The Cow-Postman Paradigm

I thought I had written about this already sometime ago, but I can’t seem to find it. Anyways.

When we were in class 6, we were taught to write essays in Hindi. “Taught to write” is a loose phrase there, for we were just given two essays and asked to mug them up. One was on “gaay” (cow) and the other was on “daakiya” (postman). The teacher had reliably informed us that while the exam would have a question requiring us to write an essay, the topic would be either “gaay” or “daakiya”. And it was a given that mugging up the given essay and spitting it out would get full credit.

To my credit (I used to be topper types, you remember?), I mugged up both. This girl who was at my van stop didn’t. She only mugged up “gaay” since that seemed to be the more likely to appear in the exam. Another girl, two years our senior, who had been through this routine, consoled her saying that if the question is for “daakiya”, she can still write about “gaay”, and she would get at least 2 out of 5 marks.

As it happened, the exam required us to write a question on daakiya. The girl in my van stop wrote an essay on gaay. And got 0 for it.

This brings me to a fairly common practice, at least in India, of coming up with a set of answers and spouting them out irrespective of what the question is. And I call this the “cow-postman paradigm” based on the above anecdote.

A popular example of the cow-postman paradigm can be seen at beauty contests, where the beauty queens spout inanities in order to show off their “nobility” and show themselves as being “worthy ambassadors” of the Miss Whatever project. The most famous example of this probably is Priyanka Chopra, who answered “Mother Teresa” when asked who is the “living woman she most admires” (Mother Teresa had died two years before Priyanka Chopra became Miss World).

Politicians and PR agents are also masters of the Cow-Postman paradigm. Irrespective of what interviewers ask, they simply spout their prepared lines  in the hope that it will sometimes answer the question. In case the interviewer decides to be snarky, this can be made fun of. In most cases, the “leaders” get away with it.

It is possibly these instances of “getting away with it” (or even “benefitting from it”) that results in propagating the Cow-Postman paradigm. Maybe it is a worthy effort of journalists, possibly at listicle-based publications, to make note of and make a list of such famous cow-postman instances. That’s the only way we can cure it!



I had written this as a note on facebook a long time back, in an introduction to another of my blogposts. It went largely unnoticed – I claim it is because it made way too many people uncomfortable. For posterity’s sake, I thought it needs to go somewhere more permanent – like this blog, so reprising it here. 

One of the several post-death rituals in the Sanatana Dharma is called “sapinDikaraNa” – in which the “pinda” (departed soul) of the deceased is “tied” to the pindas of their ancestors. This is apparently done to make sure that the pinda doesn’t end up as a free radical and come back to haunt its descendants.

I don’t know why I’m thinking about this today, but the way they “connect” the pindas is quite funny. They just tell the gotra and given name of the deceased, and then the given names of the deceased’s father, father’s father and father’s father’s father (for women it is mother-in-law, mother-in-law’s mother-in-law and mother-in-law’s mother-in-law’s mother-in-law).

I think this is a rather poor addressing system, and not one designed for today’s populations. Maybe back in the days when this was invented, not more than one person belonging to a particular gotra had the same name. So this system of addressing worked (like in villages and small towns, houses don’t have door numbers – the postman knows everyone by name). Why is it that the system hasn’t been changed even though there are possibly thousands of people with the same given names and gotras?

If religion truly ever worked, its working would have broken down through the ages when its addressing system became obsolete. Why then, do so many people still “religiously” believe in it?

It’s all pinda wonly, I must say.