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I’m Having a Cow

Written By: Usree Bhattacharya on March 16, 2009 3 Comments

At a Thai joint in the Asian Ghetto, I picked up a copy of the Daily Cal to read while I chowed down a plate of steaming yellow curry chicken and rice. The following piece on the extreme left-hand column on second page jumped out at me:

From the Daily Cal, Monday, March 16, 2009

From the Daily Cal, Monday, March 16, 2009

First off, it was a teensy bit odd that the title was a play on the words “Holi” and “Hallelujah” (literally “praise Yahweh,” in Hebrew) given that Holi is an important Hindu festival. It seemed merely odd, though, not insensitive. However, my reaction to the line immediately below:

Holi Cow! The Clog Can Haz Pritty Colrs?

was decidedly negative. I don’t know if I am being overly sensitive, but it just seemed to me that the exclamation “Holi(y) Cow!” was not merely meant to be an exclamation, but an overt and gratuitous reference to the reverence for cows in Hinduism.

As I said, perhaps I am being oversensitive. When I say I am from India, or that I am Hindu, invariably one of the first questions I get-in most kinds of company-centers around “The Cow.” It is maddening that one of the oldest religions in the world (with nearly a billion adherents), and the world’s second most populous nation, are often reduced to the reverence for cows. I have developed a thick skin for most of these kinds of questions and comments, but there are times when it’s just all overwhelmingly frustrating. Cows are important-yes, but OMG there’s more to Hindu beliefs than cows!

I am reminded of a recent conversation with my parents. They lived for a year in Southampton, England, from 1970-71, and they would tune in to a nightly BBC news segment on India, hosted by veteran India reporter Mark Tully. The one thing they remember from that nightly ritual is how angry they used to get because the segment title, “News From India” or some such, would be accompanied by a picture of a cow. Nearly forty years years later, that image still rankles. I get why.

Oh, and about the title of this post….click here.

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3 Responses to “I’m Having a Cow”

  1. Youki on: 16 March 2009 at 4:43 pm

    no, I don’t think you’re being oversensitive. “Holy cow!” is a form of Orientalism, although I don’t think their intent was to overtly reference cows in Hinduism or to purposefully reduce an entire religion into one practice. I see this more as the propogation of a meme — “Holy cow!” is a familiar phrase and it fits the “Holi-holy” alliterative pattern. Not an excuse, though, just a possible explanation.

  2. Usree Bhattacharya on: 16 March 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks, Youki. I guess it just hit a sour note with me…Like I said, I am frustrated and worn down by years of being at the receiving end of such comments and jokes.

  3. Usree Bhattacharya on: 17 March 2009 at 6:54 pm

    ps. I was thinking today that “Holi mackerel!” might have been better. But then again, maybe not

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