When Deepak Singh was growing up in India, his father would sometimes take him and his siblings to the village where he grew up. He wanted his kids to understand how rural poor people lived in order to appreciate the everyday luxuries they enjoyed.
One of Singh's strongest memories of those experiences is how his grandmother's village made extensive use of unprocessed cowpats as a fuel. Villagers carefully collected them, patted them by hand into circular forms, then dried them on ovens. The smell of burning cowpats was pervasive and Singh still remembers it vividly.
Would you like to experience this primitive form of fuel used by the desperately poor? You can, thanks to the very modern information processing and product distribution services of Amazon.com. Singh writes at NPR that it's a popular product in Indian cities:
I learned that cow dung cakes can now be ordered on the Indian Amazon website. Out of curiosity, I ordered 6 pieces. It cost me 236 rupees, about $4. I called the local office of Amazon and spoke to Jaideep, who was very courteous and happy to answer my questions. He said, "Sir, this is a new product that Amazon is selling and they are getting a lot of orders from folks in urban areas where it is not so easy to find cow dung cakes." When I asked him what people wanted it for, he said, "They use it for religious purposes only."
I had never imagined one day I would order cow poop online — poop that I had once seen my grandma collect from her barn and dry on her wall. I am eagerly waiting to receive my six pieces of round-shaped cow dung cakes in the mail. I wonder what would my grandma think of it if she were still alive.
There are several Amazon.com purchasing options for cowpats. The reviews for the one pictured above are a hoot: