The water buffalo roam the streets freely, as I have mentioned. They can been seen virtually everywhere, and know few restrictions on their travels. They really do sleep in the road at times, and walk along the roadways in large herds, blocking traffic and creating a hazard wherever they go. Addie and Ender get a kick out of seeing them lounging around the city, completely disinterested in the noise and traffic speeding within inches of their hulking frames. The babies are almost cute, in an homely sort of way, as they hurriedly follow their mothers between the motorcycles and rickshaws and try to nurse as they walk down the sidewalk. They really do munch on the piles of garbage that can be found on the city street, and casually lie down on the medians to rest in the morning sun. Though cars will stop to let them pass if they are already in the road, it amazes me that I don’t see any of them get hit. If there is so much as an inch between them and the car’s path, the driver will generally continue on without even slowing. Somehow it works: man and beast sharing the same space without harming one another.
The herds that roam seemingly without supervision do, in fact, have owners. I am not certain how they are identified or rounded up, but I am told that they are domesticated and belong to someone somewhere.
The uses for water buffalo are many here in India. Aside from milk production, they supply dung for fertilizer and fuel, pull carts and carry loads. Their meat is often sold as beef, but is supposedly tougher unless cooked just right. Their hides are used for leather for shoes and helmets, and their horns are used for the mouthpieces of certain musical instruments.
Water Buffalo are a very important part of Indian life and culture, and an intergral part of the landscape of the city. They were strange to me at first, but I am glad that they are here…India just wouldn’t be India without them.
I’ll end this on a musical note: The Veggie Tales “Water Buffalo” song. Enjoy!