Last August, in the bleary-eyed numbness induced by over 24 hours of flying—first from San Francisco to Singapore, then onward to Delhi—I was surprised when the driver taking me from the airport to my hotel slowed to a crawl. I’d often heard that it was fairly common to see cows wandering on the roads in India, but I’d always envisioned this taking place on a rural country lane, not a densely trafficked four-lane highway. But there I was, in a half-sleeping haze as dozens of cars, trucks, taxi cabs, and motorized rickshaws honked, drivers negotiated with hand signals, and everyone slowly steered their way around a cluster of five saggy- bellied old bessies. In Hinduism, India’s most common religion, cows are revered. Their milk and its byproducts are cherished culinary staples, and eating beef is banned in most of the country’s 29 states. Often, when a household cow has passed her milking years, owners can no longer afford to feed her, and she is set loose in the streets, eating offerings from devout strangers wherever she roams.