You may not find a cow strolling in a mall, but people are buying its shit and piss as nasal drops and body scrubs, and the government of course loves the very smell of this. A Navayana special report.
Should your fortunes turn that way and should you walk down along the inner courtyard of Select Citywalk, a peculiar sight might meet your eyes. On an unassuming stall a bucolic hand-drawn blackboard signs reads “Cow manure available” and “Adopt a cow”. Now, why would the mall-goer’s interest be raised? From far away The Thela—the name of the shop—looks like any other stall selling dry fruits, brightly printed mugs, or chocolates that pepper the floors of the mall, and even on going closer it’s not that you see any unconventional merchandise.
Turns out, The Thela is run by the Holy Cow Foundation—with a rhyming mantra for a tag line, “Health, Wealth and Devotion”—and sells body scrubs, face packs, shampoos, dhup sticks, chyawanprash, joint pain oil etc. The products are packaged in the muted earthy colours of middle class organic chic. There is no saffron or other visibly Hindu paraphernalia—the Holy Cow Foundation is not showcased by some tacky baba known to sell swadesi noodles.
The details of what’s on offer becomes clear when you visit their website: nasal drops with CD (what could that be? cow dung?); Gaunyle with the anti-microbial and biodegradable properties of cow urine; Shampoo with gomaya rasa and gomutra. All this has unsurprisingly managed to win hearts in a cow-friendly Union government. An Economic Times report says Gaunyle may soon replace the commonly used phenyl to clean government offices and will be stocked at the centrally run chain of Kendriya Bhandars. (The Dail Maily offers more graphic stomach-churning details.) A Hindustan Times article cites customer satisfaction with products containing cow dung and urine. (Apparently they make your skin soft and supple although the writer warns that used in excess they may cause skin rash.) The store offers a solution to Delhi’s air pollution too: when burning their Air Purifier Kit, made of dung cakes, eco-friendly gases are released into the air.
The Holy Cow Foundation is founded by Anuradha Modi, who is also the founder of the animal shelter Frendicoes which was in the news recently when it faced closure owing to lack of funds after ‘35 years in service of the voiceless’. In the HT piece, Modi explains that she had been using cow dung containing products for years, but was put off by “tacky packaging”. Hence the idea.
The brand’s philosophy based on ‘historical facts’ is also noteworthy. “The Indian civilisation survived for 6000 years, when other civilisations of its time did not, mainly because it was a cow-based civilisation,” states the website, utterly ignorant of the repeated claims of economists that India’s so-called “bovine economy” is just another convenient myth (see D.N. Jha’s The Myth of the Holy Cow).
It goes on. In case you are a company looking to invest your CSR money into something sensible you can help set up a village goshala according to vedic standards in merely 25 lakh excluding land costs. “Such a centre will protect non-productive cattle from slaughter on one hand and on the other, it will ensure health and wealth to the village.” But if you are an individual cow-enthusiast you can contribute anything between 50 rupees (to feed a cow for a day) and 15,000 rupees (to support a cow for an entire year). And their yearly Holy Cow Fest “celebrated with much gusto and fanfare” in front of the mall caters for “enlightened crowds, all cheering for raising consciousness for the Cause of the Desi cow.” Remember, the more desi buffalo is entirely left out of this conversation.
Wonder if the class friendly to Friendicoes vouches for all this nonsense. And thus The Thela seems to manage to avoid any criticism while all that it peddles is shit: well, holy shit.
(NB: None of the products sold at The Thela were tested on the Navayana staff where we know of only unholy ways of dealing with the cow)