Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Herd, the heart of Nandgaon

"The herd also represented in concrete and quite indisputable terms, the wealth of Nandgaon. Cut off as it was from the road, what little cash income Nandgaon earned came entirely from its herd, whose offspring were sold each year at the Dussehra Mela in Mahendragiri. Since Nandgaon's bulls were famous, they commanded good prices. In addition, extra milk from the cows was collected by the headman, transported by his cousin Vilas Rao to the nearest town and sold to the government cooperative. The money from the milk was not distributed like the milk was, but was kept to pay for maintaining the village, its pond, the temple, to pay for festivals, pujas, the local schoolteacher, and the medical expenses of any villager who fell seriously ill and had to be taken to the town. No one went hungry in Nandgaon, the villagers were proud of saying."

"The cattle of the village were nearly all related, for the headman generously loaned Nandini's male offspring to the other villagers whenever their cows came on heat. Through them, the entire village was related to one another. But the cattle, Laxmi soon realised, were only the physical representation of something far more powerful that tied Nandgaon together, something that made it very different from her own village, and every other village she had known. This was the love that bound the villagers to their cattle and since the cattle were all related, to the headman and to each other. It was as if all of Nandgaon had a single heart and that heart was the herd."

(Radhika Jha in 'Lanterns On Their Horns,' p. 148 Harper)

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