A dairy farmer’s view of Jaipur, the city where traffic stops for sacred cows

Jamie Blackett files his final Farming Life column from the pink city in India, and reflects on how different cultures treat their methane-producing ruminants.

Sixty years ago, my parents spent their honeymoon with Jai and Ayesha, the Maharaja and Maharani of Jaipur, family friends through a shared love of polo. Nine months later, I arrived. I am regretting that it has taken six decades for me to make a pilgrimage to the beautiful pink city of Jaipur to see where my story started.

Family history relates that my late parents took a Fortnum & Mason Stilton as a present for their hosts. Halfway through their stay, they were relieved to find it had been a hit when Ayesha asked where the Stilton was and Jai confessed that he had eaten it in his dressing room with his shoe horn, as the last time someone had brought one, he hadn’t had any.

Ayesha is better known as Gayatri Devi (her real name, shorn of titles post independence), bestselling author of A Princess Remembers, a riveting tale that follows her life from Swiss finishing school to political prisoner under Mrs Gandhi via purdah in the Jaipur zenana. I am pleased to see it top of Delhi WHSmith’s bestseller shelf 15 years after her death — a posthumous victory over Mrs Gandhi and proof that the superpower of the 21st century has got over its hang-ups about its princely past.

Whereas my parents stayed in a palace and my father was taken duck shooting in Edwardian style, we are coming at it from the Exotic Marigold end of things in full tourist mode. Jaipur is full of people from all over India who have come to the fabric markets to get themselves kitted out for weddings. They are joined by the soon-to-be Mother of the Bridegroom, who deploys her well-honed haggling skills, provoking much head wobbling when the ‘beautiful price for Madam’ is batted back in the finest memsahib tradition.

Recommended videos for you

There are cows everywhere, even in city streets, which pleases me. It amuses me to see the Indian equivalent of our milk tanker: churns perched precariously on the back of a moped. India has both the largest human and bovine populations in the world. We ask whether there are concerns about methane and the Indians we meet seem blissfully unaware of the arguments in the Western hemisphere about cow burps. I feel the veganist brigade is wasted in the UK.

The sacredness of cows in the Hindu religion has a wholesome logic to it. They worship the animal that provides their dairy-rich diet and dried cowpats used as fuel. I wish, however, that the Hindu gods would let it be known that they wanted to see cattle mob-grazing regeneratively in large herds. I am depressed at seeing miles of ploughed fields with the topsoil blowing away. Desertification may threaten mankind before carbon in the atmosphere does.

Jaipur in Rajasthan is famed for its fabrics. Credit: Tuul & Bruno Morandi/Getty Images

India is noisily multicultural. In Jodhpur, we are kept awake by drumming at Hindu wedding celebrations, then woken at sparrows’ by Muslims calling us to prayer. Typically, that night, we are brought back down to Galloway with a bump, as a last-minute holiday-cottage booking means we spend the small hours on several different media giving directions, getting heating turned on and then moving the guests to another property when they aren’t happy. Mobiles allow us freedom to work from anywhere in the world, but also mean we can never truly relax.

Next, there are complaints on the estate WhatsApp group about hold-ups on the Moo 25, as it is now known. Traffic jams of as many as five cars are happening regularly, something unknown in DG2, as they wait for up to 20 minutes for the cows to cross the public road to be milked. The postman is threatening to stop coming down our road.

It is vexing as we solved the problem perfectly for two years with electric bungees on the surface of the road, so that cars could push their way through and the cows didn’t escape into the village, with side gates for horses and dog walkers. However, the council ordered their removal and now the traffic has to wait behind wires. I briefly consider converting to Hinduism so our cows would be sacred and I could trump the council, but you can only be born a Hindu — conversion is not an option.

Sadly, this is my last Farming Life column. It has been great fun, most of all the regular correspondence with you, the Country Life readers both in print and online. I am very grateful to the editors for indulging my ramblings. Thank you.

Jamie Blackett farms in Dumfries & Galloway. The play of his book ‘The Enigma of Kidson’ hits the stage shortly

John Lewis-Stempel: The beauty of the beach in winter

On a dull February morning, John Lewis-Stempel is consumed by childhood memories of the allure of the seashore, from the