I too have been often asked this question. I feel that cows on the street is a reflection of the biodiversity we have. In fact, I go into a cheerful mood when I find elephants and camels on roads. At times of marriages, it is not unusual to find white horses on the streets (and mercifully, no one objects).
In any case, cows in the streets is also a reflection of the misplaced emphasis the nation paid on importing the exotic cows and cross-breeding our domestic breeds. As a result of this indiscriminate crossbreeding, more than 80 per cent of our cows have become non-descript. While we feel ashamed of our cows, Brazil has become the biggest exporter of Indian breeds of cows. At least four breeds, and that includes Gir, Kankrej and Ongole, are producing as much milk as Jersey and HF does. If only we had paid attention to our own cows, and built our own remarkable breeds, our cows wouldn't have been treated so badly by our own people.
Don't be angry when the next time you see a cow in the street. Remember, you are in a way responsible for her plight. Read what Biju Negi has to say. I found a very sensitive and meaningful response from him on this issue on the Punjabeco-crisis list. I would like to share it with you.
I, for one, even welcome cows on the road. They make it so much more human (if I may use the term) and earthy. They represent a life that is fast being lost, that eqully urgently we must recover.
Why, are the roads meant only for the cars? Must the roads be only for the cars? We seem to accept that nothing else matters. And so, the spaces for everything else except cars (the unchallenged demagogues and murderers of human existence - just think whether you agree with this statement) has become profane and so considered worthy of being 'acquired' or rather confiscated. It is the same mindset that marginalizes the cyclists and walkers on the road, that sees the municipality confiscating the meagre possession of the hawkers under the pretext of 'road safety' or 'cleanliness' drives!
Were the cows taken into consideration when the roads were built? It is like people and farmers not being considered, when SEZs are made to come up, forced upon the people. I see a cow on the road as representative of the marginalization of our agriculture, our small food producers, our traditions, and a symbol of the need to pull back the 'fast' pace of life that we are blindly getting into, and the symbol of the need to go 'slow'. For me, a cow on the road is a desperate reminder of what we are losing, a desperate call for what we must not lose.
So, where does, where must a cow go, what does or must it do, when her normal spaces are being 'eaten up' by thoughtless urbanization and even more thoughtless urban planning? I feel very good when I see a cow doing 'jugaali', sitting on the middle of the road, almost as if unmindful of the trafiic passing all around her. For her, it is the only way she can protest - quiet, firm, non-violent. I see it as the need for the cow to assert her sovereignty. I see it as a gentle reminder to us of what we must assert.