Sunday, 23 February 2014

Holy Cow and the Lightsabers

As we sit down to talk and I open my bag to take out my notebook, we hear a noise. Someone is shouting. It’s an old woman, running around, crying for help. I think a snake has bitten someone, a common occurrence in this village. Then we hear it.

"Help! Please! Someone help! The cow has fallen into the well. Help please! They had just brought the cow! Help! Run! Come!"

Her cries resonate in the silent, dark night.

The woman disappears into the alley that she appeared from, leaving the air heavy with her cries for help.

Soon, I see some people briskly walking, others running towards the alley that the old woman had appeared from. This is not to be missed. I must see what is going on and if needed lend a hand. The whole village seems to be going in the same direction. I join them.

An amazing scene awaits me. There is no electricity and it’s a dark night. I see about 50 people gathered at a spot, facing each other, in a circle. Their backs face me. Everyone has a torch in their hand. All the torches are pointed into a well. The centre of the crowd is illuminated. It looks like a group of holy men is surrounding the newly born god.




They surround the well in which the old woman’s cow has fallen.

Men constantly join and leave the circle around the well. They have metal or plastic hilts in their hands with lights coming out of the hilts. In the surrounding darkness they look like lightsabers from star wars. These Jedi of the village keep joining and leaving the war to save the cow, cutting the darkness with their torches.

As the scenes unfold, on a side, by the road, a group of women stand watching, worried, eager to discover the climax of the story. Such events attract as many or more viewers as fighters. In a way they provide a change from the boring, mundane village life. People, who otherwise may not move around in the darkness of night, gather to watch and participate in such events.



There is a clear separation between the men and women. The men are working and the women are watching. They look like maidens praying for the warriors who have joined the war. War and in this case the physical activities involved in the attempt to save the cow are seen as a ‘man’s job’. Women must stay on the side, watch and pray. No one asks for their suggestions, no one takes their opinion.

On one side, a four-wheeler is parked, possibly the one the cow was brought on. Someone (a man) suggests that the headlamps of the vehicle would make the work easier. Quickly, the vehicle is turned and the light pointed towards the well. It illuminates the general area but the light cannot get into the well. In any case the men are surrounding the well. However, the headlamps make the work easier in the general area. Work inside the well is still helped with the lightsabers.



Some men have now jumped into the well and tied the cow with a rope. A plank has been placed on top of the well. A make shift pulley is quickly created. Everyone heaves and the cow is pulled out.




The cow seems to be in sohck after its recent horrible experience. The gathered crowd makes it worse. Its owners rub it and light a fire near by to pacify and warm it. They are engulfed in a circle of light, from someone's torch.

In the end the lightsabers have won and the darkness has lost. Although there is a sea of darkness, all that was needed was an island of light near the well. People armed only with their torches and muscles, without any external help have managed to rescue a cow and the family that depends on it. Lack of electricity has not been an impediment to these people. They know very well how to work without electricity. We all have studied about adaptation; I see it in these people.

We are heading back, our torches now directed away from the scene of action. Everyone is heading back. Darkness again engulfs the spot. I hope the cow will be alright this time.


the well in which the cow fell

On the way back, we walk with some other men from the village. They are discussing the cow and the rescue efforts. I laud the unity of the village at this time of crisis. One of the men remarks, “It was actually the cow that the people came for. They wouldn’t have come it were a human”. Such is the unifying effect of the holy cow.

The next day I was told that the cow had been brought that same day to the village. It had just been unloaded from the small truck. It seems that the cow was unfamiliar with its surroundings and before it could map out the dark and light spaces of its surroundings, tragedy struck.

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This post was first published on my other blog stories of lights on 18th November 2012 and displayed in the Stories of Lights exhibition on 6th January 2014 and 5th February 2014. This reposting is a part of a plan to merge the two blogs at a later date.

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