Highest Cast

Do cows have thoughts?

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Alright, so I understand that clearly cows posses the capacity to birth an inclination, and the option to follow it through, but are said inclinations just wordless impulses? Are they just senses that perhaps it might be a good idea to eat now?

That sitting on this particular patch of road for a long and defiant amount of time would make one’s underbelly exponentially and defiantly happy?

But that’s just it; the word ‘defiant’.

You are obviously aware that I ask this question purely because I already have an answer. The cows here in India are not just helpless, thoughtless vessels – they are calculating. They know their status in this society.

They take for granted their imminent superiority and undeniable class as unofficial members of the Indian caste system, and they are indescribably and almost disgustingly ‘defiant’ in their arrogance as the ‘top dogs’ of every situation; these cows have thoughts!

These cows think thoughts.

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I once met a very good example of this in the middle of a Goan road, from the front of a speeding bus.

We were making the one hour trip from Margao to Palolem, a trip peppered with pit stops and toilet breaks and tiffin times, and it was on the final leg of our travels that we almost ran right into what I remember fondly and perhaps stereotypically as ‘Daisy’.

She was stood right in the centre of the narrow strip of bitumen. Her body turned to the side, and the stretch from her head to her tail fairly filled the equal stretch from one bank to the other.

She stared straight in front of her as though searching for someone in the leaves to the side of the road, her tail twitching in a non-existent breeze, swatting all too existent flies…

She was in no hurry. I think she enjoyed the nothingness of being placed across a relatively busy road, looking at nothing much and chewing yesterday’s lunch. She revelled in it.

The glory of being a cow! A bovine queen! Why should she do anything? Why should she move? Why should she not be where she was being and do the lack of anything which she was so contentedly and unflinchingly doing?

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It was quite a narrow road, lined with the beautiful brightly coloured houses and sultry palms that are so typical of Goa, and we, being a bus, were going very fast in the very middle of said thoroughfare. A fine vehicle!

Our tout was as loud as the best of them with his ‘Margaon Margaon wannagowannagowannago Margaaaaaooooon’, and the engine just as temperamental.

Occasionally we’d hit a corner and swing right out over the cusp of the bitumen, the tiny woman next to me would be flung across the isle to the seat opposite and the boxes of goodness knows what piled a few rows back would collapse all over the young man desperately holding them together.

All was normal and business was as usual! No problem, right?

Ah, well…

If it had not been for the typical superhuman reflexes of our Indian bus driver we would have given Daisy reason enough to think again about her situation, and all would not have been normal at all.

Perhaps the blaring of his horn should have done more than turn her head… But no, this was Daisy! Daisy the bovine queen! A Brahman of her herd!

The wall of her substantial flank wasn’t moving for anyone. You see, Daisy represents a breed of living organism that is exempt from the normal order of things. At least, it is in India…

So with nothing else for it we swerved past her tail at a terrifying speed, very much on the wrong side of the road, with one wheel on bitumen and the other bouncing happily over the deep holes and nuggets of granite peppering the leaves beside it.

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We swiped past countless innocents leaving a trail of battered mothers and wind-swept school children in our wake, separating helpless piglets from their roadside mothers, terrifying young studs on glitsy motorbikes… and the woman next to me and the boxes behind me and the boy clinging to said boxes and the loud tout and the driver himself were all spilled about the bus in a fantastic array of bright, intense chaos!

As we sailed away from her luxurious flank and recovered our seats and vertical positions no-one even flinched. There was not one grumble or tut.

The boy calmly placed his boxes by his feet, the woman kept her new spot somewhere near the back of the bus, and our driver began to whistle something very out of tune and very cheerful.

It was not as though it had never happened, no, but it was as though the very fact that it had happened was neither abnormal nor irritating. It almost seemed that its happening was what everybody needed in order to believe that day would be a functional one. It was a requirement.

A good start to the day, like my two cups of very strong very black coffee every morning.

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Clearly Indian cows think thoughts, and I honestly think this one deliberately decided to be before us, precarious and challenging, an obstacle demanding to be avoided and sending out thought thoughts to anyone nimble enough to succeed.

Sending out blessings, even, to anyone who rises to said challenge and leaves it unscathed, as a start to a brilliant day…

No cows in Vietnam, but there are lots of Hipsters… >

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