The Cow Incident

By Jay Shifley

It came to a head for me one morning as I was out early looking for a loaf of bread for breakfast.  As I walked to the nearby market of Bharat Nagar, I passed by the neighborhood garbage dump.  There were several dogs rummaging around in it, and one large cow.  I remember the cow vividly because it had very large, pointy horns.  It was an impressive-looking animal.

I was feeling, at that point in time, like my life was all give:  everyone seemed to want something from me.  The beggars, the students. . . I was feeling used and this particular morning the feelings were especially intense.  I bought my bread and walked back past the garbage dump toward my house, the 15 cent loaf of bread swinging freely from my hand, with my eyes down and a scowl on  my face.

“HellOO! HellOO!”

I cringed when I heard it.  Often the only English word people knew, I would have that “hello” shouted at me several times a day.  At first, I would look for the source of the shout, but soon I learned to ignore it–like I did now.  But, not unusually, the shout came again only this time something else in Hindi was tagged onto the end.

“HellOO!  HellOO!  Bhai, Aap kay piche guy heh!”  Vo bag raha he!  Dekho!”

My Hindi was not good then, and I kept walking without looking.  But in my head I was deciphering the Hindi I had heard.

“Brother. . .behind you. . .a cow. . .is.”

“He running. . .is.”


I turned around quickly to see the cow I had seen at the garbage dump running at me, horns first, his eyes fixed determinedly on the loaf of bread hanging from my hand!  The thing that occurred to me first was to toss the bread to the cow to stop him from charging.

However, I was sick of being used and that morning this cow was just another needy thing trying to tap into my resources.  I was not, under any circumstances, going to let this cow take my bread from me!  So I ran, the dangerous pointed horns of that cow just a foot or so behind me!

After I had dodged around several parked cars, the cow finally gave up.  Sweating and out of breath, I was suddenly surrounded by several concerned neighbors.  Amid lots of concerned chatter about the cow problem in Delhi, one guy brushed off my clothes and straightened my collar.  The orange juice vendor nearby gave me a glass of orange juice, and a fruit vendor put a banana in my free hand.  Then we all laughed at the the ridiculousness of it all.  Then I walked away with my loaf of bread having made several new friends.

Sometimes I felt like I lived in the best place in the world.

Here is what I learned from this incident:

Holding onto small things can cause a lot more trouble than just letting them go.

Be wary of anything that eats garbage.

Always acknowledge someone who says hello to you.

Originally written: February 3, 2017


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