Friday, January 16, 2009

A Short Post in Appreciation of the Water Buffalo

Soon after we got to Varanasi, Andy told me a story about being on a safari in Africa and having the guide tell the group that the most dangerous animal in all of Africa was the water buffalo. He and his girlfriend (who’d also spent time in India) laughed and laughed and laughed. They wondered if the solution to the African water buffalo problem was a small army of 10 year old Indian boys armed with sticks. Because here, that’s basically who takes care of the many, many water buffalo that wander the streets of Benares. Admittedly, these are domesticated water buffalo rather than wild ones, but still. You can see exactly how dangerous they are here:

I don’t actually have too much to say about the water buffalo except that it’s kind of nice to have a daily life in which water buffalo are tangentially involved. They’re everywhere here. Sometimes they seem to be aimlessly hanging out in the road. And sometimes they are clearly on their way to or from the river.

There are a couple of ghats where the water buffalo hang out and have their baths. On Makar Sankranti, as we ambled up the ghats, we spent quite a bit of time at one of the water buffalo ghats. It was amazingly restful. We’d noticed the day before that the water buffalo did not seem to like going down steps, and the ghats, of course, are steps, so the water buffalo need to negotiate the steps to get to the river for their baths, which they clearly do like. Some of them seemed to rush down the steps, as if to get the unpleasantness over more quickly, while others slowed way down, as if hoping that maybe if they went slow enough, they wouldn’t actually have to go all the way down those steps.

They seemed much more steady going up the steps.

These water buffalo had responded to the voice command of their minder from the top of the steps. He called, and they all left their friends and proceeded up the steps with dispatch.

They didn't mind posing for photos:

And they definitely liked being scratched on their brillo pad heads. They use the steps to scratch when they're on the ghat, but I saw an enterprising water buffalo scratching against an empty cycle rickshaw on the road to Assi Crossing.

I know it's the way of baby animals, but it's hard to believe that this little one will turn into a spitting image of her mama:

Since this is my last full day in Varanasi, I think I will have to make a special effort to scratch a water buffalo's head, since I'm not sure when I'll have my next opportunity. (Delhi is not the water buffalo mecca that Varanasi is, at least not where I hang out.) I don't think about the water buffalo much when I'm not here, but when I am, I'm always glad to see them.

1 comment:

Derick said...

In defense of the mighty inyathi the African buffalo is a rather different and undomesticated beast. Lions don't mess with them: