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02 March 2015

Animal Farm...

Even though my father was an electrical engineer by profession, farming was his passion. He had enough land to indulge in his passion and he went the whole hog when it comes to farming. He was at the forefront of farming in Kottayam district and he used to plant whatever crop was the flavor of the season, He planted Paddy, Tapioca, Cashew, Robusta Plantain, Banana, Black Gram and Cocoa. He was in his elements once he was on the farm. He will shout at the labourers, caress the flora and fauna and was very happy with his plants and trees..
One aspect of the farming related to domesticating the animals.
Ever since I can remember we reared cows.
We had lots of land and feeding cow was not at all a problem. Also, since we used to cultivate various crops, cows could be fed the left overs once the crop was separated. For example, we used to give the cows dried paddy leaves, also known as hay (of the 'Making Hay While the Sun Shines' fame), used to mix the chaff and husk in water and feed the same to the cows and of course the leaves of the 'Kappa' plant was also given as food to the cows.
My mother came from a family where cows were non-existent, but she quickly learned to take care of the cows. She did not have to bathe the cows since we had servants to do that. However milking the cow in the morning and evening was her job.
Once she tried teaching me the process of milking the cow.  'First of all you have to get the calf do drink some milk from the udder', she told me like she was explaining the route followed by Magallen, 'Once the cow feels the tongue of the calf, it secretes the milk to the udder (Called 'Paal Churathal' in Malayalam).. Once the udder is full of milk, you first wash it with water. Then you apply Ghee on the udder to make it smooth. Then you milk each udder with the hand till all the milk is drained from the udder and then you move on to the next udder'....
Yucks...
'Half way through you again get the calf to drink the milk and follow the same process'....
One cow used to give about 3-4 litres of milk in one sitting which was sufficient for a large family.
To ensure that the calf do not drink milk at other times, you keep them separate. However some times the Calf will manage to evade the watch and drink the whole milk from the cow. Someone will come and shout 'Kidavu paal Kudichu' (the Calf has drunk the milk). That day, we hardly get any milk from the cow and my dad will come and scream at everyone.
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'Amme, Ambiye Pashu Kuthi' (Mother, Cow has gored Amby) screamed the panicked maid.
Mother came running out. The cow was standing with its newly born calf and a profusely bleeding Amby, my younger brother, was lying in front of the cow with blood spouting from his right cheek.
When this incident occurred, we were in Nattakom a small village in Kerala. I remember this incident very clearly even now despite the fact that when it happened I must have been five and my brother was four. 
The cow had recently given birth to a cute little calf and we brothers were very fascinated by the calf. All through the day we used to spend time near the cow watching it pamper its calf. We felt that the calf was our friend and it was our responsibility to look after it.
It must have been about three in the afternoon on that particular day, I think. Mom was inside the house. Both of us children were playing in the field just outside our house and the cow was tied to a nearby tree with the calf next to it. 
Amby wanted to offer something to the calf. He plucked out a coconut leaf, about a foot long, from a small tree nearby and took it to the calf.. 
There are some things from your childhood that you distinctly remember despite the passing of years. This was one such incident. I was there. We were playing, near the cow. It was afternoon. This was a brown cow with long horns. The cow was newly purchased, if I remember correctly.
Amby went too close to feed his friend, the calf. The cow, the protective mother, thought that Amby was coming to harm the calf and lunged at him. 
In the blink of an eye, the cow had gored Amby's right cheek and lifted him up about 2 meters and he fell down on the ground all bleeding and screaming.
Once Amby fell down, the cow did not do anything further. It, probably having realized the magnitude of what it had done, moved back a bit scared. It could have moved forward and crushed Amby. He was lying right in front of the cow. 
It was so surreal to me, who was only five years old. I remember seeing all these happening in front of me and not reacting at all. The magnitude of the event did not strike me. 
Of course, it was not supposed to. I was only five.
The servant lady came hearing Amby's screams. 
They took him to the hospital and he had to have 6 stitches in his cheek. Even now you can see the mark on his cheeks.
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Despite his short stature, my father was a brave man. Early in our lives, when I was 4 or 5 years old, we used to live in a place called 'Poovan Thuruthu', where the family had large tract of land. Electric supply was very erratic during those days. Sometimes at night, mostly when it rains, the electric supply will go off. Then my father will take a torch, open the door to go and check if the fuse has blown or it is real power outage. 
Especially when it rains, sometimes the snakes will come in our house. Mostly they are non-poisonous snakes, about a foot or two in length that they will take shelter around the door handle. My father will blow the torch in their eyes, temporarily blinding them, pick them up by hand and throw them out. Then he will go out and check the fuse. Mostly it will be general power outage.
Of course I have not seen my dad do this, but I have heard from my mom about these episodes.
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My father also bought at least one dog.
I think he wanted it for security. 
Bringing a dog to a vegetarian, Tamil Brahmin house is the stupidest thing that you can do. There is no match between the values as practiced by us and the dog. Especially so when it comes to food. We are pure Vegetarians. We eat Vegetables, Cereals and Pulses. And the dog? It eats meat.
The twain doesn't meet at all.
Despite this, my dad brought a dog home.
Every time it hears the sound of the meat vendor or the fish monger, the dog will become frantic. Dad arranged someone to take the dog out and feed it meat and fish. However, ultimately it has to come home. After eating all that carnivorous stuff, it will come home without as much as cleansing the mouth. 
And lick all of us to show its bloody affection.
My mom, that pious, religious lady, hated the dog. 
Thankfully my dad got rid of the dog somehow.
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I can't remember any more animals in my dad's life.
How many more do you need?
Note: The title is taken from the book of the same name by George Orwell. There ends the similarity

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