Cows are everywhere. 500 bovine beauties, fiberglass sculptures that are part of CowParade2000 are bringing smiles and expressions of mild puzzlement to the faces of jaded New Yorkers and wide- eyed visitors. They will surprise you as you stand on Broadway waiting for the traffic lights to change. As you walk across the Port Authority Bus Terminal looking frantically for the exit to 8th Avenue, a demoore ( more tasteless puns throughout this article, so get ready!) creature with huge eyes will slow you down and make you think bucolic thoughts right in the middle of our urban jungle.
CowParade2000 is all in good fun and for a very good cause. At the end of the summer, our barnyard friends will be auctioned off and the proceeds will go to NYC charities. In the meantime they continue to amoose, bemoose, produce new cow jokes on T-shirts (soulful looking cow says “I wanna moooove you!” for a trucking company) and cause people to say “Moo juice, anyone?” The organization has its own website at http://www.cowparade.net
Seventy –two webpages full of cows in brilliant as well as muted hues, cows in tutus, cows wearing jewelry, bearing such titles as Karma Cow, Divine Mother Earth as Bhumi Sacred Cow, Tutancowmon, Moondrian Cow, Prima Cowlerina (hey I warned you about the puns!). The artist Peter Max has contributed six cows, one with a Statue of Liberty on its flanks. He hopes Cowparade2000 will engender gentle feelings about all animals in all of us.
How did this cow thing begin? And when? Americans have always had a few choice phrases about Bessie. Are there other rediff readers who cringe, as I do, when they hear “sacred cow” used in a sentence to describe some aspect of US policy, usually in connection with India? Or when the ball sails out into the bleachers on a three run homer and the commentator exclaims “Holy Cow”? Some years ago, Gateway began packing their computer equipment shipments in ‘cow boxes’ out of South Dakota, large cartons adorned with black and white Holstein markings. And was it Bart Simpson who first began to tell Homer “Hey Dad don’t have a cow about it,” usually referring to something outrageous he had just done? In any event cow sayings are part of the American idiom. I suspect Cow Parade2000 has given the language new momentum.
And now the ‘Indian’ angle. The whole world knows how it is with Hindus and cows! Muslims and Christians catch flak from Hindus for eating them, which of course is unfair. My first memory of a genuine personal cow experience was in 1970 in the year I left India. A cow had just given birth in the open field outside our rented house in Secunderabad in Andhra Pradesh. My father suggested I carry out some fresh banana peels to feed mother and son. I remember the cow sitting there licking her newborn calf. They both looked adorable. A snooty Catholic school upbringing didn’t exactly prepare me to go gaga over cows. That day I did. Icould picture the Divine Cowherd go gaga and beautifully blue over them too. Ms. C. had already been profusely garlanded by several neighbors for her accomplishment. She looked a whole lot more appealing than a platform full of politicians.
Let’s lighten up. Let’s suggest to the Sangh Parivar to host a Cow Parade. All those in favor say Moo.
And Bal Thackeray maybe could be persuaded to paint one. Udderly appropriate to those of us who think dynamic secularism is the need of the hour. Or should that read dynamooc secularism?
June 16, 2000
New York City