When the cow came home – The Hindu

It was the idea of the domestic help. “Why don’t we keep a cow at the bungalow,” he suggested one day when he saw me poring over the monthly milk bill. That was way back in 1997, in Rajkot, Gujarat, where my husband happened to be the Superintendent of Police.

The milk prices had been upped once again, and I was obviously concerned. My first reaction was to shrug off the suggestion. Burdened with two small children and two dogs, not to talk of a hyperactive husband, I could do very well without this additional responsibility.

It also had something to do with an unsavoury childhood memory. Years ago, my father, an animal-lover, had bought a cow to meet the rising demand of milk in our house — not for his children, who invented new excuses to avoid milk, but for his many pet dogs. He brought her home despite my mother’s stiff opposition. But thanks largely to the moods of the bovine, our house remained in turmoil for many months until father, in a fit of desperation, sold it off at a loss.

However, on second thought, I decided to buy one for us. Erecting a cowshed wasn’t a problem, but finding a suitable occupant was. The factors that came into consideration in the cow selection process were too many — complexion (white, black, brown), looks, breed, and offspring’s sex (a she-calf is a better investment). Then, one had to check out the behaviour. The yield was of course the benchmark. Finally, a week’s labour yielded what looked like a perfect choice. It was an elegant beauty of the locally prized Gir breed.

Grand welcome

Thus, one Sunday morning, Gauri — that was her maiden name and we agreed to retain it — took proud steps to an elaborate reception complete with a marigold garland, tilak, aarti and a large chunk of jaggery as a welcome snack. She received my customary bow with unconcealed arrogance. The grand welcome, it seems, had already begun to work on her head.

Gauri was too finicky with food. One had to use all the ruses of an indulgent mother to make her finish her meals. Then, she found the fairly large bungalow compound too cramped for her customary strolls.

As she had to make so many adjustments, Gauri yielded milk erratically. Even the caretaker hired to milk and tend to her was of no help.

On some days, I was at a loss how to deal with the extra milk, but on other days, milk had to be bought from outside.

Yet, I went along with the experiment for a month hoping the situation to stabilise. However, at the end of it, when I took stock of her maintenance cost, I found it to be higher than the milk bill.

There was no point in keeping a white elephant. Her previous owner agreed to take her back at the original price. I bid her adieu and heaved a sigh of relief.

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