How we helped our cow adopt a calf

This brings to my mind an incident, not accident, that took place in 1956, when I was 14.

Some years ago, a calf was killed by a KSRTC bus in Karnataka. For a long time, the mother of the dead calf identified the bus, tried to stop it and searched for the calf, though the authorities had changed the colour of the vehicle .

This brings to my mind an incident, not accident, that took place in 1956, when I was 14. One of the cows in our home had given birth to a calf. But due to complications during the delivery, the calf passed away. The cow cried loudly and had tears in her eyes.

In the same village in another street, another cow had passed away during delivery leaving the calf motherless. Veterinary experts suggested that we could unite our cow with the motherless calf. But cows would suckle only calves that they had delivered.

My mother was instructed by the veterinary specialist to boil a kilogram of purple brinjals, mix it with herbs like vasambu (sweet flag), omam (bishop’s weed) and betel leaves and then grind it into a fine paste. As instructed, the paste was mixed with the cow’s urine and a few drops of its vaginal fluid. Since the delivery had taken place just two days ago, there was no problem in taking out the fluid. The semi-solid mixture was smeared over the motherless calf’s body.

The calf was taken near the cow. The cow hesitated a bit. It was silent for some time. We could not study the thoughts that ran in the cow’s mind, but could realise the mother’s inner urge to see the baby. Then it started smelling the calf, recognised its own body fluid and licked the calf for a few minutes. The cow seemed to have it confirmed within her mind that it was the same calf delivered by her. What a subtle feeling and reaction.

As milk started flowing through the cow’s udders and it started suckling the calf, tears flowed from the eyes of all those standing around. It was a matha-sishu sangamam.

When this topic came up for discussion, many neighbours initially accused my father of trying to deceive a dumb creature. This was more or less an adoption process that was not revealed to the mother. But the accusing neighbours were really moved on seeing the cheerful cow, its affectionate glances towards the young calf and the way it suckled the baby. All accusations turned into appreciation.

Vathsala Jayaraman


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