I’m back and my lasting impression of India is this: it is a colorful, clamorous, discordant but utterly captivating country. This is what hits all the senses immediately:
CROWDS, HORDES, MULTITUDES, LEGIONS, THRONGS, MASSES, etc etc. – Yes, these are ubiquitous and there is no avoiding them no matter the hour of the day. There are the people:
The vehicles (and the people):
It is not just the volume of traffic that makes getting around in India a challenge – it is also the rules (there are none) and the honking, which is encouraged:
I should amend that statement. While there are no traffic rules according to my American sensibilities, there is definitely an organized chaos. It appears that the Indian community totally is in synch with traveling in any direction, not staying in a lane and sometimes heading against oncoming traffic. And they honk their horns constantly to let others know when they are being requested to yield the way. This is sometimes successful, sometimes not, but in the weeks of my stay, I only saw one accident (more on that below).
Those who know me well would have expected that the above would hurt my delicate ears (which were assaulted but that is another story to be told later) and send me off screaming. Instead I found it fascinating, although I must confess there were a few moments when I began to hyperventilate.
But there is more – the HOLY COWS. I am not just exclaiming, the cows in India are very sacred, enjoying a high-ranking in the Hindu faith. The cow is seen as a maternal figure and a symbol of the divine bounty of earth. In fact, Lord Krishna, a major Hindu deity grew up as a cow herder. Krishna also goes by the names Govinda and Gopala, which mean “friend and protector of cows.” The cow is revered above all animals (and some people) and to eat its meat or kill one is not only illegal but also produces some extremely bad karma. That one accident I mentioned above involved a truck that killed a calf. The driver not only will have to pay the owner of the calf some major rupees he will also have to enjoin a holy man (very expensive) to perform extensive rituals to help assuage his sin.
But back to the Holy Cows. Similar to many countries, the cows in India are given free rein to roam where they wish, ostensibly to find food to eat and eventually return “home” at sunset. The cows of India, however have found a very popular place to hang out where there is little to no sustenance – on or along the roads.
Why are the cows seemingly risking limb and life to be so close to motorized vehicles? One could say that they have discovered that the diesel fumes help to relieve them of mosquitoes and other stinging, biting insects. But there is another reason. The cows get high on the fumes. That’s right – these cows are stoned.
Say hello to The Dudes of India.