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A Cow in Goat’s Clothing

Goats, Kabini -

You are looking at a picture of Kabini’s most prized cows. Now, now…hold your horses! Before you think we’ve been grazing on a different kind of ‘grass’, allow us to clarify. Goats, in much of rural India, are considered the ‘poor man’s cow’, and Kabini is no exception to this belief. A herd of just a few hardy goats can feed and sustain a small family in relative comfort. While goats’ biggest contribution to humanity has been as active, albeit reluctant, participants in the field of gastronomy, the humble Kabini herder values them more for their multi-tasking abilities as earning members of his family. For starters, their milk is nutritious, and finds a ready market. They’re also prolific manure machines, and their droppings are a precious fertilizer that can earn a pretty paisa or two. In fact this prodigious production of manure ensures that finding good grazing is a lark. Farmers queue up to let out their fallow land to goatherds, as the droppings fertilize the fields and the grazing provides a free de-weeding service before sowing season. Quid pro quo, in the truest sense! In this peaceful co-existence, there’s just one thing that gets the herders’ goat: the popular assumption that their charges eat almost anything. Nothing could be farther from the truth, as goats are fastidious eaters who’ll starve rather than touch anything that’s fallen on the ground, or has been half eaten. This touchy topic apart, the goats, and their native Kuruba herders, go about their lives as they’ve done for millennia. While the rest of the world may be well into the digital age, in places like Kabini, these images of a perfect rural idyll look set to continue…until the cows come home.

Photograph: Shivu K Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy



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