Friday, June 3, 2011

Holy Cows and Power Yoga

In the old days, some of the stereotypical Indian pictures, popular in the western world, were those of a snake charmer playing to an attentive cobra, a magician performing the Indian rope trick, and, a Yogi sitting cross-legged on a bed of nails. Doing yoga, of course. 

But stereotypes have a way of evolving with time. Just like everything else.

Nowadays, one of the most photographed Indian stereotypes that you will probably come across, is that of a cow standing nonchalantly in the middle of busy traffic. Chewing the cud. And traffic, has an amazing way of flowing around these cows. After looking at this heavenly symbiosis of man and beast, one wonders, what else can we accomplish together, when the need of the hour is upon us.   

Perhaps, a cow doing Yoga? In a weight loss program?

(Images by the marketing geniuses at the Swissmilk  company)

The famous Yoga guru, Baba Ramdev, has decided to fast. Against corruption.  And, as much as I respect the Baba, and his mastery of the Yogic skills of Patanjali, for some reason, the first image that came to my mind when I heard this news, was that of an Indian cow standing in the middle of busy traffic. Chewing the cud, of course.

In my mind, this "corruption in the government thing" has now acquired a permanent image -- that of a "cow in busy traffic". Just like the inflexible cow stands and ruminates, the government has decided to do nothing about corruption in the last sixty three years since independence. And, just like traffic flows around these cows, we Indians have decided to live with corruption. Without thinking about the smoother flow of traffic that we could perhaps enjoy, if the cow was to move. Out of the way.

A few months ago, the entire country woke up and realized that there was a cow indeed. And, that it had grown quite a bit. So much, that it was blocking multiple lanes of traffic. And an expert farmer from the village of Ralegaon Siddhi called Anna Hazare, gave a couple of prods to the cow. For a while, it looked like the cow was about to move. But then, animals, that grow large with time, show great reluctance to move.

So, it looks like the next thing that the cow needs to do, is to gain some agility -- to help it move. And we all know, that there is nothing better than Yoga, if agility is a problem. So, from today, Baba Ramdev, the Yoga Guru, is going to start his effort to see if the holy cow will shed some weight, and move out of the way. It is rather ironic that the Yoga Guru is going to starve himself to make the cow lose some weight.

Yesterday, for a second, as I closed my eyes and thought about corruption, the image of the cow in the busy traffic disappeared. And so did the multiple images of the cows doing yoga. In their place, I saw a cow, sitting on a bed of nails -- just like in the old photographs. No yogi. Just the cow and the bed of nails.

I wonder, what is next in India's struggle against corruption. If the yoga does not work.


  1. Somehow, the concept of Satyagraha and fasting against corruption seems regressive to me. Much as I would want to see something being done to rout corruption, I wonder how such dramatic movements can ever bring a change in the absence of a sound legal system!!!

  2. You have a flair for drawing unusual parallels...liked this one.
    I really hope that the cow can do a vanishing trick!
    Unable to comment with my google account.. Soumya.