Rajesh Meena was not an especially happy man. He lay curled foetus-like in the powdery dust of the Karauli animal fairground, groaning almost imperceptibly and clutching his groin as if it were about to detach itself from his torso. His two young boys, meanwhile, were fighting an immense inner battle over whether to fall about laughing or rush to their father’s aid. His friends and well-wishers were attempting to subdue the direct cause of his predicament, an enormous, feisty, bucking cow named Rani who had, only seconds earlier, landed a thundering kick to the concerned region. As for myself… well, I could only stand to one side and think it was a good thing that he had already done with the business of having children.
I surveyed the scene as I waited for the stricken man to recover sufficiently for me to take his picture with his prized, if somewhat temperamental, bovine. For as far as I could see, the fairground was covered with animals – cattle of every size and colour and temper, camels looking a bit daft, as they tend to do, and a smattering of horses and goats. Their owners were busying themselves in various ways. Some animatedly haggled over buying and selling prices, their combined voices rising and falling in the wind. Others primped their livestock, draping them in colourful blankets, rubbing them down and making sure they got enough to eat. Yet more simply lounged around, sitting on piles of cloth or sprawled out on bullock carts, contentedly puffing at beedis and hookahs and drinking endless cups of tea. Womenfolk tended to fires and cooking pots, occasionally reaching out to smack errant children upside the head,and in general the atmosphere was relaxed and unhurried.
This animal fair was one of the reasons I had come to Karauli, and almost as soon as I had appeared at the scene I had become a much sought after person. Palpably the only outsider there, I had caught the attention of a group of livestock owners as I wandered around shooting pictures, and before I knew it I was being flooded with requests to take pictures of various owners and their animals. Having a digital camera handy was a tremendous USP; the results could instantly be shown to thoroughly appreciative subjects, both human and four-legged. I had covered a number of people before Rajesh Meena demanded his turn, and when he asked Rani to put her best foot forward, she had interpreted the request in her own unique way and rendered him hors de combat.