiny & cute I just wanna squeeze them!!

So we have a MASSIVE week ahead of us. Saturday will not be a rest day this week in Mysore. The Dalai Lama will be in Bangalore on Sunday, so Sharath has declared Sunday the rest day and we will practice led classes on both Friday and Saturday. That's a SEVEN-DAY practice week. Eish. Can my ladies' hols come any sooner? ;p



  1. hey thanks for all this fascinating cow information, it was like watching a really great National Geographic special! And an extra thank you for ending with the puppies! we all love puppies.

  2. Poor sad cow!!!!

    Tova and I were waiting for Maney yesterday and a pretty brown cow just stopped to check us out, I think she was looking for snacks, LOL.

    REALLY not psyched about the seven day week.

  3. Yes Loo! We all love puppies, especially YOU! ;p Keep your puppy posts coming. :)

    Sonya - It's funny how the cows here are like dogs... Y'know, just checking out the neighbourhood, looking for food. My LH is expected this week. But I think I might just plow through it, 7 days and all. ONLY TWO WEEKS LEFT!! WTF?!??? :(

  4. No one can top this cow post. Wow!!! I love how you had to show us different angles of the poor, dead cow!! At least you had a puppy follow up. That helped.

    Really interesting report, Jaime. Love the photos, as usual!

    Good luck with your 7 practices! yow!

  5. I'd drink the milk from these cows over your typical US-farmed cow any day! So sad to read about the dead cow, I wonder if they do any special ceremonies to 'send it off' considering how sacred they are. I never thought pugs were cute to be honest, but those pups are too adorable!

  6. Oh, poor cow, it was her time! I had no idea all the cows had owners... amazing... learn something new with Skippetty every day! :-) loving the pictures

  7. Eve: I have to learn how to edit more ruthlessly. Thought I'd done a good cull of pictures already but looking at it now. Umm... Yeah, that's quite a lot of dead cow. I guess I've never seen a dead cow before so this was pretty amazing. (call me a freak)

    Danielle: My landlord said they would either bury the cow or burn it. I should ask again what they finally did with it. Pugs are CUTE! Ugly, but adorable! ;p

    Claudia: I'm just a busybody noseyparker! I ask everybody questions - maybe too many questions... Coz I guess I'm curious how differently things work in different parts of the world. :)


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