Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bombay's Urban Cattle

I know the subject is a little stereotyped and small, but I found the urban cows of Bombay so amusing. It's so unexpected in a large urban city, and I could never imagine it in Shanghai, but in a city as haphazard and unique and organic as Bombay is, it somehow almost fits.

I don't want to say the cows were everywhere, but I did run into them in unexpected places. Here were four of them, right in what could probably be called the hub of Bombay, and immediately aside some BMWs. I'm curious what they ate. I can only speculate that they eat grass from the nearby parks, but it wasn't their mealtime yet.

Yuck. Cows are even an urban nuisance, eating garbage. I talked to somebody about it, he says cows, or sometimes pigs, are allowed to route through area garbage dumps. They eat everything organic.

More on the cow as urban scavenger: this family was having a picnic, when the cow butted in and started begging for food, the way a dog might beg for table-scraps. It wouldn't go away, and eventually the family swatted it a little with a small branch.

Of course cars and trucks are normally used for hauling things in Bombay. I saw people using cattle a couple of times, though. I imagine it's much more common to see in the countryside.

Of course cows have a protected status in traditional Hindu culture, but it's not just the cows who benefit. Bombay has a significant Muslim presence, Muslims don't go for eating pork. And Hinduism, along with many other Indian religions, encourages vegetarianism. So it's difficult to please everyone, and many restaurants don't have either pork or beef on the menu. There was a lot of chicken, some lamb, but mostly I noticed very large vegetarian sections. Restaurants that offer meat generally make it a point to conspicuously not mix the vegetarian and meat offerings, having separate countertops, or perhaps even separate lines for ordering. Also, a lot of stores and restaurants have a simple sign system, where a green dot means vegetarian, and a red dot means meat. Even this tea specificies it's vegetarian:

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