Buffaloes love their bath. They love water, more so if it is muddy. Then they can roll in the mud until the mud can roll no more.
There’re folks who assign buffaloes the capability of thought. I do not dispute their ability to entertain thought, but to say that buffaloes revel in mud baths to keep ticks and flies away is stretching it too far. It might well be true, the effect of keeping ticks and flies away that is. But I am not prepared to believe that buffaloes roll in mud and water so as to keep ticks and flies away. That must be more a consequence of loving a mud bath, not the reason.
Their unmoving nature might prompt some into thinking they’re deliberating. They might well be, but deliberating a thought? No sir. A big head does not necessarily mean all of it is grey matter. As it is the world has enough heads, big and small, cooking up thoughts, and see where it has got us, and the buffaloes.
In the water they are a picture of calm even when a colony of frogs uses them for floating islands like they did with a buffalo lolling about in a streetside pond in Kasargod. It was only on getting closer did the 'warts' in the distance resolve into frogs basking on the buffalo's back in the late noon Sun as I hurried down the mud path for the bus back to Murudeshwar. For an animal that chews so much one might expect them to chew a thought of its frills and spit out wisdom. Instead they chew wisdom and spit out thoughts in those who observe them.
Where obedience is a virtue, it fetches you a bath that lasts three minutes!
It takes a strong man with strong hands to get buffaloes out of a mud pit. But it takes a hard man to give his buffalo a three minute bath!
On Naumi day in Lahavit, a farming village off Nashik, I was witness to just such an atrocity.
Nearing noon, the farmer led his buffalo out of the shed with a sloping asbestos sheet to the water trough. An outhouse abutted the shed. In all likelihood the farmer had his living quarters in an accommodation adjacent to the shed for he was bare-chested when he led the buffalo out. He was clad in a dhoti and the swell of his belly mirrored the swell of the hills in the far distance.
Grass grew lush in the foreground. A pipe ended over the water trough, a likely source of water pumped into the trough.
A tree rose over the trough and beyond I thought I saw signs of a sugarcane field fenced off from the farmer’s dwelling. I’ve no idea whom the sugarcane field belonged to. In the shade of the tree clothes dried on rocks heaped underneath. Power lines conveyed electricity to the farmer's dwelling.
To the other side, under a small tree, a tractor lay parked. A few feet away from the farmer’s tractor a wooden cart stood in the shade.
Next day was Dussera, and I was looking to experience it in Nashik. It was on Dussera day, after nine days of fighting his army of demons that Goddess Durga finally slew the demon Mahishasura after he took on his original form of a buffalo.
Mahishasura had sought from the gods a boon that granted him immunity from death at the hands of a male. Armed with the boon he turned on the Gods themselves. Constrained by the very boon they had granted Mahishasura they conspired to dispatch Goddess Durga, a female, to bring about his downfall.
During Navratri (Nine Nights), leading up to Dussehra day (it fell on Sept 28 last month) it is common to find pictures of Goddess Durga astride her vehicle, the tiger, grace public and private spaces. In the train we took to Kalyan that morning on the eve of Dussehra, fixed to a partition in the compartment was a picture of Goddess Durga by the tiger, duly garlanded.
She slew Mahishasura when in the heat of the battle he took on the form of a buffalo, his original avatar. Elaborate Durga pandals often depict her plunging her trident into Mahishasura as he bit the mud, his horns lying limp at the force of her thrust. And so do pictures depicting the moment.
I’m not sure if buffaloes were tamed as a result. Whatever the case maybe they somehow took a liking to mud and water.
So when the farmer reached into the water trough and splashed the buffalo with water that morning I imagined the buffalo sigh with relief unless of course it knew better.
The farmer was joined by an elderly lady at the water trough. She washed an utensil before leaving the bonded alone.
A quick motion saw the water splash against the buffalo on the left.
It was followed by a quick splash and a vigorous rub of the neck.
Another quick splash followed by a vigorous rub of the back.
No sooner had the farmer finished with the back he turned his attention to her right flank. Two quick splashes later he was done!
All it took was three minutes!
A three-minute bath before she was led back to her shed!!!!!!