I don't know if it has anything to do with the recession, the economic downturn, BIG folks feeling the pinch ( and I mean financially BIG), but in all the wild stuff going on around me in the name of infrastructure development, one has suddenly stopped seeing cows.( As they leisurely strolled through the middle of the main road, totally oblivious to honking folks in buses, fancy cars, and yes, helmets and motorcycles..., giving looks, like a politically secure minister, may give his detractors in Parliament.)
I live in an area ,in the suburbs of Mumbai, which was once considered god-forsaken, back-of-beyond, jungle-like etc etc, by those who thrive on fancy 4-wheels and fancier 5-stars. About 600 acres of wooded area, where stands today, the premiere Engineering Institute in India, since the last 50 years. Bordering on a lake, the early residents of the area, besides technical humans, were leopards, cows, wild dogs and monkeys.
While one occasionally sights leopards (they have moved still further back into the park area after the engineers happened), the cows, wild dogs and monkeys, have managed to make their presence felt, in a sort of defiant way. Quite understandable , since they were there first; and there isn't any reason, that any Act of Parliament to start such an Institute, , signed with a flourish by a Prime Minister, should suddenly make them go, particularly since no rehabilitation plans were discussed.
Whats more , no one did any protests on their behalf, and got any prizes.
The academic area has a covered corridor, that runs by all the departments. My earliest memories of going to work, include those, of dodging groups of these cows and bulls, sort of strolling confidently through these corridors. Heads down, pointing horns, a disdainful sneeze, followed by the shake of the head, or a wild swish of the tail, and one of the cows would give a dismissive glance towards the Electrical Engineering department, before traipsing ahead to the next. The security personnel would rush with their sticks to drive them off.
Sometimes this would result in an interesting stampede , as we all moved to the side, and these cows galloped past. Gardens were developed outside departments, and the cows had one more reason to wander. It wasn't uncommon to see a beautiful garden with a flower bed, and a cow sitting dangerously close to it, ruminating, chewing the cud, probably cursing the days the bipeds trespassed on her scene.
Occasionally , a single cow, probably a senior woodizen, would walk in an important manner , all by its self through the centre of the corridor. Whoever decided that cows Moo, never heard our cows. They do more of a loud deep throated "HMMM", similar to that done by a outraged grandparent , after observing what the world is coming to today. Most of our classrooms have open windows and in the monsoon, it was quite common, for some of the cows to take shelter in the department doorway, and loudly moo, as a Data Structures class got over, and the Cream of India's youth, emerged to face and desperately dash across the actual creator of cream, so to speak...
Very often a group of cows would be out on campus for a stroll with their calves, familiarizing them with the terrain , so to speak, and it was amazing to see how they protected them. I learned it the hard way, when I happened to change gears on my two wheeler as I passed them, and triggered an immediate violent reaction in the elders. Heads down, horns ominously pointing towards me, folks on the road were treated to a bunch of angry cows at a gallop, as I accelerated for dear life, and hoped for an open building gate that I could enter and close. From then on, regardless of which vehicle was used, we avoided changing gears near a group of cows and calves.
Our Institute cows roamed the campus far and wide, but come evening, they gave a new meaning to "coming home in the dust at dusk". We had a surfeit of meadows on campus, and the cows really didn't think of it as special, in the evenings. Our roads were paved, and so dust wasn't really an issue. But several times, in the darkening gloom, one would see a huge herd of cows, about 50 of them, sitting right in the middle of the main road that cut across our campus. Which reminded me of political meetings. They were oblivious to polite requests, honking, lights switching, verbal shouts , but mostly responded to security rushing around with big sticks, which again confirms my suspicion about their meeting resembling a political one.
Maybe , they were political.
Our Institute was initiated through a Russian government collaboration, back in the days of the Comrades. Breznhev actually planted a tree on campus. Occasionally delegations would come to visit, and the corridors which were hitherto strictly out of bounds for any vehicles, would be thrown open for the guests , who drove through them , in, Ambassador cars. Maybe this was to keep them away from an interested bovine population. It wouldn't do, for the education minister of Russia, to be greeted by a cow with her special campus Moo, as he queried someone about how the Russian computer was doing. However, grasslands on the sides of the corridors, occasionally ensured that the Russians got a dedicated view of our campus cows, performing, through, as they say, both ends of their body.
They are cutting a lot of trees now, to facilitate the construction of new buildings and infrastructure. The arterial road widening outside our institute, has also resulted in the complete destruction of a shady belt. Not surprisingly, one has not been seeing the cows , in the numbers, that one saw earlier. The new generation of students are missing out on the most unique aspect of studying here. There was something to be said for a bunch of cows quietly grazing away, watching all the going ons on Convocation Day, as yet another set of students who had , over the years, rushed by them to class, in mismatched chappals, now stood about in kurtas, and uttariyas, , all set to go off to a country, where children still thought that milk came in cartons and bottles and not from cows.....
Maybe we have little value for our cows although we culturally idolize them.. Some good souls, create go-shalas, and set up places where the cows are taken care of well. We treat them as a nuisance on campus that interferes with our "vision" for the place.
Maybe we need to know about Roger Federer. His Canton/State, presented him with a cow, to celebrate his Wimbledon win. He named her Juliette, and Juliette later had a calf. Federer stood proudly next to Juliette in photographs.
Amidst crores of Rs being declared as prizes by various states to the Nations performing sportsmen, one never hears of anyone being presented with a prize cow or bull.
I yearn to see the day when we see a picture of the Indian cricket team . or say, Tendulkar or Dhoni, standing beside a prize Cow, maybe even doing the victory lap , the cow sprinting ahead of them, as they cajole her in typical cowherd shouts.
And, of course, we wont speculate on a possible name for the cow......