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Animals in Ludhiana

by John Kille

After a mix up with flights and luggage, I got to ride through rural northern India, in the state of Punjab, at dusk and into the night. It was dark and the streets were lit only by moonlight and oncoming cars. The traffic at night, from what I could see, was an ensemble of movement. I saw the donkey carts, bicyclists, bicycle rickshaws, scooters, motorcycles, cars, and large trucks. This was my introduction to Ludhiana, where I would be the next week.

There are more animals in the streets here than Mumbai. And I have had several encounters since arriving. During context mapping today, I saw an elephant walking down the street, led by a man with a rope. He didn’t appear bothered by the traffic wooshing by. I told my 6-year-old daughter about this later on skype and she seemed amazed.

Donkey carts are very prominent here, and while on our way to dinner in an autorickshaw, packed with 4 other people, we weaved through traffic and stopped next to a donkey cart—my head about 2 feet from his. The donkey looked over at me and seemed to say, “Hey, how’s it going?”

On the way back from dinner, the auto rickshaw driver dropped me and Sahil, my local ethnographer, off about a half a mile away from the hotel because other people in his vehicle wanted to go left, and he wanted to save gas. We paid him 10 rupees and began walking. The streets were very dark, since electric power is scarcer here, and street lamps are sometimes non-existent or not working.

Near the hotel, there was a large dark blob shifting about in the darkness directly off the road. The curious ethnographer I am, I wanted a closer look. Sahil grabbed my arm and pulled me away. “Be careful, he could run at any time.” I looked again and saw a large bull eating grass, his focus seemed on the food, but that could change.

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