As we drove home from our visit to the bazaar, Appu told us about something taking place the next day as part of the New Year festival.
“Cows jumping! Jumping!” he said, moving his hands to simulate a jumping motion.
He told us he could pick us up in the afternoon and then we’d go see cows. Jumping. Jumping. Cows jumping (hand motions). And fire.
“Did he just say ‘fire’?” I asked Anna. She nodded.
The fire part made me a little nervous.
“Fire, Appu?” I said. “Do the cows mind the fire?”
“The cows aren’t afraid of the fire?”
“Oh, no, no,” he said. “Cows jump! Cows jump!”
“It can’t be too bad,” Anna reasoned. “They’re really nice to the cows here.”
“Where is it?” I asked Appu.
“Far away. Thirty minutes.”
Well, so there you have it. We were set to go see cows jump the next afternoon somewhere thirty minutes away from Mysore. And fire would be involved.
One of our friends, Kitty, is always up for an adventure, and she agreed to come along for cow jumping, despite the fact that we were clueless about what was going to happen.
So off we went in Appu’s rickshaw, tooling out of Mysore and down the Mysore highway toward parts unknown.
After about half an hour, we pulled up on the side of the road, and Appu got out and told us to wait a minute.
A couple of kids came running right over to chat with us, and just outside we saw a couple of dolled up bulls who were lying around enjoying a big pile of hay.
Appu came back and told us the festivities would start in about an hour and that we could have a look around.
One thing we noticed was people bringing out their cows and goats and sheep. Appu told us they were taking them to “get ready.”
While we were waiting, Appu took us to look at the village’s Shiva temple. The priest met us at the door and showed us around inside. (I didn’t take pictures, because I wasn’t sure if that would be okay.)
Once inside, the priest put bindi marks on our foreheads with red powder. Then he lit incense which he waved in front of the different statues. The statues, decked out in fancy clothing, were in little alcoves in the temple. But best of all was when he dramatically flicked a switch to turn on the psychedelic neon signs that hung over each deity.
“Arjuna and Krishna,” I said as he turned on the first bright light. He nodded and smiled and seemed very pleased that I could identify a scene from the Bhagavad Gita.
He turned on all of the lights, basked in our oohs and ahhhhs, and then got a container of water and a ladle out of one of the alcoves. He poured some into Appu’s hand and his own hand and they drank the water. Then he gestured to us to put out our hands. Appu looked stricken — he started shaking his head but didn’t want to be rude to the priest.
“No water, no water,” he said under his breath.
“Yes,” I said, as Anna, Kitty and I pretended to drink the water.
“Just drink coconuts,” Appu verified. Yes, yogis just drink coconut water, not the local water.
The priest wasn’t convinced by our fake drinking, so he initiated a second round of water hands. Again we fake drank. I don’t know if we were more convincing or if he just figured we were hopelessly clumsy and not worth trying to get holy water into, but that was the end of that ritual.
As we left the temple, we were besieged by kids. Kids who love to have their pictures taken!
I have a million pictures of the kids of this village. They were so excited to pose, then look at the camera screen to see the results.
We had to encourage the girls to agree to pose, and it was hard to keep the boys from barging in on the pictures.
“Take a picture of my brother!”
The most interesting interaction was with the woman above. She asked to see one of the photos I’d taken of the kids, then asked — via gestures — if I’d take one of her and her son. When she saw the results, she said, “You give me one.”
Uh oh, I didn’t know how to explain that I couldn’t give her a copy — that the camera wasn’t a Polaroid. At first she looked very angry, but then she understood that I wasn’t saying that I *wouldn’t* give her a copy; I was saying that I *couldn’t.* She smiled and just asked to look at the camera screen again.
The crowd was really building during all of this picture taking. Hilariously, the old ladies were fascinated with Anna. They were very curious about her monroe piercing and her gauged ears, and because of the way her shawl fell, one of the ladies saw her back tattoo. This led to a crowd of old ladies looking at her upper back and shoulders and patting her and nodding and being generally quite pleased with her body art. When Anna stood to let an old lady take her seat, the deal was sealed — Anna was a-okay with the female elders.
During all of this socializing, people were bringing more and more animals to “get ready.”
And here’re the result of “getting ready.” Apparently this is “the best bull of the village,” so he got the fanciest outfit and also got to go first after being paraded around for everyone to admire.
Note the Best Bull’s crown of finger bananas. And he had blue painted hooves.
The bull was walked into the crowd, and a few minutes later, we heard an excited cheer.
Yup, that’s a column of fire on the left.
There were lines of hay on the street, which were lit on fire, and then the cows and other animals were prodded to jump over the fire as the crowd watched and cheered.
A bull emerging from the fire-and-people gauntlet.
Here you can see the hay on the street. I wasn’t keen on this whole idea until I saw men and boys running through it, too, barefoot or in flip flops. I guess it couldn’t have been too bad for the animals.
Everyone was really happy and excited by the show.
Appu enjoying the festivities.
Kitty watching Cows! Jumping! Fire!
As we were watching the fire-jumping, I felt like embers were falling on my feet. When I looked down, though, I saw that my feet were being swarmed and bitten by ants (who were probably fleeing the fire). Anna and Kitty were also swarmed. We swatted off the ants as bet we could and headed for the rickshaw.
On the way home, I noticed that Anna’s face had red splotches. She said that her face and ears were very itchy. Egads. An allergic reaction — in the middle of nowhere. Not good.
Needless to say, I was freaking out inside. But all of us remained calm as we drove back to Mysore, despite the fact that Anna’s face was swelling up. Appu brought us to a chemist in Mysore, where I purchased some Benedryl, then home to Anokhi Garden.
I took a few pictures of Anna after she’d gulped down some Benedryl, in hopes that we would see the swelling going down. Nope. It was only getting worse. (Not surprisingly, Anna would not give clearance for me to share her swelled-face photos on this blog.)
Alrighty, well, time for a visit to an Indian emergency room. With help from my friend, Angie, we headed to Vikram hospital. As it turns out, Indian emergency rooms are not at all like Western ones. When you stop and think about it, there’s really no need for the receiving areas of hospitals to be gleaming clean and sterile-looking, but I’m accustomed to that. To stroll into a dingy emergency room, where you kick off your shoes and walk around barefoot, seemed pretty shocking.
The emergency room itself was in fact just one room. In it, two older men were lying on gurneys being attended to by doctors. One doctor motioned for Anna to sit in an office chair crammed between the two gurneys, and we explained what was happening.
She wrote a prescription for epinephrine, cortisone, and two syringes and handed the sheet to me, telling me I had to go get it filled in the pharmacy down the hall. Um, okay. A little laid back, in terms of emergency response, but whatever. I got the drugs and the syringes and returned to the doctor, who administered the drugs, then gave me another prescription for antihistamines to be taken over the next few days. By the time I’d filled that prescription, Anna’s swelling was starting to go down.
I wanted a prescription for Xanax, at that point. Moral of the story: always travel with Benedryl and an Epi-pen.
By mid-day the next day, Anna was back to normal.
Okay, that’s it for now. Next up: Mysore Palace.