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Preface: I’m going to put my tendency toward hyperbole on hiatus until further notice. I’m going just going to write the following exactly as it happened.

There weren’t many tourists in Jog Falls. With it being one of the ‘must see’ places in my Rough Guide book, I was surprised to find that there were only two other foreigners checked into the local youth hostle. I arrived just as the sky was growing dark, and spent the night talking with the two men from Israel.

Amir and his friend came through the mountains to Jog Falls on a black Royal Ensfield Bullet with a pouncing tiger insignia on the side of it. The tiger was fitting for the old bike; it growled every time Amir started it, and sputtered sometimes when he switched the gears. His friend had to go back to Gokarna to meet people, but Amir stayed and we spent the day riding around on the Bullet.

We were driving along this random country road. Every so often a house and farm would break the line of palm trees on both sides of the pavement. Cows were grazing in a small clearing ahead of us, behind a fence with an opening to the road. This is nothing spectacular—there are cows everywhere in India. But as we passed these cows I saw a quick movement out of the corner of my eye. When I twisted my neck back to see what it was, there was a black bull the size of an SUV with its head to the ground and its hooves pounding after us.

“Amir, go faster!”

An image of the bull head-butting the back of the bike and then trampling the both of us flashed through my mind. The beast drew nearer.

“Amir!” I slapped his back. All of the muscles in my body tensed up. “The bull—it’s chasing us.”

“What?” He was still clueless.

“GO FASTER. Look in your mirror!”

“Shit.” The engine revved and we picked up speed, but the bull was still behind us. The bike gurgled and I was sure that fate would decide for this to be the time for the engine to go out.

But it didn’t. Later Amir said that he’d been going about 50k. However fast he went, it was enough to get us around a bend and out of sight of the beast. Then the road ended. We’d found the dam that had been build upstream of the falls, and there was a gate across the road. We’d lost the bull by this point, but it couldn’t have been far behind us. I watched the bend in the road, waiting for it to come running down. I was ready to hop the fence, but the bull never came.

Two guards came out of a small building near the gate and we chatted with them for a while. We weren’t allowed to go and see the dam because security had been heightened after the Mumbai attacks. But after we said goodbye, Amir took a dirt road to the side of the gate and we saw the dam anyway. When we passed the guards on the way back, they didn’t seem to care.

I wasn’t worried about getting yelled at by some guards. The only way out was the same way that we came in. Amir didn’t seem nervous at all, but maybe that was for my sake. As we drove back up the road to where the bull had to be waiting, an Indian woman waved us down and stopped us. Her face was creased with wrinkles, and she was only slightly taller than the young boy that was with her. She started speaking something in Malayam, and although I couldn’t understand a word of it, I knew what she was saying. I smiled, put my two index fingers up to my temples and pointed down the road. She and the boy nodded.

Her eyebrows were drawn together, deepening the worry lines on her forehead. She pressed her lips and handed me what I had thought was a walking stick. My smile disappeared. I saw that one end of the thick stick had been sharpened into a point. She was handing me a spear.

I swallowed and took it from her, thanking her. In that moment I realized how serious the situation was. She took the pointed end of the spear and put it up to her collar bone, showing me where to aim. Then she moved my hands so that I was holding the spear across my chest, my right hand above my left, ready. Our eyes met and she put her hand up to my cheek. She said one last thing in Malayam, I think she was telling me to be brave. I nodded and thanked her one last time.

“Ok, let’s go,” I said to Amir.

There was no room for fear in my mind when the bike started moving forward again. I was determined and ready. When the bull came at us, I would thrust the spear into its shoulder with all of my strength and I would not fall off of the bike.

There it was. As we passed the gathering of cows, I locked my eyes on the black bull and raised my right hand above my ear, so that the spear was ready to strike. The bull hesitated, and for a moment I thought that it wouldn’t follow us. But then it charged again. It wouldn’t catch us. This time the bull didn’t jump onto the road, but stayed on the other side of the fence. On that uneven terrain it could hardly keep up with us. Amir stopped and told me to drop the spear on the side of the road.

“Right,” I said, and threw it away from me.

I sighed. The moment had passed. For a while I knew what it must have felt like to be a warrior, having to defend myself if I wanted to live. Never would I have thought of spearing a cow. But as its horns were chasing me, no other option entered my mind.

For the moment a warrior, now again a traveler. I’m in Mangalore now, and tonight I’ll be braving a night train again to go South into Kerala, to Kochi. Until then.

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