A woman pastes cow dung cakes on a wall as her grandson Sanju peeps from a hole in Molaya villageThe train ride northwards, from Patna to Siliguri through the Gangetic plains, did not offer a variety of landscapes. Plenty of impoverished villages with low brick or adobe buildings, and the facades coated by cow-dung cakes, getting dry to be later used as firewood.

Cows produce milk, fuel, power, heat in winter… and more cows. That may be why they are considered sacred.

Unfortunately, due to the strange mechanism by which human intelligence gets suspended whenever religion is around, the urban environments of India are full of these poor “sacred” animals, starving and presenting a serious risk for public health.

I looked out of the window and saw some lads tucked into a lagoon to the waist, gently scrubbing a plump cow. The image exuded life. That’s the holy cow, I thought.