Week in Roads

by Maya Sorabjee & Tristan Rodman

published March 6, 2015

No Beef

Let me paint you a quick portrait of modern India. In my neighborhood there’s a housing colony that has taken it upon itself to evict residents and businesses that aren’t vegetarian. We call them the eggshell mafia because they look for evidence in the trash in order to find their next victim.

At the local McDonald’s, one of the highest-grossing items on the menu is called the McAloo Tikki: a potato sandwich. In deference to the country’s huge Hindu and Muslim populations, the fast-food giant wiped its menu clean of beef and pork, the iconic Big Mac subbed for a desi variant—the Chicken Maharaja. Burger King, which opened in India in November, sells a mutton Whopper.

On the messy roads of Calcutta or Kochi, there’s an indigenous and unmissable urban archetype: the metropolitan cow. After being deemed too old to be useful on the farm and too holy in Hinduism to be sent for slaughter, Indian farmers often let go of their financial burdens quite literally, letting them wander into the cities from the rural hinterlands. The cows come to the city in search of a dream, finding instead only traffic accidents. I once saw a particularly sad urban cow on Bangalore’s appropriately named Food Street, sticking its head into garbage cans and eating discarded plates.

Then there are the more privileged counterparts, the cows that are tied to bus stands as living idols—and for a few rupees, you can buy a bundle of hay to feed them and be blessed on your way to work. You lucky thing!

For the more carnivorous and less religiously-inclined desis, bulls were still fair game. In fact, India is currently the second largest exporter of beef in the world, with beef sales even going up sixteen percent in the last year, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vocal condemnation of the so-called ‘Pink Revolution.’ But this statistic will soon change: on March 2, the state government of Maharashtra passed an act that flat out bans bull slaughter (protection of cows, on the other hand, has been written into the constitution). Now, selling beef—or even just being in possession of it—can land you in jail for five years with an INR 10,000 ($160) fine. The lowly water buffalo is currently the only bovine left for legal husbandry.

India is one of the largest secular countries in the world. And to celebrate this fact, the Prime Minister’s office created a new holiday, Good Governance Day—and decided it would be on December 25. Censor boards are bleeping the word “Bombay” out of songs for its anti-nationalist linguistic agenda. Ramadan this year will be a sad, beefless affair. And finally, with this latest development, bovines officially have more rights than homosexuals, and it’s safer to wander the streets as a blissfully ignorant urban cow than as a woman.

Confused? Me too. –MS



Dude, Where’s My NASCAR?

In Grand Theft Auto, if you’re really devious, you can steal a police car. The cops will chase you, sure, but you can drive it around, turn on the sirens, and watch other drivers pull to the shoulder in your wake. With most cars, you can get the fuzz off your tail by heading into an auto shop, getting a new paint job, and changing the plates. But not police cars. Drive one into Los Santos Customs and they’ll promptly turn you away. “Cop vehicles cannot be modified,” flashes the heads-up display. It’s a worthwhile lesson: there are some things you shouldn’t steal—not because they’re not valuable, but because their origins are so obvious they’re incriminating.

Last Friday, NASCAR driver Travis Kvapil woke to find his Sprint Cup car missing. Kvapil and his team were staying at a Drury Inn & Suites in Morrow, Georgia, where they’d left the No. 44 Team Xtreme car in the parking lot. The car was nested inside a large, unmarked white trailer hitched to a black Ford F-350. Surveillance footage shows a figure dressed in black entering the cab of the pickup truck at 5:32 am, and driving the whole rig away. Team Xtreme was scheduled to leave for the racetrack at 5:45.

For the racing team, needless to say, this was a huge setback. Sprint Cup cars are expensive—nearly $250,000—and it’s very hard to win a race in the Sprint Cup series without a car. It’s also not like you can run to the NASCAR dealership, stroll around the showroom, and pick up a new one. The team had to withdraw from their race Saturday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway—they had no proverbial horse.

Detective Sergeant Larry Oglesby, the top sleuth in Morrow, didn’t even think that the thieves were after the car. He told the local CBS affiliate that people usually assume unmarked white vans are filled with “lawn equipment or something,” calling it a “crime of opportunity.” On Saturday afternoon, the No. 44 car was found on the side of a road in Snellville, Georgia—20 miles away—unaccompanied by the truck and trailer. Local police found damage on both the driver-side door and the ignition switch. Sounds like it was time to ditch the car and bail anyway. Where were they gonna get it repaired? –TR