The party went on all night. It seems that these twice a year gatherings besides being a chance to buy, sell and trade function as a most needed break and social gathering. Singing and drums carry well through the air in this rural area. The highway goes through the grounds with about a 1/4 of the camp on this side of the road. There is obviously a rail line somewhere close as the train passing through about 0300 uses its whistle like all the motor traffic uses its horns.
The reason for providing ear plugs on everyone’s night stand should be self evident. The noise level actually didn’t bother me – it was actually so much quieter than sleeping in a US container next to an airfield or actually even trying to ignore the pigeons who were chatting outside my window all night in Jaipur.
The adventure this morning began with a return trek on foot through the area where we took the camel ride yesterday giving everyone an opportunity to see things a little more up close and personal.
The afternoon was challenging both to experience and recount. This is through my eyes and doesn’t reflect either the opinions or observations of anyone else unless so noted. It certainly doesn’t reflect the opinion of our guide who was so proud to add this to the program.
So anyway, after lunch we boarded the bus and headed as our guide announced to us , to the only cow hospital and refuge in India. Cow, as you might have guessed is a species designation and not gender specific. This place, started by a holy man to care for cows. He started with one cow then expanded. Run entirely it seems by volunteers and on donated money and supplies. I don’t know what I expected – but it certainly was not the reality of what we saw.
Since the cow is sacred, the death of a cow is to be avoided. It could bring bad karma. Cows are to be cared for – not put down regardless of the illness or injury no matter how severe. Can you start to see where I am going with this tale? This “hospital” has 21 ambulances which will go and rescue cows anywhere in about 100-150 mile radius. The animals are cared for: wound sutured, amputations caused by traffic accidents completed if needed etc…. From there the animals are lead to the location where they will spend the rest of their lives wearing a halter, tied by rope to a stanchion facing a long cement trough. There is some straw on the cement slab that serves as the floor. Open barn after barn with animals tied in long rows. One sections holds those who are missing horns; some stumps still bleeding through the bandages. Even more rows of those which have lost a limb. Depending on the level some are obviously having severe difficulty returning to standing after lying down. A separate barn houses at least 50 small calves tied up one after another with barely enough rope so that they can lie down without touching another or getting their leads tangled.
Frankly, I fail to see how this is good or humane. Several of the animals were in obvious pain. There is no field, no grass. I fail to see a difference between this management of young cattle vs feeder lots with one exception: the length of the life sentence is seriously different. In the West – the calf is there for 10-12 weeks prior to being sent to the slaughter house. These calves will grown, be moved sections and be tied to one place for years to potentially two decades.
In answer to the ignorant who sometimes say that India should treat and care for their children as well as they care for the cows – I would now urge caution. My answer is simple. I think they already do this. As my beliefs and prejudices inform my opinions so do those for those of the Hindu faith: care and expectations are theirs and not those of the receiving object be that cow or child.
Lets us please not accept the theory of the “nobel savage” happy and healthy within their life as portrayed by anthropologists and romanticized by the average tourist. It is obvious that this group believes in what they are doing and work hard. The answer to the question of “who benefits” is fairly clear to my way of thinking….
and then there are chilis – this area is known for red chilis. 10-12 kg of chili powder is adequate for a year for the average family. You buy your chilis by the bag. Take them home to dry for a few days in the sun before taking them to a local mill for grinding…