Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Milking the Buffalo

Today I realized another of my dreams: To milk a buffalo. OK, mostly I watched the professionals, but I got my virgin hands on those rubbery utters for a little while.
Here in India the drinking of cow and buffalo milk is widespread. Milk goes into many an Indian specialty and, sorry vegans, here a "pure veg" restaurant means they don't use eggs. Most people in the west are familiar with lassi, the refreshing yoghurt drink (and if you ever want to try and introduce your kids to it, I recommend starting with the sweet variety), but the full range of uses is astonishing. Naturally butter is one popular derivative, but also ghee (purified butter, often spread on chapatis for eating, but also used during cremation and other rituals), and the leftover buttermilk, served with the meal at many restaurants.

There is another precious mana which the cow and buffalo provide. The poo, when formed into a pancake and dried, makes for an excellent fuel for cooking over a fire (and makes excellent fertilizer).

And so, my day with the illiterate buffalo milk family was a truly memorable and enjoyable one.

On the literary front, yesterday I finished reading City of Joy about the slum in Calcutta (now Kolkata) of the same name, on which the movie is based. It's great fun to read, and I recommend it whether you've seen the movie or not. Quite gruesome in parts, it manages to be both ecstatically happy and miserably sad all at the same time.

I've slowed the pace of travel and dug in here in the ancient city of Dwarka on the coast in the far west of Gujarat state. Krishna is the main man around these parts. As the story goes, he was born in north of India by the Ganges, but later came here to work and established the city of Dwarka. It's extremely hard to seperate the truths preached by the local stories and the truths preached by the archaeologists, and from what I can gather it's not exactly known how old some of the important temples here are. The locals will usually say 5000 years old.

The place has a special atmosphere. It's very traditional and almost untouched by tourism, except for the pilgrims who flock here for auspicious days. There always seems to be a festival happenning, both day and night. Yesterday was an important holiday for the Sunni Muslims, and was the cause of great celebration. To my great surprise, loudspeakers and drums came alive in the darkest depths of the night last night, directly outside my guesthouse. The main celebration for this festival just finished an hour ago.

A few days before was January 26th, India's independance day, which was the cause of a massive celebration. To fill the gaps there is always a wedding or anniversary party dancing in the streets and filling the air with the sounds of a casio synthesizer and a raging drum line.

Don't know when I'll be able to pull myself away...

1 comment:

Judy said...

Hello Seth, your mom sent me your URL. I thought I would make a comment.
It seems like it is so much of a waste how much of the US slaughter the cow and buffalo for when common sense says keep the cow and buffalo and it will provide heat and nourishment for years.
Your stories are entertaining. It will take me awhile to go though all your adventures. I am also looking forward to reading about your travels. Love, Aunt Judy