Silent night, Holy Cow!

Tonight my husband and I rode on the bike to a quieter part of Nagpur to take a walk together under the trees. We rode below the Cheshire cat moon, the same moon I saw as I flew over Mumbai. The same grin, this time a little broader as the moon is slowly becoming fuller each night and it has been already nine days since I landed! The moon followed us through the traffic, passing the garland stalls overflowing with flowers, shining temples and road side restaurants full of life. As I looked up once again at the Cheshire cats smile, I felt a gentle warmth on my right knee and a sudden jolt as my husband turned the bike off of the road and we came to a short stop.

There she was, absolutely unperturbed; a large and majestic Indian cow. She had been walking in the middle of the road in the direction of the traffic and as we were passing by she must have thought ‘left might be a nicer idea’. No harm done to any of us, but it was close. The warmth remained on my knee for a couple of minutes even though there was only a moment of soft contact.

Maybe she was the same beautiful cow I had been watching for a long while from my bedroom window earlier today. She too enjoyed the middle of the road, but this time she was simply standing motionless, as if meditating, as the traffic passed on both sides. The pure white of her body shone bright like a holy aura and the gentleness of those black eyes made it easy to understand why the cow is so sacred here. She soon started to look around and our eyes met for a short while, then she was off again on her travels. I was quite sad to see her go. Goodbye, Holy Cow.



      • I look forward to hearing much more from you– am living vicariously through you because I will never get to India or be married to an Indian. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my husband but have this pull towards India. Speaking of husbands, you must be ecstatic, if a little shell-shocked, to be with him in Mother India!!! Enjoy every second!!


      • Aww, Ellen! I really hope you can make it to India some day… but I am afraid you may never want to leave when you do arrive! See if you can find a local Hindu temple! 😀 I am in shock every time I wake up- I still cannot quite believe I am here!! x


      • I am SO happy for you!! It was in the stars, from some other lifetime– your love!! Love is ecstatic and your relationship sounds so very extra special!!


  1. Hi Lauren,
    I love your beautiful bicycle ride description – you truly are having some “..Adventures in Wonderland” moments! Discovering your blog has lifted my spirits and is helping me overcome some difficulties but more importantly your blog has restored my faith in the beauty of romance, love and relationships.
    Thank you!
    Faye x


    • Hello Faye!
      My cousin has a beautiful daughter called Faye, so your name always makes me smile but your comment brought a tear to my eye!

      Thank you so much for reading my blog and I am so happy that you have taken something from it! I can tell you before I found my husband, my faith in romance, love and relationships had nearly been beaten to death but life has its ways of turning things upside down 😀

      I hope you are well dear and thank you so much for your beautiful comment!! Stay in touch!! Lauren ❤


  2. Ah, the magic of India. I remember during some interminable wait for some bus somewhere in northern India, I watched a cow eat an entire cardboard box. I miss that kind of stuff.


      • Sorry to sound like a killjoy. I love India, but I also love animals… or more to the point, I care about their welfare. So I have to ask, does it not make you feel sad for the animals you see on the streets of India?

        Sure, it’s ‘exotic’ and all that, cows wandering around with necklaces on…. but cows are ruminants, they are supposed to be living on grassy plains or pasture. If the cow is considered sacred in India, why is it left to wander around on concrete and tarmac, surrounded by moving traffic, breathing in choking fumes, and nosing through rubbish in a desperate search for scraps of food?

        A cow that eats a cardboard box and a dog that eats a newspaper are animals that are suffering from starvation. There’s nothing magical in that.

        Similarly, elephants are supposed to move as part of herd, with their own kind, as part of a family group… not stand for hours on end, covered in coloured paint, outside a temple… with visitors somehow thinking they are having a more ‘scared’ experience because of the presence of the elephant.

        Yes, I do love India, but that doesn’t mean I lose my critical judgement when I step onto Indian soil. If cows were left to live on roads among traffic in England, British people would say it was a barbaric way to treat animals. Yet those same people feel sentimental when they see cows in India suffering the same fate. Why is that?


      • My short answer to this:

        The majority of the cows in Nagpur get herded up at night.
        These dogs are not domestic, they are wild animals but still looked after and fed by the community.

        In the UK, cows are taken from their young, pushed into crammed sheds, milked until their udders get infection and then get slaughtered. In my opinion, this is barbaric.

        To see a beautiful creatures everyday, the dogs and cows in Nagpur are generally very healthy. It’s not perfect and I have seen some sad sights but it is what it is. This city is not like some urban cities, its the greenest city in India.


      • Yes, intensive farming practices cause animal suffering in the UK, as well as all over the world. However, I wasn’t talking about this. I was talking about the particular phenomenon in India of cows being left to live on city streets because they are perceived to be ‘sacred’ and must be allowed to wander at will……. (I don’t understand how come it doesn’t apply to the cows on dairy farms in India, but hey). Cows that live on streets are unable to graze on grass (which is, of course, what their teeth, stomachs and whole physiology is designed for, and it is what they need.) When I said there was nothing magical in that, (see loveinistanbul’s comment above) I meant there is nothing magical for the animal who has to live that life, not for the human who gets to observe them. I didn’t mean to cause offense. I thought I had a valid point.


  3. My first trip to India – Varanasi during Holiday – a friend traveling with me took a great picture of a white cow with an impressionistic pink cheek. We named the picture ‘Holiday Cow’ !


  4. What a beautiful scene. 😮 You and your hubby are so romantic. Haha… It’s so sweet.
    I’m still brand new to Hinduism, but it seems like a truly majestic scene.
    I can’t wait to see some pictures. Have an awesome day! 🙂


  5. Ah, Lauren, I am trying to figure out how to share the photo of Holi Cow. Too tired tonight, will try again!….


  6. I am an animal lover, too, and an India lover, as well. And I have seen abuse of animals take place in the States and in India. I don’t know how it is in Great Britain, but we, here in the states, abuse animals terribly. Cows, pigs, chickens are horribly treated on factory farms, so horribly treated they are fed antibiotics so the businesses can still sell the meat from sick cows, pigs and chickens. I fight online for animal activism every day– to see the end of factory farms. I am not saying cardboard is a good diet for cows but if Nagpur is a green city then there must be some grass around (I have never been there so don’t know). And the calves are not sadistically torn from their mothers as they are in the states. I would say the animals are perhaps doing better in India than in the U.S. Elephants here are mistreated for circus acts. Abused terribly. It seems man all over the world abuses animals but that should be no surprise considering how man gets on with fellow humans. All over the world. I think however, I’d rather be a cow in India than here.


    • Hi Ellen,
      Yes, the scale of animal suffering wherever factory farming exists is huge. How is it here in the UK? Well, animal welfare laws have always been stricter in the UK than in mainland Europe, although certain practices (eg. the use of veal crates) that were initially only banned in Britain have now been banned in all EU countries, as there is a move towards uniformity with European law governing all member states…. with Britain leading the way when it comes to animal welfare legislation (due to a powerful lobby, driven by a stronger cultural belief in the necessity for ethical practices).
      However, I think the point I was trying to make seems to have been missed. I wasn’t making a comparison between how animals are treated in the UK and how they are treated in India. The comparison I was making was between the PERCEPTION of an English person when in England…. and when that same person is in India, prompted by loveinistanbul’s comment (and she’s English): “Ah, the magic of India. I remember during some interminable wait for some bus somewhere in northern India, I watched a cow eat an entire cardboard box, I miss that kind of stuff.” My point was this: if you saw a cow in the street in England, so desperate for food that it is eating cardboard, your emotions would probably be somewhat different.
      Yes, India is beguiling, mesmeric and all sorts of other things… but research has shown that most of the cows on the streets of India eventually die a slow and painful death due to the huge amount of plastic they ingest as they scavenge for food in garbage. It settles in their first stomach, stays there forever, and becomes as hard as concrete and entangles with other things they eat. Many cows also suffer broken legs from being hit by cars or falling into ditches and drains. (Google ‘Street cows in India’ for a real insight into what their lives are like.)
      As you say, animal abuse goes on all over the world. I wasn’t comparing India unfavourably with the UK. I was merely questioning why a scenario which entails animal suffering (a cow eating a box) induces a peachy glow of sentiment, and is described as evoking the magic of India. As I said before, it sure ain’t ‘magic’ if you’re the cow.


      • We’re agreed that seeing cows eat plastic and cardboard should not produce a peachy glow in anyone, Brit or otherwise. I did google street cows in India and indeed read about what you are talking about and that is abysmal. I also found a society working to rectify the situation: All I am saying that I believe more people in India, as opposed to the U.S. and Great Britain, treat cows and animals with reverence, and are vegetarian, and if I was a cow I might prefer to take my chances in India rather than the U.S. or G.B. where I am sure to become hamburger or steak, even if I have to suffer Brits romanticizing my scavenging lifestyle. The real issue is how humans treat non-human animals all over the world. We just witnessed the brutality against scavenging dogs in Russia during the Olympics. Humans need to open their eyes to the brutality all animals suffer. As Isaac Bashevis Singer said, “For the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.”


      • I don’t think cows are treated with reverence in India, they are often not even treated humanely. Left to wander on city streets in stifling heat, with no access to food, water, shade, at high risk of being hit by cars? (Being given a bindi and a flower garland does nothing for the cow.) Hindu beliefs might state that the cow is sacred and must not be killed… but Hindu farmers hand the cows over to Muslims to do it for them. Hypocrisy and corruption seem to be the guiding principles when it comes to the welfare of cows in India. (I’m not talking about an occasional soft-hearted auntie who feeds a left-over chappati to a street cow, I’m talking about those who have jurisdiction over the animals and who determine their fate.) I recommend that people Google “How India’s sacred cows are beaten, abused and poisoned” and read the highly informative article which appeared in The Independent newspaper if they want to know what really goes on. I believe that as humans who have a voice, we have a duty to inform ourselves about what is really going on, however unpleasant it might be. Ignorance might be bliss, but knowledge is power. (The use of elephants in circuses in India has recently been banned. This would never have come about had animal welfare campaigners not consistently protested about the cruelty these animals were subjected to.)

        Yes, Ellen, you are right when you say that the real issue is how humans treat non-human animals all over the world…. but my focus here relates to what Lauren was blogging about – street cows in India. My initial question was: do you not feel sad for these animals? Seeing as Lauren blogs about the different things she encounters, as an English woman in India, and how these experiences make her feel, I couldn’t help wondering if her joy at seeing such beautiful animals daily was mitigated by the fact that these animals lead lives which are far from joyful.

        Attitudes to animal welfare differs in different parts of the world, as we all know. In some places there are comprehensive animal welfare laws which are enforced, in others there are no animal welfare laws whatsoever, eg. China. (Although in India, those laws that do exist are often as good as useless, as those with the authority to enforce those laws routinely take bribes to ignore them.) In China, I can pour petrol over a puppy, set fire to it, and film myself laughing as it screams and writhes in agony until it dies…. and nothing will happen to me, as I have not committed a crime. In the UK I would go to prison for the same act. To talk about how animal welfare provision differs from one country to another does not make me guilty of cultural imperialism. Cruelty is cruelty and neglect is neglect, wherever it occurs. The internet means that we now have little communities of people coming together from all parts of the globe and discussing things, asking questions. I don’t think we should confine ourselves to only being critical about the practices in our own country, for fear of offending someone.


      • I have no doubt that some cows are abused and horribly treated in India as commonplace practice and that corruption is rampant. That is neither to be denied or ignored. Such horrific treatment is rampant in factory farms here in the states and elsewhere as you have pointed out. And the U.S. has not even passed a ban on wild animals in circuses yet.

        But you must admit that a country that has 500 million vegetarians percentage wise treats its animals better than all other countries. Nowhere else is there such a high percentage of vegetarians. I still stand that if I were a cow, my chances for survival from being made into hamburger, steak or milked to death are far less in India than elsewhere. Please see:


      • I’m sorry to disillusion you, but sadly you could not be more wrong, Ellen.

        You maintain that “a country that has 500 million vegetarians percentage wise treats its animals better than all other countries”. Er, no… far from it. Quite the opposite, in fact….

        Here we go, deep breath… ready for a mind-blowing fact? Well, here it is – In 2012, India, yes INDIA, became the WORLD’S THIRD LARGEST BEEF EXPORTER. India, yes INDIA, the land of the sacred cow, with all those hundreds of millions of vegetarians, PRODUCES AND EXPORTS MORE BEEF THAN THE USA!! Incredible, isn’t it? (Perhaps that’s what the Indian Tourist Board was referring to when it ran the “Incredible Indiaaahh!!!” advertising campaign a couple of years ago. Because it sure does beggar belief.)

        And because of the corruption that is endemic in India, the fate of a cow in the meat trade is far more horrific there than anything that could ever be dreamt up in the USA or the UK. You see, in India the magnitude of animal suffering is multiplied a million-fold for each animal by the very laws which outlaw the trade in and slaughter of cows in the majority of India’s 24 states. How so? Because those laws force the trade in and slaughter of the cows underground, which results in secret hole-in-the-wall cow abattoirs (usually in the Muslim parts of towns) which are all clandestine and illegal, totally unregulated and unscrutinised. However, the main result of these laws which would purport to protect cows is the appalling trafficking of cattle from all over India by truck and train to West Bengal in the north east, and Kerala in the far south…. and they go by the millions…. because in these two places the slaughter of cows is not prohibited. And it is worse than you could ever have imagined. A train wagon designed to hold 80 cows is routinely crammed with 900, and half of them die during the journey. The situation is even more dire for those cows which are taken to Kerala on foot, tens of thousands of them everyday. What they are subjected to is beyond belief… in the land where the cow is supposedly ‘sacred’. (I implore you to please Google: “How India’s sacred cows are beaten, abused and poisoned to make leather for high street shops” and read the article, because you obviously have no idea of how things are, if you can say that you would prefer to take your chances as a cow in India rather than in USA.)
        And this highly-lucrative trade in cow meat in India exists for one reason and one reason only – because of gross corruption at every level. Fake permits are issued to say that the cows are going to be used for agricultural purposes; the stationmaster at the train station falsely certifies that the cows have arrived healthy and are going for milk production (when in fact half of them have already died and the rest are in a terrible state); government vets also certify that the animals are healthy…
        Please read the article, Ellen, and then you will understand. To honestly believe that India treats its animals better than all other countries (purely based on the fact that a high percentage of the population is vegetarian) is naive.


      • Have just found out that India is now THE LARGEST exporter of beef in the world, having overtaken Brazil (massive increase in production since 2012, when India was third largest producer).
        To give you an idea of the scale of operations – officials in Andhra Pradesh estimate that there are 3,100 illegal slaughterhouses in the state, compared with just 6 licensed ones. (The authorities which should be stopping it are routinely bribed to let it continue.) Criminal gangs in Delhi load street cows into trucks at night and take them to illegal abattoirs (they get 94 US dollars per animal) because the demand for cow meat is now so high. (Increasing numbers of young Hindus in India, brought up as strict vegetarians, are now eating all kinds of meat, including steaks and hamburgers.)
        It’s a sad truth, but where corruption reigns, there is little hope of improving conditions for anyone – human or animal. Learn how to drive properly, pass a test to get a licence which allows you on the road? Why bother when you can just bribe someone to issue you with a licence. If you rape someone and the police catch you, you can often bribe them to let you go.
        ….Vegetarianism and holy cow status are neither here now there when it comes to determining what happens to the vast majority of cows in India, I’m afraid. Because where corruption is the modus operandi, nothing is sacred, not even a cow.


  7. to nicola,
    iam sorry to say that your comments on cows and hindus are little disturbing,You might not have examined the fact that india is a largest producer of milk ,this is because of cows
    People in uk and usa cut them with machines,which looks so horrible and also eat them.
    Indians respect cows because there are 83000 gods in cow.
    A devout hindu will never do this
    also they roam on their will and they are intelligent enough to what to eat and what not to eat
    99% of hindus give chapati to cows and dogs,they specially make extra for them
    india is a great country and will always remain great in terms of lifestyle,nobody can match our simplicity,spirituality,that day is not far that india will one of the richest countries in the world.


    • Dear Anuj,

      Yes, I did read about milk production in India, and this is what I found:

      “India’s neglected holy cows are producing toxic and contaminated milk because they eat garbage while wandering the streets unsupervised, according to lawyers for one of India’s top milk-producing states.
      The claim was made in India’s Supreme Court where judges ordered all of India’s states to impose life imprisonment sentences for those convicted of contaminating milk.
      Milk has a revered place in Indian spiritual life, which is one of the reasons cows are regarded as sacred.
      But despite being worshipped, many cattle owners allow their cows to wander throughout India’s roads and cities where they graze on rubbish dumps and eat plastic bags and other waste products.
      When they return to their dairies their milk is adulterated with paint, detergents, caustic soda, urea and shampoo, the court heard….”
      (Source: “India’s cows producing ‘toxic’ milk” – Telegraph Newspaper 31/1/14… Google the headline and you can read the article)

      And here is part of an article which refers to young Hindus increasingly eating beef:
      “Anuj Agrawal, 28, said he grew up in a strictly vegetarian Hindu household but tried chicken for the first time in his teens when he was at a restaurant with friends. He now eats every kind of meat, including beef steaks and burgers. “Once you taste meat, you’re not going back to just fruits and vegetables,” Mr. Agrawal said.
      He says many of his friends have made similar transitions. But he never eats meat with his grandparents: “I would be excommunicated if I did, so I go pure ‘veg’ when I’m with them. I want to inherit something.”
      To some extent, the growing acceptance of beef is a result of the government’s intense focus on increasing milk production, which has led to a proliferation of foreign cattle breeds that do not elicit the same reverence as indigenous ones, said Clementien Pauws, president of Karuna Society for Animals and Nature, an animal welfare agency in Andhra Pradesh.
      “Cows are all about business and money now, not religion,” Ms. Pauws said. “They’re all taken to slaughterhouses. It’s terrible.”
      (Source: “For New Breed of Rustlers, Nothing is Sacred” NYTimes/Delhi Journal, 26/5/14…. Google the headline and you can read the article)


      • India is not only the land of Hindus, we also have more muslims than population of many islamic countries like pakistan etc. may be answer lies there. Not only muslims, christians too…..


      • I’m sorry if what I have written has caused offence. It was not my intention to upset people, but I thought those who care about cows would want to know what was really going on.


      • It is undeniable that the cow is a beloved symbol of the Hindu faith and there are still many places in India where they are treated beautifully.

        I appreciate your concern but I don’t like the assumption that all cows in India are treated this way. India is a big place, awful things are bound to happen.

        I really would like this discussion to end here.


      • Dear Nicola,

        I understand that these awful things are happening around India, with a population of over a billion, there are bound to be some awful people lurking around and cash in on the innocent cows.

        As you have pointed out in one of your comments on this post, I write about MY experiences in Nagpur. Even thought I live in India, I have only visited three Indian cities (Nagpur, Pune and Aurangabad) and Nagpur is the only one out of those three cities where cows roam around.

        Every cow I have seen here, in Nagpur, lookd well, all are round and sit in the shade of trees here. I have not ever seen a starving cow. I appreciate that if I were to travel to busier cities, I may see a difference.

        The stray dogs are fed by the street food vendors after they are finished for the day. I am not saying that Nagpur is a utopia BUT when I am writing about seeing the animals around here, I see healthy animals who have a lot of respect. I have seen on many occasions situations just as commenter Anuj has described. Also remember these are Indian cows, adapted for Indian heat.

        Also, people are abandoning their religions all over the world, Muslim girls are taking off their hijabs and Sikhs are cutting their hair. Just because young Hindus are starting to eat meat doesn’t mean the oldest religion in the world is going anywhere. Just because “Anuj Agrawal, 28, said he grew up in a strictly vegetarian Hindu household” is no longer a vegetarian, it doesn’t mean all Hindus have started to slaughter cows. Even though this country is known as Hindustan, there is also a high percentage of Muslims and Christians who do eat meat.

        Your comments could be seen as offensive to many of my readers. If I were living in a place where these awful acts were occurring, I would be appalled and type out my concerns but as I am not living in such a place and as this blog is about my experiences. Maybe when I travel around and experience such things for myself, I will post about these things.

        It must also be noted that India is a third world country and while I would like to think that most of the population care and love animals, caring for their families will remain their priority.

        India is undefinable- you cannot say ‘India treats cows badly’ after reading a couple of articles, no sweeping statement is applicable in this country. YES there are bad things happening in India but there are also very good things happening in India. Some cows are treated badly in India but some cows are treated very well, I see the latter everyday.

        The ‘vast majority of cows’ as you put it, are living in villages and not cities. I know there are thousands of other places around India who still treat cows with love and respect. As I have said before, you cannot simply define the way India does anything because it has a population of over 1 billion and its like a different country between states.

        Whilst the articles you have found are distressing and awful, please do not think because it happens it is the norm across India.


      • Hi Lauren,

        I can see that I have upset you, and I want to say that I am genuinely sorry. I didn’t intend to go on at such length, repeatedly, nor to end up going into detail about such unpleasant things here on your blog. I felt uncomfortable doing so, but when I saw what people were writing each time, I felt compelled to provide further evidence because it seemed that people didn’t believe what I was saying was true. It became evident that because India has such a high percentage of vegetarians, some people believed it must mean that relatively few animals were raised and killed for meat… so I thought I had to point out that, ironically, India exported more beef than any other country in the world. And on and on it went…. I purposefully didn’t write of the true horrors of what happens to the cows that are trafficked from all across India to Kerala and Bengal, as the very knowledge could haunt someone who read it here when they weren’t expecting to. But I did give the headline of the article twice – you’ll know the one I mean if you’ve read it.
        It is Maneka Gandhi, (former Indian Government Minister for Animal Welfare, who also started the organisation People for Animals in 1992 – the largest organisation for animal rights and welfare in India), a reliable enough source, who claims that India treats cows badly (no, not every Indian, and no, not every cow). I was merely passing on what I had found out. But I do appreciate that I should have realised that people probably wouldn’t want to read here on your blog what I felt compelled to say.
        I hope you will accept my apologies for the distress I have caused you.



  8. to Nicola,
    I suppose u belong to uk,please specify ur country
    Your comments on holy cow cannot be taken because they are totally wrong.
    you might not be aware of the fact that urine and cow dung are used to cure cancer, and if the waste of the cow is not harmful then iam 100% sure that any contamination cannot affect the purity of cow,lord Krishna himself bestowed cow with this power. cow,now don’t challenge lord Krishna’s power
    again coming to your point
    people contaminate the milk with detergent then what is fault of cow
    Mr clementine pawn as you suggested is 100% Christian,he might not have any sympathy with cow.His name suggests his religion.
    In my 29 years of age I have not seen any person dying after drinking cow milk secondly there can be cases where they have fallen ill but there are end no. of reasons for that
    IF the situation was so bad then 120 crore population of india,out of that atleast if I say 20% means 24 crore people should had been taken to hospital daily for treatment
    daily because indian people daily drink cow milk mostly.
    stop eating cow meat/beef if u are eating u will stay younger and BEAUTIFUL.
    From anuj


    • Dear Anuj,
      I am from the UK, yes.
      No-one was suggesting that it is the cows’ fault that their milk is adulterated with detergents! (It’s the practices of humans that are being criticised, not the cow.)
      Ms Clementien Pawn (it’s a woman) is not a Christian, actually. Her comment shows that she does indeed have sympathy with the cow. That’s the whole point! She set up the Karuna Society, which rescues cows from illegal transport to slaughterhouses!
      With all due respect, Anuj, there seems to a problem with your understanding of what you have read.
      As for the effects on health of drinking milk that has had detergents added, I wouldn’t know. But seeing as India’s Supreme Court judges have ordered all of India’s states to impose life imprisonment sentences for those convicted of contaminating milk, they are obviously taking it very seriously.
      As for the scale of it, this is from the article I referred to: “Lawyers for the Uttar Pradesh government, where dairies are prized for their creamy milk, revealed that in tests carried out in 2012-2013 more than a quarter of 4,500 samples were found to contain detergent, starch and artificial whitener. In more recent tests after August last year more than one third of 613 samples were contaminated. They found the scale of contamination increased significantly in the weeks before festivals when people give milk-based Indian sweets as gifts.”
      (Don’t forget, Anuj, this is what is being said in India’s Supreme Court… it’s not me who is claiming that the milk is being contaminated!)
      Oh…. and thanks for the beauty advice!!


      • Sorry, Lauren. I wasn’t going to say any more on the matter (honest!), but Anuj then left a comment addressed to me, and the first line shows that he expected a response. (I didn’t say anything about what I think of cow dung and urine as a cure for cancer, though.)


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