Cows in India

Mankind has never been as fascinated by anything as much as it has by UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects, as we all know).

Blockbuster films have been made by Hollywood -- and liberally adapted here in Bollywood as well to shore up Hrithik Roshan's flagging career.

Interest in spheres, saucers, lights, etc, peaks around mysterious sightings accompanied by amateur videos. Sometimes, these UFOs are seen over Mexico; sometimes, near the moon.

But, if you happen to live or work in India's Millennium city, Gurgaon, chances are you'll spot a UFO every day. Several times a day. Not up in the sky, but right in front of you, on the city's potholed roads.

These UFOs are Unmovable Foraging Objects. Also known as Cows. I kid (or calf) you not.

These UFOs can be found through the day walking down narrow roads, unmindful of the traffic building up behind them. And since, many Hindus worship cows, they avoid honking at them. Of course, this is also because any loud noise or even a nudge is likely to invite a reaction that can range from a cud-laden lick of your car's windshield, to a jab by one of its magnificent horns.

Some cows wear bells; probably because their horns don't work. But be that as it may, you should never antagonise cows because they exhibit a tendency to suddenly stop ambling down the road and stare vacantly into space: perhaps to spot other UFOs, high up there, or simply because they have foraged on too much grass.

The residents of Gurgaon, however, are quick to spot such 'road dividers', as they are termed, and swerve their SUVs and autos around them with practiced dexterity.

Given the slow speed at which these cows walk, they are very visible and have also been used as an advertising medium by Indiatimes, an internet portal that underwent a logo change over a decade ago and needed an innovative outdoor medium to promote the brand.

The advertising agency, it is believed, milked this option the moment the client agreed. Talking of milk, a child was once heard asking his parents if the Mother Dairy booth had a cow inside it who gave fresh milk at all times.

In a livestock census released by the government of Haryana in 2012, it was reported that cattle comprised 20.50% of all livestock, whereas buffaloes ruled the cowshed at 69%.

Buffaloes, however, are rarely spotted on the streets because they are dark and likely to be hit in the fading light of smoggy Gurgaon; especially by speeding drivers who have topped up on tipple at one of the many 'Government-approved Drinking Places' that have mushroomed in the city.

The census also revealed that Haryana reported an increase of over 16% growth in cows in five years. No official data is available after 2012, probably because the authorities have lost track and are unable to keep up with these animals that seem to be breeding like rabbits.

However, Haryana does not lead the herd when it comes to Indian states with the largest cattle population: That honour goes to Bihar and Jharkhand.

Of course, some Gurgaon cows do lose their way and wander across the border to Delhi since they do not have to pay any toll. Perhaps this is why NCT also stands for National Cow Territory.

These UFOs are also considered sacred by many Indians though some would secretly have preferred them to be served as steak, rather than be found on the streets, obstructing traffic. Given the recent increase in cow vigilantism, it should come as no surprise that India is the world's largest exporter of beef.

So, the next time you fancy a rare or a medium, hop down to Malaysia or Saudi Arabia and get your NRI cousin to do the needful for, these countries are among the leading importers of Indian beef.

But returning to Gurgaon, or Gurugram as it has been recently renamed, one should be careful not to call it Gorugram ('goru' being the Bengali word for 'cow').

There exists a cow helpline to report any attempt at killing or kidnapping of (calf-napping?) cows. And, given the waning sense of humour in the country, even cow-jokes are likely to attract wrath.

If not anger, then they will certainly attract a cess: there is a proposal to levy a tax on movie-goers that will help make things better for cows. If this were to happen, we should be prepared for a Krrish 4 in which Hrithik plays the role of a godlike cowherd so that the film's producer can apply for a tax-free run.

Until that happens, however, you can seethe and squirm at Gurgaon's Unmovable Foraging Objects till the cows come home.