tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Buffalo Time

In Mandiapalli village, almost any time is buffalo time. You can set your watch—as much as you’d need to around here—to the events in the daily routine of Bubalus bubalis, the Indian domestic water buffalo: an animal responsible for most of livelihood around this village in southwestern Orissa.

At dawn, they’re on the move, herds as small as ten or as large as thirty, heading for pastures of dried paddy-field hay or fresh green grass. Late morning, their single-file parade moves from the heat of the field to the damp coolness of the wallow; a shady stretch of mud perhaps, or even a pond.

There are two kinds of animals in this world: those who wallow, and those who don’t. We who don’t might not know what we’re missing, until we see a herd of buffalo wallowing.

Afterwards, it is buffalo nap time. That’s the afternoon gone. Then comes the magic hour before sunset, when the herds are on the move again, crossing roads, blocking rush-hour traffic, moving with all the urgency and purpose of Grateful Dead concert.

The other day I was riding on the back of a motorbike through a herd of buffalo as they crossed a narrow road en masse at a lazy twenty-degree angle. Imagine a game of Frogger, only the obstacles have horns and large, bony asses. We maneuvered between tail and nose in a prize-worthy attempt, and just barely emerged on the other side of buffalo stink in time to reach a nearby tea stall.

People around here love the buffalo for its superiority to cattle and oxen for ploughing paddy fields. Hides are sold for leather. Chiseled bones and horns become decorative jewellery and amulets. Dung makes excellent cheap fuel and fertilizer. But most beloved of the buffalo’s attributes is the healthily high fat content of its milk.

Yes, even tea time is buffalo time.

1 comment:

ss said...

Im looking for photos of a water buffalo for my book on animals of india. its for 2-3 year olds.

could you help with a photo?