Even as we battled KingKong’s outrageous betrayal, something loomed upon our farming horizon to make us thrust him temporarily to the sidelines: the preparation of jeevamirtham.
One of the most integral components of organic farming, jeevamirtham comprises: A. Dung, B. Komiyam (cow’s urine) C. Jaggery D. Payaru flour E. A handful of your land’s mud. Mixed liberally with water, this organic mixture would accomplish more than chemical fertilisers: deliver healthy, non-toxic food, replenish the land, and enrich future harvests. Of the five ingredients required, we were missing three. And each of these proved to be more difficult to acquire than Voldemort’s horcruxes (Harry Potter).
The first was dung: yes, those brown-green globs you find everywhere on tar roads, mud roads and even cart-tracks dating from the Jurassic period — but in PreciousGems, where every second person owned at least two fabulous cows, there was apparently a severe shortage of dung. Asking them for this precious commodity made them stare like we’d petitioned for moon-rocks or their first-born. Well, they might have given us their first-born at a pinch. One after the other, Hill, Bottle and even our brand-new houseowner refused any and all knowledge of dung, citing that they needed it themselves for “manure.”
The mild hypocrisy in this statement, especially after they had all disclaimed any usage of said dung, was galling — but we weren’t in a position to contest them or their smirks.
In desperation, my mother turned once again, to her tried and trusted farm bible, Pasumai Vikatan, and unearthed an organic farmer called Bells, who was fairly flourishing, some 45 kms away, in the Town of Confusion. We managed to buy dry organic manure at `6 per sack, and encountered a question that would haunt us all year: “How do you think you are going to do organic farming without cows?”
We had no idea either. Hunting for Komiyam made our desperation worse for there was, again, none to be had — but by now, suspicion reared its spiky head: were our neighbours refusing us simply for the heck of it? Tactful questioning of Hill who, despite possessing three cows, had just conceded defeat, was no use; Hill simply scratched his head and looked too embarrassed to answer. It took his son, the VAO’s assistant, to reveal the truth: their cows simply refused to “go.”
Our jaws dropped.
“Well, she is getting frightened if I go and stand behind her with a bucket,” Hill mumbled, and his grandchildren giggled. “She just ... tightens up!” Our drought was complete.
It was at this time that Spiro walked into our life with a handful of groundnuts and the reputation of a cow-whisperer. Life seemed full of urinary possibilities again.
(The writer is a journalist, artist, translator, historian and editor but not necessarily in that order)