Of all the animals I have encountered in Varanasi, the buffaloes are my favourites, far preferable to their near relatives – the cows. The latter just seem always to be in their own world, oblivious to passers-by or cars having to navigate their way around them as they lazily chew their way through the vast amount of rubbish on the streets, not even bothering to distinguish between food and the likes of plastic bags. Don’t get me wrong, I love the cows too but they just come across as a bit disinterested and, well a bit dumb.
On the other hand, every time I see a buffalo I cannot help but smile. They just seem so, well so human! They have their personalities written all over their faces and I love it as I walk past and they curiously stare at me – I can almost sense them sizing me up and down and thinking “I’m sure I’ve seen her before, what is that little foreigner still doing here?” I also love the way that they travel in packs through town with their necks curiously stretched out, or the way they mimic each other, like in this picture – all nonchalantly chewing away in union given that practised look of “We don’t give a f**k. There is a kind of harmless menace to them, like the youth gang that thinks its tough, and dresses accordingly in black leather, but actually never hurts a flea. Well, I mean look at their horns – what a useless weapon that is, curled in on itself!
I have even grown to love their skeletal bodies with that taut stretched skin showing every bone on their angular backs, as if there is no flesh there – just air. But my favourite thing about buffaloes is how they love to go for a swim. You can just see the pure pleasure on their faces as soak in the Ganges on a hot day with often only their heads peeking out of the water – it’s the equivalent of a human enjoying a hot bath – you just know that they are in heaven!