Guy Burns Indian Letter

WP_20140121_006HOLY COW! 

By Guy Burns in India  

One of the first things that strikes a Kiwi in India is the number of cattle roaming in most unexpected places.

The cows roam cities, towns, railways tracks, roads, state highways—in fact everywhere you least expect it—I’ve actually seen 2 cows standing inside a shop. The most cattle I’ve seen have been in the middle of towns.

You soon notice that the cows are quite unlike their seemingly dumber, NZ counterparts

Here, they are street-wise and know how to negotiate state highways—like well-trained children, looking left then right—true!.

They know how to roam amongst thousands of pedestrians found on Indian streets — moving slowly, carefully and gently, totally unafraid of man (and woman for the politically correct).DSCF0937

They are often well-looked-after, sometimes elaborately decorated with flowers, necklaces, naturally coloured powders and bells. For the nearly 1 billion Indian Hindus (80% in a population of 1.237 billion) the cow is esteemed—never be killed.

Hindus do not actually worship the cows, but highly revere the animals as a source of milk, curds, ghee butter and sometimes dung—used for fuel, and wall and floor cladding. Most large temples have a herd of cows, living in stalls, which are well looked after.

In older times, as Indian cities developed, cattle soon became an integral part of the urban garbage disposal system.

DSCF0916Households in those days were more closely connected to their local environment: Food and associated containers and wrappings were completely local and organic, and when finished, were chucked onto the street, where the cows grew fat on them.

Unfortunately, in modern India this efficient and well balanced disposal system, using cattle, has been seriously disrupted with the introduction of plastic.

Huge piles of this oil-derived product can be found in town areas, washed up on beaches, and alongside road and railway systems—everywhere!

Today many Indian people continue to throw their household rubbish on to the street, out the back of their houses, or out of car and train windows  — whenever they feel like it.

There are mountains of plastic exist, which the poor cows have to negotiate when having a feed. And inevitably the bovine population is slowly bloating itelf to ill-health on plastic.

Many cows have up to 60kgs of plastic inside their bodies  — a problem the Indian Supreme Court says is more serious than the threat of nuclear war.

What’s the answer?

This is something that everyone all over the world, including Kapiti, will have to answer for, as plastic mountains world-wide continue to be burnt, or buried or discarded to form islands in the sea.