Bovine freedom

A three legged cow negotiates an early morning intersection in Pokhara

A three legged cow negotiates an early morning intersection in Pokhara

Bovine in Nepal will stand in the middle of busy intersections, in peak traffic, expressing their religious given power. I have witnessed peacefully sleeping herds as frenetic local buses and micros, filled to the hilt and beyond with humanity, navigate around their resting.They know space is made for them here, despite their cardboard and plastic eating ways. Cows and their ilk are the street cleaners of dis-guarded food and the plethora of street debris that accumulate after the early morning daily sweeps made by the ladies of the broom.

The ladies of the broom are a sight in themselves, if you awaken early enough. Groups of four or five women shrouded in yak wool scarves, armed with a short natural fiber broom, hunch over and systematically clear the dust and rubbish. They work in a practiced rhythm leaving a temporary order in their wake. An order that is quickly disturbed as the city awakens and the waste of this developing nation occupies the street once more.

I do not know how much these women earn for their daily labours but it cannot be much more than around 60 rupees per day. Labourers on building sites earn around this amount, for what I perceive to be back breaking work, carting building supplies in cane baskets, the weight held by the head. Life can be hard here but these people have a wage which many in villages do not. Especially if it has been a bad year and the monsoon rain came late or early leaving small yields or none at all in it’s wake.

Subsistence life is tenuous at best and even worse if you are one of  landless in Nepal flocking to Kathmandu to inhabit the banks of the Bagmati River. Life then is not tenuous, it is a dance from moment to moment. In some ways more space and respect is given to the holy beasts of the road then the landless here. For cows do not have to negotiate with the politics of caste, nor cope with the ever present threat of being moved on if land is ear marked for development or they are unwanted in an area. There is always space for holy animals, for people sometimes there is not.

I may be wrong about this, and please correct me if this is the case. I want to be wrong. These are the observations of an outsider and perhaps this correlation is incorrect and unfair.

That said I have read of Bandhas ( strikes) to protest the moving, by the Government, of landless communities in Kathmandu into a new area. I am yet to hear of a bovine bandha protesting the cows impeding traffic and smooth passage through the city or any area of this beguiling country.

Cows are holy, the landless are not.

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