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Holy Cow and My Tale (standard:other, 2760 words)
Author: JuggernautAdded: Nov 20 2010Views/Reads: 1764/1099Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A tale about holy cow in a Hindu land.

Holy Cow 


Subba Rao 

As the symbol of Lord Krishna (one of the incarnations of Hindu Gods),
the cow is considered sacred. Growing up in India, I saw cows roaming 
the streets all the time. A few times, I even stepped on fresh cow dung 
piles when not attentive while walking to school. I had the habit of 
watching the colorful movie posters, palm readers, fortunetellers, 
people hawking medicinal herbs and other knick-knacks on the sidewalk, 
and ignoring the upcoming traffic. While rickshaws pulled away from me 
to prevent accidents, the roaming animals didn't care. Once, a woman 
pulled me away from a bull about to lift me with its horns. I could 
have walked on the sidewalk but then beggars and hawkers permanently 
occupied it. Besides the animals have the right-of-way on sidewalks as 

On streets, both cows and goats compete to feed on banana peels, waste
papers, and movie wall posters. Cows always won since they are taller, 
and with their far-reaching tongues somehow unglue the posters from the 
wall and ate, eyes closed, with great satisfaction. The glue containing 
rice or wheat flour made posters more palatable. Thirty years later, 
working in the recycling business in Unites States, I realized that 
perhaps the street-roaming cows in India did a better job in recycling 
waste paper than modern technologies. 

A bull and a bunch of cows belonged to our neighbor Mr. Panda
permanently occupied a piece of land at our street corner. Panda is a 
common last name of people who emigrated from a neighboring Province of 
Orissa. Panda made his living by selling betel leaves and milk from his 

Growing betel leaves is a big business in India. From betel-growing
areas, fresh cut leaves are exported to various parts of the country. 
Every morning, Panda picked up his consignment of fresh betel or paan 
leaves from the railway or bus station for distribution to local 
roadside kiosks or paan shops. Paan or killi, as is known in South 
India, is made by placing ground areca nut (harvested from the areca 
tree, which looks like a palm tree), a little bit of lime, and 
sweet-tasting essence of rose on one or two betel leaves, then the 
whole mixture is folded into a conical shaped paan or sweet paan. 
Folding a paan is an art and takes less than five seconds for an expert 
paan maker or paan wallah to make it. People chew paan as a stimulant 
after lunch or dinner for good digestion. The added lime in the paan 
would release alkaloids in the leaves, this I later learned in college. 
To get additional kick, ground tobacco is added, on request, then it is 
called jaradha paan. Some people chew paan all the time, it's a kind of 
addiction. I have tried sweet paan but never jaradha paan. 

One of our distant relatives Shivarao had a habit of chewing jaradha
paan. He visited us once in a blue moon, unannounced. I am sure he was 
named after Lord Shiva (God of Destruction), one of the Major Hindu 
gods. While Gods Vishnu and Brahma were believed to be stationary in 
Swarga Loka or heaven, Shiva is a roaming god who lives on earth, 
famous for wild dancing after the destruction of evil forces with his 
firepower. He is a kind of a lightening that causes forest fires that 
destroys dead wood. He then rubs the ashes on his skin. 

In our extended family circles, parents warned their children never to
end up like our relative Shivarao, known for roaming from place to 
place. A low-level civil servant in a town a few hundred miles away, 
Shivarao traveled on trains with no ticket, masquerading as either a 
singing panhandler or hawking knick-knacks. My father never liked him. 
He suspected that Shivarao was after something every time he visited 
us. A habitual small-time thief, he stole small articles such as 
ballpoint pens, small toys, and other knick-knacks. Given my good eye 
for detective work, I was given the responsibility of following him in 
our huge house. Shivarao knew that we suspected his intentions in our 
house, and said this to me when I followed him from room to room. 

One thing I liked about Shivarao was his habit of chewing spicy Jaaradha
paan. One day I gathered enough courage to ask for a taste. To my 
surprise, he gave it with a warning that I should keep this as a 

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