Grazing Other Peoples’ Cows

In Indian villages and small towns people keep cows or buffaloes mainly to get milk for the family. During the day the animals are sent out to graze along the roads or in the open areas. Young boys serve as cowherds and they take ten to a hundred animals. . While the animals are grazing the boys often get together to play games or just chat. A popular topic of discussion is the animals. Knowledge of animal behavior is shared. They talk of the animals in their care as ‘my’ animals. Number is important, their looks and their milk yield are also features to talk and boast about. They compare ‘their’ cows with those under the care of others and brag. They often get into heated arguments defending their cows. Yet none of them own even one animal and probably never will. Sounds hilarious, rather silly, doesn’t it?

But on thinking about others and myself it occurs to me that we scholars and teachers act much like the cowherds. We interpret, defend and oppose ideas we have read in books as if they were ours. But they are never our ideas, as the cows do not belong to the cowherds. They cannot drink milk of their animals nor profit from their sale. Similarly we do not mould our lives by the good ideas. In fact many of us remain completely untouched.

For instance depression seems to be descending on us. Scholars cry hoarse about its nature and cause. They also talk of what needs to be done. But when we look at our lives we know that we are totally vulnerable. We will sink line, hook and float when the storm hits.

The ones who are likely to be least affected and to survive are the poor. They have never been to college. Nor have they read any books that theorize on these events. Their strength is the ability to adapt to the environment. When there is more, they enjoy it. In times of scarcity they reduce their consumption. Their suffering is minimal.

There is a moral to all this. We own only those good ideas that we live by, for only they benefit us. Others are like ephemeral bubbles thrown up by agitated water--here now and gone in the next moment.

December 6, 2008