Ruminations

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Welcome to the Got Milk?/Dr. Doolittle post! Here’s your ruminant:

She was coming right at me, I had to really move out of her way pretty quickly.

I haven’t been able to get that many pictures of animals, unfortunately. Most of the ones we see on the road we’re passing too quickly. There aren’t all that many cows in the area where I live and work. We pass them now and then, but I wouldn’t say it’s a daily occurrence. They’re usually on the median, which is very narrow and about two feet high. I don’t know how or when they get there, but I imagine they must stay put for a while (ruminating, probably). On the drive this past weekend, we saw a LOT of cows. They’re everywhere, and I’ve seen a couple different kinds. The one above almost looks Jersey, but there were a lot of black ones that almost look like water buffalo, but they didn’t have the long horns. Then there were these lighter ones that have a big hump on their backs. While they are considered sacred animals by Hindus, they do hang with the stray dogs and all the other animals that scavenge for garbage, and they don’t always look particularly well cared for. Their dung is used by people as fuel and as building material: the patties are flattened and dried into these hubcap-sized plates and used like brick or shingle siding. We saw lots of little huts (or “shit shacks”) along the road built this way. I’m not sure if our terminology will catch on.

I understand some of you readers wanted further elaboration on the elephant ride. Rest assured, JC took several pictures, but because this computer is so slow, uploading them to the blog is a lengthy affair. I didn’t catch the elephant’s name, where he’s from, or what his plans are for the future, but in the meantime he climbs up the hill to Amer Fort a couple times a day. I think they only work in the morning and late afternoon. He was painted, but the paint was very faded, I don’t know how often they decorate them. The patchy depigmentation is due to age, I think.

An elephant is not a smooth ride. It’s not jarring like being bounced on a horse, but because of the way they walk, with fairly straight legs, the weight transfer with every step means that you are moving through the air quite a bit, swaying back and forth and side to side and up and down. We were going pretty slow though so it’s not enough to get motion sick. For further reading on the biomechanics of an elephant’s gait, I refer you to the following article (yes, I expect you to read it, and yes, there will be a quiz later): http://www.thailandelephant.org/pdf/RunJEB_original.pdf. The elephant would occasionally do a snort and stomp his foot at the same time. I don’t really know what was up with that, but it made a lot of noise which really echoed in the corridor we were climbing. I didn’t touch him so I don’t know what the skin felt like, and he didn’t really smell. You could smell the dung a bit on the ground, but honestly, smell of dung in the air here is not all that unusual!

Those of you who know me know that I love dogs. Almost all the dogs here are strays though. I’m a little surprised with myself for not having had a really emotional reaction to them – seeing them doesn’t make me particularly upset, even though I obviously prefer dogs to have safe, loving homes. These dogs don’t really seem horribly beaten down, though: they don’t skulk around, they trot with a spring in their step and tails held high. None of them look great, but they’re more dirty than sickly-looking, and I don’t see a lot of bones sticking out. I don’t like that they have to scavenge for garbage, but my dog will eat garbage given any opportunity so maybe it’s really yummy. And since the sacred cows are also lying around in the trash and eating garbage, it’s not like the dogs are being treated any worse. It doesn’t seem like people mind them, they just let them hang around. I do like seeing the dogs acting “doggy;” it’s nice that canine behavior is cross-continentally consistent. For example, at the Taj Mahal, suddenly 3 dogs gave chase to a couple birds and I saw another go after a chipmunk. While I was taking pictures of the Water Palace, a dog waded down into the water for a drink and lay down to cool off. They dig holes in the sand and lay down in puddles and because it’s so hot, and they’re always huffy-puffy with their tongues lolling out, which makes them look more smiley. They don’t really solicit human attention and I haven’t tried to approach or touch any of them.

We’ve also seen a lot of goats, and some horses, donkeys, and camels which are used as draught (pulling) animals. Here’s a multi-species cricket game involving humans, goats, cows, and donkeys at the foot of Amer Fort:

While we were at Jaipur, we saw our first “snake charmers.” These individuals aren’t actually just sitting around playing music: as soon as they see tourists, they run up and sit in front of you, whip the lid off a basket, and start playing their instrument while the cobra sits up a bit. You take a picture, then pay the guy for the photo op.

Also in Jaipur, at the Amer fort, we were looking at the water system (used to get water up vertically from the river) and found… THE BAT CAVE!!! It smelled pretty rank, but I have a pretty good idea it’s due to human activity (read: men who think the world is their toilet) and not the bats. I’ve never seen so many bats at once, usually just one or two flying around when I’m camping. Have I mentioned I’m a huge fan of anything that eats bugs? Bats and geckos – yeah, we’re tight. Aren’t you glad I got my rabies shots now?

I’ll leave you with a couple observations that have nothing to do with animals:

In written English, people seem to use much more “dramatic” language, seemingly to evoke pathos. In the abstract of a paper I was reading, sex workers were described as being “alone in the world” and “what is more agonizing is that…” and I don’t think you would find this in a Western-authored paper. I also saw in a newspaper article written about a CARE program something about “the heavy burden of responsibility on her small shoulders at such a tender age.” In a notice from HR about a family member of a staffer who had died, they said, “Let’s pray for the departed soul and to give (so-and-so) and his family strength for this irreparable loss.” I was in all-day training on sexual harassment yesterday, and the laws upon which the policy is based talk of “outraging the modesty of a woman” and prohibit materials containing “indecent representations of women” which could “insult her modesty.” The CARE policy does assume gender-neutral language, allowing that women could be the offenders too, but the laws do not. Someone told me that the language is just older and more formal, and when you think of it, you could see this sort of wording in very old books and articles and such.

I’ve figured out something about the fabric store silks in North America: the really beautiful dupioni and shantung silk is always in colours I can’t wear: chartreuse, violet, magenta, ochre, saffron… I always wonder, “Who BUYS this stuff? Where’s the less-bright blue and green? What about a nice burgundy?” It’s because they’re not for me. Those colours are popular here because they look fantastic on Indian women – the nice stuff at Fabricville must be for the Indian expat community.

This concludes today’s episode… Tune in next time – same Bat-time, same Bat-channel! (but with probably less talk of bats).

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2 responses »

  1. I am most grateful for such a heartfelt post on the wonders of the other species that share our ravishing planet. Prithee continue your grand efforts of enlightening us with your wit. Bravo, bravo. I feel the need to add a “thou” somewhere to make it even more archaic… I am also wearing a top hat. And a cape. *drama drama*

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