Growing up in a tight knit religious community, never dreamt that anybody would hurt a cow let alone kill and eat them, then I landed in America – the land of liberty. Any American I met loved steak, beef and Sirloin, which I discovered lately all means cow meat. It’s a constant battle with my American friends explaining why I wouldn’t eat cows especially when we went to company sponsored fancy restaurants like Wolfgang Puck or Peter Lugers. I could not use the fact that my religion prohibited me from eating meat; was a self-proclaimed atheist, also a food enthusiast having tried seafood. Why not eat steak?, was their burning question. Even the restaurant owners felt insulted when I ordered something other than cow meat – that being their specialty. For the vegetables you have picked up, you eat free – don’t embarrass us was owner’s statement. Instead I was talk of the town every dinner table, the jokes never ended. Finally I said it, it was my mother, “What!, your mother is a cow”? No, no just out of respect to my mother I don’t eat cows. What’s up with that, they shot back, here’s my story.
One day I was walking down the street from my middle school with friends, we all waited to cross the busy street at the right moment; only one can master this art by playing the frog game on the arcade. Just then a cow happened to walk in its own mood – cows are sacred animals where they roam about the busy streets; city authorities dare not capture and move them to farmlands. While we all waited to safely cross the street – which was not going to happen anytime soon – had exhausted all the gossip with my friends, feeling bored, I did the unthinkable. Took a step back and threw a wonderful karate kick on the cow’s back. The cow neither moved nor mooed. Everything else around me changed – all the vehicles came to a screeching halt, the road seemed to have parted for us to cross the street. Being a mythology fan this seemed to me like baby Krishna crossing the river – which gets divided as his foot touches the water. My friends had dropped their jaws to the ground – I said “I know! wasn’t that a wonderful kick”. Before they could pull their jaws back to concur with me, a driver with huge mustache jumped of the truck and dashed towards me. My friends cried in unison, “We don’t know him!”, while they sprinted towards home. That’s when it struck me that this cow belonged to him and he was upset about it, but before I followed my friend’s suit a huge hand lay on my shoulder, turned back to look at him – he landed a magnificent slap on my cheek. Threw me off to the ground, as I grabbed my school bag, and stood up, the man yelled, “Didn’t your parents teach you anything, you wear a tie and shiny shoes and you go about kicking a innocent cow?”, before I could say anything, he continued, while the other passer by cheered him, “This is what they teach you at your English Medium School?”, I stood there timidly and blurted SORRY. “Don’t say sorry to me, go bow to that animal there”, he barked. Until now the meek beast had stood there with its goggly eyes waiting for me to apologize. Obediently I bowed my head and stood sheepishly to be pardoned. Everybody shook their heads in disgust and moved on. Finally I caught up with my friends who were watching the show from a safe distance. They expressed their awe for throwing a kick at a cow.
When I got home and narrated the story to my mom to gain some sympathy – not so fast – my grandmother who was kneading the cotton to make threads to light the oil lamp to god, jumped with astonishment – I had thought she was hard of hearing all this time – but apparently not, “What! you kicked a cow?” addressing my mother she continued in the same breath, “Do you see daughter-in-law, where your children are going with your upbringing”. That’s it, my mother raised her hand while she pulled back her bangles with the other to slap my grandmother for her comment – then again that would be another huge cow incident of my mother, so she, unlike me being smart one, landed it on me, SMACK! Mr. Mustache’s smack appeared lot bearable than that. “Go sit in that corner, don’t touch anything”, she yelled while she headed out the front door, “I don’t know what kind of Satan has gotten into him”. No this is not like the American Timeout, it was more worse than that; I had become what we call the untouchable. She came back after a while with her palm clasped, some liquid was dripping of her palm as she walked towards me. While I watched up scared, she sprinkled that liquid on me. “Yeaw! this smells awful”, I cried. “It’s Gomutra, this will cleanse you of the evil Satan inside you”, she said and turned around sprinkled the remaining Gomutra off her hands in the entire room as though it was some kind of perfume. Let me explain to you what Gomutra means, it’s literally Cow Pee, Go means cow, hence GoPee. No, that QA guy at our work is not Cow Pee, Gopi is short for GoPal, which again literally means Pal of a Cow – another name for Krishna, who was a cowherd. Now she held a big coconut leaves broom stick and started slapping me with it, of course she was gentle – the idea was to beat the Satan inside me, not me, to top it she spat on me – no spit came out of her mouth but the action was vigorous. She finally calmed down while I watched her amazed – for a moment I thought the Satan might have jumped into her, gestured me to go to her with open arms, I was hesitant but I could see the warmth in her eyes, I walked up to her, she hugged me hard affectionately for all the yelling and beating she had done. “Don’t you think I should take a shower before I touch you, I am in all cow pee”, “don’t worry you are clean now”, she said. Clean was an understatement, I was pure.
As years rolled by I noticed my mother had a special relation with cows. Every morning she found some cow on the street to worship. Some festival days she collected the cow poop, sorry, GoDung – I just coined that for Cow Dung and decorated the main door step with it. Some other festivals she waited hours starving us to feed a cow before we ate. You know it’s not just my mom, there are other moms in the town who were faster and smarter than mine, who hunted a cow way before my mom and had them captive on this day till they fed their food. There we go, I would volunteer to find a cow and set out to get one in scorching heat, with no food and water half way down my hunt, I would faint on the street. Next thing I know a cow is standing over me and peeing on my face; follow the Gomutra, I jumped with joy and teased the animal with the small amount of food and lead it home. My mom thanked me for that and spent next half hour on offering her the food with all the rituals. The cow would be hesitant to eat – remember she would have been fed by other moms by now, finally the ordeal would be over and we would eat.
One day I garnered my guts and asked my mom, what’s up with this cow and her dedication to the animal? Then she began that cow was the most sacred animal in our religion, our scriptures say that there are 64,000 gods residing inside the animal, every part you name can be associated with a god. My eyes popped out, like in the cow’s butt too – who lives there? “Stop that nonsense, you are grown up now”, she yelled at me. This made me think, why would she torture all her children by dragging them to the temple week after week, make us bang our heads to the pedestal of each god that that existed in the temple – I would at least count score of them. You can see my forehead developing pointed horns on either side. Instead I would just bang my head once to this cow and be done with it for at least a year.
I hear cows mooing when I see steak; goggly eyes staring at me. It’s the same feeling as Alex in Madagascar sees his friend Marty as steak, only opposite. After the story my colleagues took a deep breath and sighed. Chris flexed his arms which were the size of my head and conceded that he too would stop eating cows – until the steak arrived on the table. He changed his mind and said, “You know I will never eat an Indian cow – they don’t have much meat anyways”, he giggled.