Writing from: A deathly slow internet connection in baking hot Jaipur.
There are a lot of holy cows in India, as I seem to keep mentioning, and Rishikesh (where the Beatles blah blah blah, and the home of yoga, apparently) is no different in its burgeoning bovine population. They idle outside shop fronts, snooze largely on top of piles of roadside rubble, lurk chewingly down alleyways, and is it my imagination or do they huddle in herds looking shiftily over their shoulders of beef as I pass…?
Before now I have had no reason to fear the cow. I have cheerfully chewed my way through still-mooing steak for as long as I can remember. They must have known, though I have been veggie since we got here, because three days ago the cows took back the power…
Happily trotting across a dusty Laxman Jhula square, a knot of shops and hotels on the mountain-side banks of the holy green Ganges, I happened to pass between a cow and car. The beast was a fine black and white specimen, much like the ones back home, which is what I was thinking to myself when she turned her immense beefy head suddenly and drove her face and pointy pointy POINTY horn straight into my hip, pinning me to one side of the car while I yelped like a gouged beagle, and then scuttled away whimpering, while she flicked her fly-swat tail at my fleeing behind.
So now I am bruised. Not broken (thank Krisha for the worn horn), but redly and purplely bruised. And I might have dismissed it as momentary cow madness, but no. Later the same day we were leaving a gated garden (where M had a sitar lesson, his sore finger is a testament to a good couple of hours of impressive plinking) and I was last to leave. Before I could pass through the gate lo and behold an immovable and rather stern-looking cow appeared on the other side. It peered menacingly through the bars, turning its head occasionally to show me the waiting horns of vengeance. I was only able to escape when it was briefly distracted Duke saying nice things to it (a cow loves a compliment).
Since then they have let me be, as the gouging-bruise darkens daily on my poor hip. But their dark liquid eyes follow me as I pass their endless numbers on the streets, and I wonder if the taste of still-mooing steak will be sweet when I return home, or be like barbequed bovine ashes in my cow-chided mouth.