We were talking about the sacred cows of Bikaner and the history behind it. I told my guide what my friend said in Pune; that once the cows/buffalos got too old to be useful they were sold to Muslims for slaughter.
Maybe that happens in large cities like Pune and Mumbai where people have lost their faith, but that would never happen in Northern India. Here we have veterinary hospitals and sanctuaries for them. When they get too old they go to the sanctuaries so they won’t die alone. Some are blind, deformed, sick, some are dying. If they can walk, they walk the fields. If they are blind, we put a male and female together so they can comfort each other.
Each morning I get up my wife makes chapati. The first one goes to a cow. Every morning a large bull knocks on our door with his horns. We open the door and give him his chapati. We give the second to a street dog. Only then will we sit down to eat. Almost everyone in Rajasthan is a vegetarian; we understand the value of life.
The small streets of Old Bikaner
An old woman is asking my guide for money. There is a brief spoken exchange then he takes money out of his wallet and gives it to her. I watch, conflicted.
I tell him all of my guides have told me not to give money to panhandlers, that most can work and are lazy. A number of guides were annoyed at me for giving money to them, and told me I was feeding the cycle of laziness and poverty.
They told me how mothers make their children look especially pitiful and make them walk the streets to beg. By giving money, I was encouraging mothers to continue this practice. These children will never go to school and the cycle continues.
He looks very seriously into my eyes and tells me, “Here in Rajasthan, everyone works very hard. If you don’t, you cannot survive in the desert. There are very few beggars here because of this. If they are begging here, it is because they have no other choice.”