23 February 2015

The 'Inhospitable' cow and the harrowing holidays...

'Kanna, there is some problem with the cow', shouted my father from the cowshed.
'So what?', I thought to myself. Of course I did not say it aloud. You didn't mess about with dad.
My father's parenting style was based on a three step framework summed up in a pithy Malayalam phrase 'Cholli Kodu, Thalli Kodu, Thalli Kala' (Tell'em / Teach'em, Beat'em, Throw them out). First you try to tell them, to educate them on what is good and what is bad. Instill respect in them.  If they do not listen, beat them up, instill fear in their minds. If that do not work, then throw them out, give up and ignore them. I think I graduated directly into the second level and has been in that level ever since I remembered. Dad had a short fuse and carried a 'Chooral' - a thin stick used to beat up the children. Having been at the wrong end of that stick on more than one occasion and knew how painful it could be. One did not wantonly wish those episodes to recur.
So when dad said that there is a problem with the cow, you did not equivocate or bloviate or say 'So What'. You just reached the cowshed to see what was the problem with the cow.
Still I took my own time to respond to this frantic dispatch from my dad. I laboriously got out of the bed, threw down the book I was reading, washed my face and made a big show of ambling to the cowshed.
I had time. Enough of it.
For, I was enjoying my Summer Holidays.
Padre was standing at the cowshed with a perplexed look on his face.
'What appa? Why did you call me?', I was oozing helpfulness
'There is some problem with the cow', he replied.
I looked at the cow. As far as cows go, this was nothing particular to look at. It was a lazy cow, with perennial drooping eyes giving the impression of being tired of the world and indifferent to what was around. It was standing there chewing the cud and generally looking bored. Never a demonstrative cow, on this Sunday morning, it was outdoing itself in its impassivity. It just stood with grand insouciance to the observations of the perplexed padre and his lethargic lad.
'What is it? I can't see anything.', I commented
'Look at the back side', said my father
Then I saw it. A big piece of flesh was hanging from its back. The flesh was the size of a pumpkin and from the freshness of the blood on the skin, it was obvious that the flesh was a recent eject. I did not have a clue as to what I was looking at.
'My god, what is it?', I blurted out
'The cow seem to have ejected its uterus', answered my father.
I had no idea what he was talking about. Whatever it was, this 'Uterus' was not the kind of stuff one would want to see or hear about during one's summer vacation.
It was the summer of 1976. I was in Class 7 and Summer Vacations (of two months) had started a week prior and I had made elaborate plans for enjoying my vacation. So far the vacation was panning out exactly as I had wanted. Essentially my vacation plan consisted of about 7-8 key activities. In chronological order, these consisted of:
  1. Get up late in the morning
  2. Loiter around throwing stones at coconut trees
  3. Climb mango tree and pluck and eat as many mangoes as possible
  4. Go to the nearby shooting range and collect used cartridges and sell them to the scrap dealer
  5. Lunch
  6. Repeat activities 2-4
  7. Dinner
  8. Sleep as much as possible
I had studiously (?) avoided 'study' in the above list
As mentioned earlier, summer vacation was progressing as per plan. Seven days into the vacation, I had slept a lot, eaten more mangoes than one could imagine, my stone throwing had improved and I had collected enough scrap to earn a decent income.
'What do I do now?', father was thinking aloud. I maintained a studied silence. Growing up in a Kerala village, a boy learns to keep his trap shut.
'Let me see if I can push it back inside', said my father.
I continued to remain silent.
He went behind the cow and pushed the uterus back inside. It went smoothly in. Father's face lit up.
'It was so easy. I need not have worried', here was a proud padre
Suddenly, without batting an eyelid, the cow pushed the uterus out. As a bonus it sprayed some blood on my father's whitish lungi.
If he was disappointed with the outcome, my dad did not show it. With the grim determination of a bull-headed Indian farmer he again eased the uterus in.
And waited.....
Nothing happened for about a minute and then....
Plonk ! out came the uterus.
This time my dad was ready and waiting. Just like a badminton player hitting the shuttle in mid air, he caught the uterus in mid ejection and pushed it back in. 
The cow was now enjoying it (it seemed to me) and even before appa took his hand out, the uterus was out again, and appa was ready and waiting to push it back in.
I was enjoying the to and fro between two uterus pushers with my dad pushing it in and the cow pushing it out. As I saw it, this was a pleasant diversion from the tedium of my summer vacation. This could be yet another vacation experience that I could relate to my grand children. Unbeknownst to me, I was smiling.
'Don't stand there smirking like a moron', screamed my dad, 'Come and help me push this damn thing in'
This was a new development. But I did not hesitate.
Sweat was flowing down my father's neck and veins were protruding from his forehead. There was no way I was going to hesitate.
I went behind the stinking cow and more stinking dad and gingerly, like an american woman wading into the Indian poverty, positioned myself and pushed the uterus with my left hand.
My dad observed it.
'What do you think you are doing? Come and stand behind the cow and push with both hands', commanded my dad.
Now both of us were pushing the uterus in with the cow pushing it out. 
I was well and truly a member of 'Project Uterus Push Team'.
My summer vacation was quickly moving into uncharted territory.
After a few minutes of huffing, puffing and panting we stood to look at the result. The cow had won. The uterus was still out.
'What do we do now?', wondered my father
I did not like the 'we' part at all. Till now I had a hope that this disturbance to my vacation was an unpleasant dream and I expected this to end soon. With every passing minute, that hope was fading.
'What do we do now? The crows are already waiting', said my father, looking around.
This was a new development.
I looked up. The CMS (Crow Messaging Service) had already broadcast the presence in the cowshed of a couple of dazed dudes standing around a contented cow with a fleshy uterus. Like visitors to a community lunch, the crows were arriving leisurely. Currently they were watching the fun. No doubt they felt that a bit of entertainment was called for before the commencement of the feast.
'I will go and call the vet', my father informed.
I was relieved. This was a brief disruption to my vacation schedule. Now adults will take over. I got up to follow dad. A luxurious bath was called for.
'Where do you think you are going?', my dad asked me in an accusatory tone, 'if both of us go, the crows will rampage the uterus and there will be a bloody mess here. You wait here and ensure that the crows do not come near the cow', he instructed.
Can you beat that? The second Sunday of my vacation and I was being asked to become a scarecrow...
My brother had now joined the party. He was standing there, biting into a juicy mango, oblivious to the mango juice drooling from both sides of his mouth.
'Why don't we move the scarecrow from the paddy field and keep it here?', I suggested. My father was growing paddy and he had kept a scarecrow in the field. To keep the cows away from rice, if you see what I mean.
'It won't work', said my brother, the ever helpful, 'If the crows find that the scarecrow is a statue, they they will rampage the paddy field also'
If the crows are so dashed intelligent, they would have been in Harward, I thought to myself. Of course I was joking. It was very difficult, if not impossible, for a crow, even one with a high IQ, to clear GRE and get a US Visa. Now crow has ever done that.
'The 'scarecrow' will become a 'Darecrow'', he guffawed. 
I gave him a look. Wasted, of course.
I grit my teeth. Presence of my dad prevented me from landing a juicy one on his bottom. 
It was obvious that he was taking his revenge on me. The other day I had caught him stealing from my scrap pile and had beaned him one. 
Dad concurred with my brother. 
'Your brother is right', he said, 'we can't afford the crows to get over the fear of scarecrow. You wait here till I come back'
'What do I do? I can't stand here all day doing nothing', I was desperate
'Read your math text book', replied my cold-hearted dad.
The die on my summer vacation had well and truly been cast.
The vet, a practicing christian, was at the church, where my father located him. Though not his regular working day, he agreed to come and take a look at the cow.
He was of medium build, the vet, of medium height and was in his mid 30's. He came, he saw and he assessed the situation pretty quickly.
'The cow has pushed the uterus out', he informed us authoritatively.
My father was obsequious to the commanding authority.
'We tried pushing it in. But the cow pushed it out again', he meekly informed the vet.
This was a new dad. Meek and obedient to authority.
'Probably you did not push it back in the correct position. So the cow felt uncomfortable and pushed it out again', the vet was all authority.
'Don't worry, we will push it back in again', his assurance was very comforting. 
I felt my Summer Vacation reviving. This was a bad dream. Everything will be all right now. I can resume my vacation. I was feeling calm and comfortable. There was a sense of optimism all around.
The vet rolled up his sleeves. I was impressed with this display of cool confidence of the professional.
'Get me some water', he told my dad. My dad promptly brought a bucketful.
Vet went behind the cow and pushed the uterus in. 
In my sixth grade, I had been initiated into the world of classical physics through Newton's third law which says that 'Every action has an equal and opposite reaction'. I was now about to witness the law in action.
As he pushed the uterus in, the cow gave a mighty heave and in the blink of an eye, the confident vet was covered neck down with dark green cow dung.
This was a Sunday and the vet had dressed up in sparkling whites for the church and now the 'whiteness' had all but vanished from his shirt.
The universe was filled with a mosaic of expressions. The cow had an amused smile on her face, my father had the affected seriousness of a concerned farmer and I was trying to hide my laughter. 
The vet had a pained expression on his face, much like Mona Lisa having been disrobed in Louvre.
I could see from his face that the devout christian was trying to control his feelings in front of a child. There was no doubt that his thoughts were filled with pages of juiciest essays written in window's 'Symbol' font. The range of his thoughts covered the *&;#@$%%##@ cow, the **##@@%^^^ farmer and the @#$%^%^@** boy who was trying to control his laughter.
The internal struggle continued for about five minutes. Finally the 'Good Man' won over the 'Bad Man'. 
'I need some water and a spare shirt', he was talking to nobody in particular.
Once the vet left, we were faced with a slew of challenges. First was to determine the next course of action re the uterus. The cow had obviously rejected it. While the family was deciding, I was asked to continue to be the scarecrow. Second challenge was to ensure that the area remained clean of flies and dirt. The vet told us to ensure that the uterus is kept clean to ensure that sepsis doesn't develop. So (naturally) I was asked to clean the uterus with water at regular intervals.
The next day the vet came (adorned with apron, of course) and pushed the uterus back in and stitched the skin. The whole day, the cow kept pushing the uterus out and but it looked as if the stitch was strong enough to withstand the pressure of the peristalsis. The vet told us that if the uterus stayed in for a few days, the cow will adjust to its presence and everything will be alright.
Someone had to keep and eye of the cow through the day. My father had to go for work and so I was asked to keep a watch (Naturally. It was not as if I had two more brothers who could do this work). Throughout this period, my father donned an injured expression and kept mumbling about the sacrifices that he had to make. Of course (he mumbled), he would have loved to be near the cow, but he also had a family to feed. The least that we children could do is to understand his compulsions and support him whole heartedly.
When he said 'Children', he meant me of course.
My mother, the eternal optimist, pointed out that it was good that the incident happened during my vacation. At least we have someone available, she said. Imagine the challenges if this incident had happened during the children's school days....
The vet was wrong. The cow never accepted the uterus. After about three days, the stitches gave way. The stitches tore the skin and the uterus came out. Now I had a damaged skin to look after in addition to the uterus.
Talk of frying pan and fire.....
The vet raised his hands. Nothing more could be done.
Some decision had to be made regarding the cow. My father, indecisive as ever, took ages to make a decision. All through those indecisive days I was asked to keep watch on the uterus. My duties included among others, wash the uterus and the skin, apply skin ointment, once the uterus was dry cover it with a black plastic bag....
Sit and watch....
I had become a 'Uterus Watchman'. While I was sitting at the cowshed, I was asked to read some school books.
This went on for about a month. Of course the crows were there too. I was not completely successful in keeping the crows away from the uterus. When my eyes were off, they will fly in and rampage the uterus leaving a bloody mess.
Which I had to clean
The cow took it all in its stride.
I don't remember what we ultimately did with the cow.
And I don't care.
My summer vacation was spent in a cowshed.
I don't think that I will tell this story to my grandkids.

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