Neither distance nor time matters to R.B Neupane when there is a cow in need – he simply travels until he finds and rescues the stray in peril, and he will continue to do so until there are no homeless cattle in Nepal.
Starting from the Pashupati area Neupane rides his motorbike off-road, dipping and weaving between cars and rocks before coming onto the almost manic main road – all the while searching for struggling bovine. Oblivious to the jarring roads and speeding motorists he searches endlessly – stopping occasionally in front of cows either too big or too old for relocation. A little further on Neupane stops in front of two cows, considers rescuing them before shaking his head and speeding away – “those two were friends, they had been together for a long time […] I can only rescue one of them and I don’t want to separate them […] I won’t make one of them lonely.”
13 kms away and an hour later in the Bhaktapur area, the rescue begins…
Malnourished, frightened and harassed the four-month old calf was walking a tight line between life and death when Neupane approached –he was calm and cautious, careful not to startle the male cow. The cow considered him at a distance, still munching on a piece of garbage and plastic; his lunch…Neupane slowly made his way to the young bull and lightly touched his rump, then his face; calming and familiarising himself with the cow. He then lightly held the calf by his torso and waited for the other volunteers to gradually approach and position behind the young bull – before lifting its hips and helping Neupane carry him to the motorbike. Another volunteer sat on the motorbike ready to hold the calf still while Neupane gets on the bike and readies to return to the sanctuary – but only half the struggle is over, the real danger still lies in driving the calf down the busy, hectic, main road.
At every corner potential danger lurks, menacing and unseen waiting for an unknowing victim to cross its path. Intersections and traffic lights present a real threat as traffic conditions change at a sudden hand gesture and often drivers are slow to stop but fast to react to a go signal.
Being peak traffic speeding motorists can be seen left, right and centre – wanting to get to their destination regardless of road safety or rules, bike in particular become impatient and speed down sidewalks or swerve in front of buses and cars, each time barely avoiding a collision.
It is through this that Neupane must drive, and he must do so quickly else he will harm the calf. With less than a blink he shoots off and approaches his task with care, speed and gusto – nothing will prevent him from bringing this calf home safely.
[It is important to note that Neupane places the safety and care of cows above all else – this is why he does not rescue older cows, it is often too shocking for the cow to be moved once it becomes familiar with its surroundings and without taking proper precautions can cause severe damage to the animal. Neupane is also considerate of the things around the cows, because often cows become close to other animals or people and taking them away can be heartbreaking.]
Mason is an Australian journalism student doing a photojournalism internship in Nepal.