Flaneur 11: The Cows of India, a Photo Essay

To most Westerners the cow is seen as little more than a sentient steak, but to India’s millions of Hindus the cow is a holy animal that should not be harmed in any way.

In India, the cow is seen as a symbol of the earth (giving so much, asking nothing in return), as well as a source of milk and religious inspiration. The Mahabharata, an ancient Sanskrit epic, says: “Cows represent sacrifice. Without them, there can be no sacrifice… Cows are guileless in their behavior and from them flow sacrifices… and milk and curds and butter. Hence cows are sacred.” Mahatma Gandhi once wrote, “If someone were to ask me what the most important outward manifestation of Hinduism was, I would suggest that it was the idea of cow protection.” Such is the reverence for the bovine that India offered to take in millions of cows waiting to be slaughtered in Britain as a result of the beef production crisis in 1996.

Read the rest in Nowhere Magazine.

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Flaneur 10: Down and Out at the Jaipur Literature Festival

1/16/2013 – 02:19 – Jammu-Ajmer Express

Six Punjabis are jostling and talking in the steel bunk racks above as this train clanks and rattles across Haryana south towards Rajasthan.

I am lying on the ground in Sleeper Class. I don’t have a berth because I don’t have a ticket.

After the long bus ride down from the Dhauladars I jumped on the wrong train, then, two hours into the ride, I jumped off and got on the right train only to find a young Sikh sleeping in my berth. Only after I shook him awake did I realize that my ticket was actually booked for the following month.

Thus I’m berthless for this 14-hour ride to Jaipur. I am lying on my shawl on the floor, which smells of aged urine and mutton curry.

Read the rest of Part One in Nowhere Magazine.

Or read Part Two in Nowhere Magazine.

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Flaneur 9: A Two-Parted Poem Written at the End of Another Year in India

Part I: Bus to Delhi

In this moment of bias,

as another city I leave behind faints
like a dazed beggar;

as the maroon monks
I sit beside
talk of god
knows what —

The jewels of Nagarjuna?
Life in general?
Breakfast?

I see the life I’ve been leading
has a little less tact
than I’d thought.

Who I am?

Where am I?

When will I ever grow up?

Read the rest in Nowhere Magazine

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Flaneur 8: Kham

Galloping over the uneven ground towards the nomads’ tents I tug at the reins to slow my horse to a trot, leading the bridle around to look with me at the riders following far behind. Fifty or so gruff yaks graze around the black tents up ahead, their heavy coats shaggy with dung and mud, their maws tugging up mouthfuls of grass.

I wait for the others and together we ride up and dismount.

A woman with deep wrinkles and leathery skin emerges through the tent flap, her apron covered with ash and tsampa, her long black hair braided with red silk, a turquoise pendant around her neck. She shades her eyes with her forearm and holds open the heavy hide so we may enter.

Tashi delek, she says as we pass.

 

The interior of the tent is hazy with smoke. A fire licks at a black cauldron of boiling dhree milk in the hearth. In the corner near the mound of shawls and blankets is a mound of dried and flattened yak dung piled high as my knees. Down the right side of the tent a dozen or so calves are roped to the ground, roped so low they cannot stand. The ground is matted with dung. The dried stomach of a yak, filled with tsampa, swings like a pendulum above the fire.

Two young boys warm their dark, thick-skinned feet on the flames. Their cheeks are red and wind-burned. Streaks of snot have crusted below their nostrils. The woman crouches, feeds a few patties of dung to the fire, and cranks the bellows to swell the flames.

Read the rest in Nowhere Magazine…

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Flaneur 7: Down and Out in Macau

I’m $100 HKD up and feeling pretty good.

I buy a pack of Chinese Marlboros and smoke as I watch a parenthesis of Mainlanders gambling at a baccarat table. The slouching drunk man at the parenthesis’ center is flanked by two porcelain-skinned women in pearls and skin-tight mini-dresses.

They laugh when those around them laugh.

The gambler they’re monitoring so closely takes a long pensive drag of his cigarette as he slowly bends the edge of his two cards up and slowly, ever so slowly reveals them to himself and then shouts and slams them on the table.

The dealer emotionlessly rakes in the mangled cards and his $1000 HKD bet, and deals again.

I take a secret sip of the Tsing Tao I bought at the 7/11 across the road, trying to hide it from the eyes of the Nepali men working security, though I secretly feel they are some of the very few people in this casino who possess souls.

Read the rest in Nowhere Magazine…

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Flaneur 6: Blue June

Summer’s tent is broken and the monsoon has unfurled its vaporous belly over these mountains again, bringing with it a world of mists and uncertain landscapes.

The heat has become amorphous – neither warm nor cool but also both somehow. Moisture perfuses everything. Surfaces have taken on amphibious qualities. The trash that was dumped around Mcleod Ganj all summer is now being washed down the mountain in swollen streams. My skin this evening has taken on the texture of a salamander’s.

Over the next two months it will rain nearly every day.

Read the rest in Nowhere Magazine…

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Flaneur 5: Saturday’s List of Things to Remember and Forget

Forget what it’s like to have an air-conditioner and a refrigerator.
Forget the taste of meat and the way it made your belly all piquant and full.
Forget what it’s like to drive a car or to ascend in an elevator.
Forget Mickey Mouse and Donald Trump and movie theatres.
Forget the American supermarket’s block-long aisles of cereal and shampoo…

Read the rest in Nowhere Magazine…

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