Tuesday, August 21, 2012

From "Blue Dogs" to "Yellow Cows"

There is a somewhat famous poem written by a man named Frank Gellett Burgess entitled "The Purple Cow"......for your enjoyment I have included it below:

I've never seen a purple cow
I never hope to see one
But I can tell you anyhow
I'd rather see than be one

I discovered the above poem while researching the origin of a phrase I grew up hearing in the US......"How now, brown cow?"

There are several opinions of the origin and meaning behind the phrase, so I have chosen the one's I liked the best to share with you :

The meaning and purpose of the phrase is to ensure proper diction and annunciation of the vowel sound "ow" since all of the words in the phrase end the same
.......this seems to make sense.

The term "Brown Cow" was a Scottish term given to a wooden barrell of beer around the year 1742......and of course when the keg was empty, the term "How now brown cow" was used to refer to ......"what are we going to do now that the beer is gone? Today it is used the same way to make fun and casual inquires as to "whats next on the agenda, etc"

So why the fixation, fascination and research into cows with colors?

Simply....... because India never ceases to amaze me and each time I discover something unique and interesting, I am compelled to delve into such activities to learn more about whatever I see.

So while I have never seen a purple cow, I can now say I have seen a yellow one............and not just one, I saw several,  while I made my car journey from Aurangabad to the city of Shirdi.

It seems that I found myself traveling during the festival of "Pola".

Pola is a bull worshiping festival celebrated mainly in the rural areas throughout the state of Maharashtra.

On the day of Pola, farmers decorate and worship their bulls, and the entire community typically participates in the festival with music and dancing. Usually, the oldest bull in the community leads a procession of all of the bulls by breaking through a rope of mango leaves stretched between two posts, and the bulls that follow are typically in order of the villagers with the highest social standing in the community. These celebrations typically take place in the evenings.


Pola takes place on the day of Pithori Amavasya (the new moon) in the month of Shravana (usually in August).

On this day, the bulls are first given a bath, and then they are rubbed with peanut oil and turmeric powder to give them that beautiful yellow color. Garlands of flowers are placed around their necks and their horns are also painted. Some have special hats that adorn their heads. Indian do not lack in creativity when it comes to decorations of any type.

The day following the festival, the bullocks return to the field to begin preparing the soil for the upcoming planting of the fall crops.

What a site!
We were driving approximately 80km per hour down this rural road when out of the corner of my eye, I first spotted these yellow wonders. I quickly asked for the driver to make a U turn and take me back so I could take some photographs.

Upon exiting the car, I met Sandeep..............who obviously did not speak any English. I began asking questions and was obviously getting nowhere....so I called for translation backup. Sandeep and his family had done an excellent job of coloring his bulls and stood out among the rest. While most of the decorations had been removed, they were still the most vividly colored. Upon closer look, I noticed a bracelet/anklet made of shells around the leg of only once cow........I asked if that was for some special reason and they stated that the others were decorated in a similar fashion, but that the bracelet had simple fallen off.

While I cannot be certain, it appeared to me that Sandeep and his mother were equally curious about me,  as I was with seeing (and wanting to photograph) yellow cows.

After leaving Sandeep, I saw several more colorful animals working in the fields with their owners or beside the road as if on display for passersby to admire.

Animals in India are worshiped for various reasons, so it is certainly understandable that the festival of POLA takes place here for such an important animal.

India is an agriculture based society, whereby almost 80% of the population in India make their living by farming.

Farming today in India is still largely non mechanized which means that farmers rely on animals to help them in their fields. Bullocks play a huge part in rural life here in India, not only in the fields but also as a means of transportation.

So why "Blue Dogs"?

I wanted readers of my blog, specifically readers from India to know that I come from an area of the United States that also has an animal of color........the "Blue Dog".

However, our animal is not real and only exists on canvas...................the creation  of an artist name George Rodrigue.

His paintings of the Blue Dog have become very famous and he has created paintings of the Blue Dog depicted in various scenes and situations......they are whimsical and fun, and I urge you to find out more about him. The Art of George Rodrigue

So I only found it appropriate to name the title of this blog accordingly........to celebrate two cultures and my journey moving from the land of the Blue Dog to the land of the Yellow Cow........Happy Pola 2012.

May God bless all animals in all shapes, species and color..............mythical, on canvas, or alive.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Oop's there goes another rubber tree plant!

Traveling by road from Cochin to Thekkady is simply beautiful.

The state of Kerala is truly blessed by its varied topography. During my journeys throughout the state, I have seen some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world and some of the most scenic hills and cloud covered mountain ranges as well. It is no wonder that it has appropriately been named "God's Own Country"!

The entire state, no matter where your travels bring you is lush and green. As you leave the coastal areas and make your way up the curving roads into the hill stations above, you are surrounded by dense forest areas and cooling temperatures.

The tea and coffee plantations, with their perfectly symmetrical rows of plantings and the mosaic of colors cannot be adequately described by my words........but describing it as breathtaking is not an exaggeration in the least.

By now you have come to know me as someone who is easily fascinated by the simplest of things that I see, so it will come as no surprise that this journey provided me with yet another experience that I had never had in my 50 years of life.

By now, the title of this blog post should have provided you with some insight, but as embarrassing as it is for someone my age to admit, had I not moved to India I may have never seen first hand where one of the most commonly used materials in everyday life comes from and how it is harvested..........RUBBER!

Of course, this blog post would not be mine if I didn't share with you all of the interesting things I have learned in the course of doing research on this topic.......and some of the information may be eye opening to even my readers from India.


  • Did you know that India is the third largest producer of natural rubber?

  • Did you know that "Rubber Tapping" is the process by which raw rubber latex is extracted from the rubber trees? To tap a rubber tree, a skilled rubber "tapper" uses a gouge to make an initial spiral cut 180 degrees around the trunk of the tree at least two feet in length. The cut is a mere 3-5 mm deep, which opens the latex containing vessels in the bark and not harming the cambium layer of the tree. A metal tap is inserted in the cut which allows the latex to flow into a collection vessel (half of a coconut shell) in the morning when the internal pressure in the tree is at its highest, and workers collect the filled cups in the afternoon. This process is repeated every second day to each tree.

  • Did you know that commercial cultivation of rubber in India began in 1902 and was introduced by the British and Dutch in Kerala?

  • Did you know that a rubber tree has a life span of approximately 32 years - seven years to grow to maturity and it will produce rubber latex for approximately 25 years thereafter?

  • Did you know that there are approximately 1.72 million acres of rubber trees planted in India and there are about 180 trees per acre.

  • Did you know that there are approximately 580,000 rubber "tappers" in India and that 64% of them are over the age of 40 and and only 4% are women?

  • Did you know that the average worker "taps" approximately 270 trees per day which could be as many as 3 acres depending on the density of the planting? A skilled worker can tap one tree every 20 seconds.

  • Did you know that the skilled worker wage is approximately 75-150 paise per tree tapped or (1.63 - 3.55 cents US) at 2010 conversion rate?

  • Did you know that a skilled worker will produce about 1900 kg of latex per year?

  • Did you know that as of the date of writing this blog 100 kg of raw latex was selling at 16,900 Rs. or $303.72. so the average worker produces approximately $5771 USD per year at current prices?

  • Did you know that the rubber production in India is a 4.5 billion USD industry?

I will stop boring you with all of these fun and interesting facts, but it just goes to show you that there is more than meets the eye while you are gazing at the passing scenery on whatever road you may be traveling on.

Had I not been inquisitive enough to ask the question as to what kind of trees I was seeing, dressed in partial sheets of plastic, and then asked the driver to stop so I could take a few photographs, I would not have learned so much about such what appears to be a very simple and ordinary topic.

But it also made me ponder a few more thoughts.........just how many of the children and adults living in two of India's most populous cities, Mumbai or Delhi, have ever seen a rubber tree up close and personal?

Growing up and living in the United States most of my life never provided me with the opportunity to experience how rubber latex was harvested............and there are many more just like me.....even in my family.

So next time you think about the tires on your car or bicycle or rubber boots or even latex gloves.....think about making a trip to Kerala and getting up close and personal at the source.

In closing, until a few months back, the closest association that I had to a "Rubber Tree" was from a song entitled "High Hopes" and popularized by Frank Sinatra........well I hate to tell you Frank.......I didn't see one ant around any of the rubber trees that I saw......but I'll keep an eye out on my next journey!