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Running with the Bulls in Veranasi

By Diana McLeod

      It was a beautiful day in Veranasi India. Veranasi is a fascinating city. It is– the place where Hindus go to make pilgrimages to the sacred Ganges River. I was walking through the streets with two Canadian friends in the heart of the market district, on our way to the river.

      Suddenly, there was a disturbance in the marketplace. Two Brahmin Bulls were locking horns, right in the middle of the street. (In India, cattle are allowed to roam wherever they please. In a land where cows are considered sacred, they can do as they like. I’'ve seen them lounging in the middle of three lane highways, stealing brazenly from vendors at the farmers’ markets, and blocking the busiest downtown traffic intersections,)

      Usually, Brahmin cattle are quite placid. Even the bulls are not normally a menace, although it is always a good idea to be aware of them at all times. I have seen them wandering through heavy pedestrian street traffic in India. It is unnerving to be near them, within range of those horns!

      On this occasion, however, the two bulls were not behaving well at all. They were both posturing, and displaying signs of aggression. They snorted and chuffed at each other, stamped their feet, and lowered their horns. After a couple of minutes of bluffing, they began to fight in earnest. They locked horns and battled, knocking over a vendor's stand, sending his fruit rolling across the street. Other terrified vendors were hiding behind their displays. More merchandise hit the dirt as the bulls shoved each other around. People were yelling at the bulls, which only made them more aggressive.

      The bulls started chasing each other around the marketplace. As they headed our way, one of them spotted my friend's bright red tee shirt. The bull immediately changed course and headed straight for us! The other one followed suit and charged right after the first one. Suddenly, we became the target of their aggression!The next thing we knew, we were running for our lives! Both of them were after us now; horns down, and coming on fast!

      We ran into a small traffic circle. In the center of the circle, there was little traffic island, which was virtually covered with a jumble of parked bicycle rickshaws. At first, we ran around the circle, but the bulls just kept chasing us, around and around the intersection. They were getting closer and closer, each time we ran around! In desperation, we jumped up onto the bicycle rickshaws, and scrambled to the very center of the heap as quickly as we could. The bulls made a couple of halfhearted attempts to plow into the rickshaws, but they did not really want to lock horns with a tangled pile of metal bicycles. They soon decided that we were out of reach.

      In the end, the local population came to the rescue. The merchants brought out buckets of water, and threw them on the animals in an effort to cool them off and to distract them from us. A taxi driver nudged them with his taxi to get them to move out of the area. A local cop came over and brandished his club at them. Others brought out brooms and mops. The bulls got the hint, and they sullenly lumbered away down an alley. I’'m sure they were headed for more trouble in another part of town.

      As for us, we got out of the market as quickly as we could. I must say, I know that the town of Veranasi is one of the most unusual places on earth, and I expected to see strange things there, but I never expected it to be the Pampelona of the East! Ole!

      Thanks for reading! Diana

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