Art And Culture

Cows at my grandparents’ home: A nostalgia

Every New Year brings hope, but it also brings a few nostalgic moments. Many good things that happened to us that we cannot relive remain as nostalgic memories—so many things from our childhood.

Cows grazing in the fields can be seen on a long train ride or road trip for those who live in cities. One such sight took me back to my childhood, which I have described here.

I was that lucky child whose both maternal and paternal grandparents’ homes were in the same town where we lived, on the same road, at Mattancherry. I had to pass through both houses to go to school.

In my growing-up years, at my maternal grandparents’ home, there were 2 cows. One is brown, while the other is black. Let’s call them Ambily and Ammini, respectively.

My grandmother was from a village in the Alleppey District of Kerala and was very fond of cows. She brought in these cows from there.

She was caring for the cows very diligently. I used to go to the cowshed, which was behind the large house, and enjoy watching her bathe, feed, etc. The milkman was appointed to milk the cows, who used to come early in the morning. If he got delayed, cows used to moo.

My grandmother and mother also knew how to milk the cows. It’s not as easy a task as it looks. It requires a special skill. The milkman used to hold the big vessel in between his thighs and, with both hands, could milk very quickly.

The smell of raw, fresh milk is still there in my mind. My grandmother used to narrate her own memories of rearing cows in her childhood. (70-75 years from now)

There in her village, every household had acres of land, which they used to rear cows. It was part of life. It was a whole ecosystem.

All household food waste with Kanjivellam/kadivellam (thick rice soup and water used to wash rice) used to be given with banana peels to the cows. There was grassland where cows used to graze. In turn, cows give milk. If the milk remains after household consumption, it is sold. Dairy products like curd, butter, ghee, and other sweets were all homemade.

There used to be a big pit behind the cowshed where the cow dung, dry leaves, and other waste used to be dumped. It served as compost and also as fertiliser to grow vegetables in the kitchen garden.

Now, in the Kochi of my memories (30–35 years ago), things were different. It’s a town with no such open land or green pastures for the cows to graze, so cattle feed and hay used to be bought from outside and given. My grandmother used to make cow dung cakes and dry them on the walls. They were used as fuel for firing. “Ssh, what’s that?” “How can you touch that stinky thing?” I used to ask disgustingly.

Let’s come to Ambily and Ammini. Ambily never delivered any calves. Gradually, she stopped giving milk, and she had to be sold off. Of course, not for slaughter but for sending away in some open land. 

Ammini had another issue. She had delivered eight times, but the calves did not survive. This caused a lot of worry for my grandmother. She prayed and waited for a calf.

My grandfather was seen waiting anxiously outside for someone one day while I was walking to school (I was probably in fourth grade at the time). I got to know that it was time for Ammini to deliver. He was waiting for the milkman.

In the afternoon, during my lunch break, I went to my grandparents’ home and ran behind. All my aunts and uncles were gathered, and I was prohibited from watching what was happening. I sadly returned to school, but my mind was not there in class; I could not concentrate on the teaching. I was excited and nervous, thinking about what was happening.

I ran as soon as the bell rang. That evening, my grandmother welcomed me, saying Ammini delivered a healthy calf, which was named Ammu. (Later, it turned out that Ammu was blind; still, she grew up fine.)

It was a happy day. Grandmother made the special sweet with the thick milk of Ammini, which lasted for many days.

Ammu became a playmate for all of us. Years passed; Ammu grew up and had calves, and someday they were all sold away as they were not feasible to maintain.

These memories remain so fresh in my mind, and now, when I ask for a cow as a pet, my husband laughs, saying it’s not practical to have one.

Sandhya Naren

Sandhya Naren, a Kochiite currently living in Mangalore, is a Banker by profession and a Storyteller, Writer & Trainer by passion. She writes Poems & Short stories in English & Malayalam. She balances life of Logic & Numbers at office with Fantasy & Creativity when not in office.

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