The Howrah Bridge is spectacular. At the time, I read this was the longest cantilever bridge in the world; although this fact is open for debate my research reveals it may be the busiest. One reference states it was completed in 1874 and another suggests 1943. Even the names can’t be fully agreed on. I like the common name Howrah Bridge while others prefer to call it Rabindra Setu. One thing for sure, no trip to Kolkata is complete with a trip across.
…the strict species pecking order: pedestrians are on the bottom and run out of the way of everything, bicycles make way for cycle-rickshaws, which give way to auto-rickshaws, which stop for cars, which are subservient to trucks. Buses stop for one thing and one thing only. Not customers -- they jump on while the buses are still moving. The only thing that can stop a bus is the king of the road, the lord of the jungle and the top dog.
The holy cow.
Eighty-two percent of Indians are Hindus. Hindus revere cows, probably because one of their favorite gods, Krishna, is a cowherd, and Shiva -- the Lord of Destruction -- has a bull called Nandi.
I’ve always thought it hilarious that Indian people chose the most boring, domesticated, compliant and stupid animal on earth to adore, but already I’m seeing cows in a whole different light. These animals clearly know they rule and they like to mess with our heads. The humpbacked bovines step off median strips just as cars are approaching, they stare down drivers daring them to charge, they turn their noses up at passing elephants and camels, and hold huddles at the busiest intersections where they seem to chat away like the bulls of Gary Larson cartoons. It’s clear they are enjoying themselves.
But for animals powerful enough to stop traffic and holy enough that they’ll never become steak, cows are treated dreadfully. Scrawny and sickly, they survive by grazing on garbage that’s dumped in plastic bags. The bags collect in their stomachs and strangulate their innards, killing the cows slowly and painfully. Jonathan has already done a story about the urban cowboys of New Delhi who lasso the animals and take them to volunteer vets for operations. Unfortunately the cows are privately owned and once they are restored to health they must be released to eat more plastic.