Sunday, December 30, 2007

Animals in India

It's true what they say, cows are holy in India. They run free, feeding anywhere from the fields to the narrow winding streets of crowded Varanasi. No matter how many times I see them, they always seem strangely out of context, so I took many many cow pictures. They come in different colors and shape, some with humps, some with horns, some fuzzy and cute, while others can be quite fierce looking. Above is the most beautiful buffalo I saw in India. One night in Pahar Ganj of Delhi, in the midst of wall to wall traffic, I saw a cow use it's head and neck to nudge three people into the crowd so that it could pass between the crowd and the honking traffic. The people seemed a bit stunned, but made no protest, and everyone continued on their way, including the cow.

There are lots of goats in India. They also tend to roam free most of the time. But you won't find them wandering around on a busy street like cows. Unlike cows who do not seem to have any natural predators in India, mutton is often on the Indian menu. Goats, cows, pigs, and dogs mingle around places where garbage is gathered. It is not easy to find a garbage can in India. One of our hosts told us to throw all our trash out the window. Just outside the window there was a field filled with garbage from all the neighbors, and the livestock fed on it. The big white pig in the slide show picture just had a fight with the dog over a scrap of garbage. The pig won.

Dogs have it rough in India. People throw rocks at them and threaten to kick them as they run around amidst all the traffic. They are not on leashes, but they tend to exist in their own dog plane, interacting mostly with other dogs. I saw a pack of dogs chase a nomadic dog out of their territory, a common occurrence. Dogs are always searching for scraps of food, and seem to travel quite far out of their area, especially the mother dogs and the ones who don't belong to any pack. Many of the dogs are emaciated, with skin disease. They have a difficult time finding a place to rest without being chased away. Many of the older dogs limp around, most likely hit by traffic at one time or another.
When they sleep, they often have a very weary look.

On a very busy two lane street in Varanasi, I saw a dog curled up asleep on the narrow traffic divider which was about 14 inches wide and raised about a foot off the ground. The dog's backside and head hung over the divider just a little. The traffic was ferocious, cars, auto rickshaws, rickshaws, cow pulled carts, trucks, bikes, all zipping by, horns blasting. It seemed like a crazy idea to sleep in the middle of all this, but looking around, there was absolutely no other space for it to take a nap on that street. Sidewalks when they exist in India also carry plenty of traffic.

Didn't see too many cats in India. Maybe because dogs roam free?

Monkeys can be seen in many of the tourist areas where there are trees. Vendors at some of these areas sell flowers and packs of little white candy to tourist as offerings to the temple gods. On the way from the vendor to the temple, there are sometimes monkey bandits. At Rajgir I saw one monkey grab the right hand of a tourist. Just when he looked to the monkey on his right, another monkey snatched the candy out of his left hand. Then both monkeys ran off together, leaving the tourist holding his garland of flowers. It seems they knew exactly what they were looking for, and they got it. I had a vision of the two monkeys in the woods afterwards, splitting the candy loot.

We also saw ponies, camels, and donkeys, animals used in transportation. We were walking on a narrow street one early morning outside of the Taj Mahal when I heard behind us the sound of bells and galloping hooves. At first I thought it was probably one of those little pony pulled carts. But there was something pressing about the galloping sounds, a sudden crescendo that made me turn my head just in time to push my friends to the side of the road to make way for four galloping camels. Two kids, each riding one camel and holding the reins to another, were yelling something in Hindi all the way down the road. Something in their voices indicated the camels were not entirely under their control. Despite the fact that I had just saved them from the unnecessarily-exotic experience of being trampled by camels, my traveling companions expressed great discontent because I did not pull the camera out in time to get a picture the runaway caravan.

Other animals in this slide show include some curious deer at Deer Park in Sarnath, Kites at Baby Taj, and birds from Varanasi and Ajanta. More can be seen in the transportation blog that is to come.

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