What people forget to tell you about India is that you should never strike a cow. Yes, we all hear about cows intermingling with traffic on busy city roads. Spotting cows on the street becomes something we look forward to as travelers – a type of game we revel in as we try to capture it on camera.
Yet, no one tells you prior to your arrival that striking a cow, more specifically, running it over with your car, is the biggest “no no” you can commit. Hurting or, god forbid, killing a cow will surely guarantee you will go straight to Hindu hell. Even worse, you will be socially ostracized unless you make great amends.
As one of my Indian friends put it: “You will hurt the owner’s feelings…and you’ll have to pay reparations for the damage.” In short, you will have to apologize and pay the owner whatever he deems the cow is worth.
You see, cows really are holy in India. They are considered givers of life. Their milk literally feeds a nation – whether it is turned into buttermilk, milk, yogurt or cheese. Whatever the byproduct, dairy is what keeps this mostly vegetarian nation of nearly 1 billion people fed.
Cows are so revered that there is actually a national “cattle appreciation day.” In Maharashtra, the state that is home to the city of Mumbai, this holiday is called “Pola.” Once a year, farmers celebrate by bathing their cows and ox and feeding them the best grass or grains available. They decorate them by painting their horns and, if needed, cover them with a cloth to protect them from the cold. I swear I am not making this up!
Given all this, don’t even think about ordering a cheeseburger at an Indian McDonalds. It is not a myth that they don’t serve beef. Every McDonalds has a sign outside their restaurant advertising that they do not sell beef or beef products. So get your beef fix before you leave the United States.
Or do what I did. My first meal back on American soil? A cheeseburger, of course!