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24 Mar 2023, Edition - 2810, Friday

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Bovine musings of a doctor

Dr. Kannaki Uthraraj CV


Chennai: My cows. The first love was Sita a Nellore breed tall and gauntly `lady’ from Andhra. The tall lady had chocolate brown flowery motifs on her white hide. The benign face was dipped in dark chocolate too, as though she went on a spree in a chocolate factory. She was gifted by my Appichi (grandfather) as a part of the ritual of giving a milch cow when a baby comes into the family. This time it was Babu my baby brother who was the reason for Sita maaadu to enter into our family circle.

We were at 2, Egmore High Road, a sprawling European bungalow stretching from Egmore High Road to Parallel Street. There was an outhouse with a kitchen, a cowshed. The backyard of nearly half an acre was an ideal grazing ground for Sita. She was never tethered except for milking. She came with a full-term pregnancy and delivered her first born Lakshmi.

Sita was the first animal who came close to my heart Her dark eyes always melted away differences and the strange bond formed between the human and a cow thousands of years ago came alive again. She would alert herself at the opening of the gate and wait to greet stopping her cud chewing as a mark of respect. She loved being patted by us, especially by my dad who used to brush her hide with a coir brush. We would watch her eat her (wheat bran) thavidu with water and punnaku (soaked oil cakes). She loved the cake and used to dive into the tub to pick up the small pieces which hadn’t melted away. The stomach would fill as the tub emptied. This was twice-a-day meal.

It was supplemented with hay which would be dropped into the fodder counter for the night. There would be big drums of thavidu with a padi (measure) in the outhouse. We used to wonder what was so tasty about the oil cakes and even attempting to taste the hard piece.

Another dish that Sita and her progeny loved was the figs from the tree in the yard. We would gather them and add it in her thavidu meal. She would pick them greedily and cud chew enjoying the juices well after the meal.

We would pat her, talk to her and brush her without fear. We loved giving her a bath as much as she enjoyed it.

She was a grand grand mutipara calving every year. Mum kept a journal of her pregnancies – Lakshmi, Parvati, Saraswathi, Ganga, Yamuna, Velli, Ponni and Murugan. We never gave away any of them except the males. My brother and I used to cry for a few days when the calf was given away.

Towards the last children she developed `prolapse uterus’ soon after delivery. The uterus would be placed back by the vet assistant who seemed like god to me for helping the poor animal. Also weakness of hind limbs became an issue and she had to be helped up. Her eyes would convey all the helplessness and the embarrassment of being disabled, and took the assistance with such dignity.

She lived until 17 years and my heart still sobs at the tragic end of having been bitten by a rabid dog and taken away. Still my heart curls and bleeds thinking about her being taken away from her family.

Even today the cow draws me. The one grazing in the field, the one working hard to draw the cart and the ones in the farm.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own.

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