Today, from morning itself, I was feeling completely unsatisfied with myself. My master, who I had thought to be dependable had betrayed my trust and abandoned me on the road. Well, it all happened this way, one evening as usual, I was out on the fields with my fellow cows. I, being the senior most of them all, was the leader of the herd. We were happily grazing away our time. The next day, actually the day before yesterday, it was my thirteenth birthday. After grazing in the evening I returned to our home, actually my master’s home, along with my companions, expecting my master to welcome heartily and worship me in the same way he had done all these years on my birthdays.
But things turned out to be quite different. One by one every cow was let inside the shed. I found my master standing empty handed without the pooja thali in his hands. I was quite disappointed. “May be he forgot” I thought, but actual disappointment was unknown to me yet. Gloomily as I tried to go inside, the door closed and I was shut out. I mooed and mooed for a while but to no avail. It looked like my master had deliberately shut me out. He did not have any use or soft feelings for me, a thirteen year old faithful cow who had borne him three she calves and had provided him milk for almost ten years. Suddenly I had become useless for him. Well who remembers favors these days?
Newly born, I was a source of happiness for my master, a ray of hope. It was I who had made him a successful and a reputed milkman. He was credited to be the man who sold the best quality of milk in the town. People paid him the price he demanded for that excellence of milk. Then I was the only source of income for him. But now all I was an old wretch without any milk or any use. I sadly mooed for quite a long time, but it was not fruitful. After mooing for few more times, I sadly went away fearing that he may come out and cane me for disturbing his sleep, which for the instance, seemed more important for him than me. Moreover, I feared the whip of the cane more than anything else in this world. The mere thought of that long and thin piece of wood, makes my hide shudder.
Now I did not know where to go. I had never known a place other than the meadow and my master’s house. Being an optimist, I found it an appropriate opportunity to explore the world that lied beyond the master’s house and the meadows. I wandered away along the road in search of a shelter for the night. It was very chilly outside. Even my thick hide failed to keep me warm. I really hated these months of winter. The cold breeze made my bones shiver. I wearily made my way through a blanket of mist hoping to find some kind of shelter for myself. I was pretending and assuming with all my might that I didn’t care about the fact that my master had abandoned me, but from inside I knew I missed my cozy shed.
The next morning I woke up, to find a number of men surrounding me. One of them was a veterinary doctor. I knew him because he would often visit our shed, with all kinds of medicines and injections. He was a big burly hairy person, looking quite like an animal himself. He was staring at me without a word blankly, and seemed quite astonished at my opening of eyes. I think I have a clear idea about yesterday night. I guess my old age didn’t permit me to walk much in the cold and after sometime, I had collapsed on the road. Some blessed person, might have noticed me lying helplessly on the road, and may have called for this vet. Anyway, seeing me trying to stand up on my own, he became quite satisfied and relieved, and also seemed to receive great applause from everyone around. Everyone happily looked at me and as happily as ever went away minding their own business.
God knows who or why, men are called as the wisest of all the animals. Not a single one among the crowd, who that had gathered around me anticipated that I may collapse again in hunger and weakness and again they would have to call the vet. However, I got up and set out again. My legs were still aching, but the warm life giving sunlight made me feel quite better. Anyway feeling better didn’t mean not feeling hungry, so I started looking for some food. I think by then I was somewhere in the middle of the town. There was no lush green meadows or fields in sight. The dumb concrete buildings’ sight made me feel dizzy. In front of a house I found some chapattis wrapped in a plantain leaf. “God has sent this thing especially for me”, I thought as I strode across the road to the food. Just then, shattering my hopes came another big, strong cow and shamelessly gobbled it up before I could even think of stopping her. I was furious. If she was a little bit weaker or thinner, I would have thought of taking revenge and teaching her a lesson, but she was not. She as twice my size with two barbarously strong horns. So I simply decided to forget all about the food, the cow and the revenge and simply continued my quest for food.
As any village bred cow would, even I found it quite difficult to find food in this concrete jungle. Sometimes a cow or a bull would snatch away the food and the other times I would be mostly chased away by dogs. As a result, my first day in a town was no less than a nightmare and at night I was in a pitiable condition, with an empty growling stomach and weak trembling legs. If this had continued for a week or so, I would have looked like a living skeleton of a cow. But today I was quite strong so I managed to sleep under the roof of an abandoned shed, after shooing away some dogs which had occupied the best place. I lay on the merciless cold hard floor dreaming of my cozy little shed with dry soft grass under me. The phrase “those were the days” kept on drumming in my mind and I gradually slipped away into the world of sleep.
It was still somewhat dark when I woke up the next day. ‘Early morning fog’ had spread itself all over the tower. Midnight silence was still ruling the place, the only audible sound was the rumbling and grumbling of my starving stomach. Before, I had many aims in my life, like trying to keep my master happy, taking care of my three calves, and also looking after my herd. I had always considered myself responsible for the life and health of not only myself and my calves but also of my herd, consisting of six more young cows. I had always worried more about my companions than myself. But now all that sense of sharing and caring had left me and all I could think of was food, food and only food. So even today I set out making my way through the fog to find something edible other than the garbage and leftovers dumped in a corner by humans or algae ridden water.
The road seemed astonishingly lonely and empty. There were no motor bikes or cars, which usually whiz past annoyingly past me. I enjoyed my temporary freedom of walking in the middle of the road, fancying myself as the queen of the whole town. I was so lost in my own world that I failed to notice a bunch of kids cycling towards me. It was a bump and an angry cursing kid that bought me back to reality. I threw an angry, scornful look at the kid whose cycle had run into me and continued my search for food. I was a bit dizzy. Since the time I had been shut out by my master, I hadn’t eaten properly. And if fortune wouldn’t bestow any food on me, someone would find me lying unconscious on the road and again, if lucky, would I meet the vet. But this time all this wasn’t bound to happen. Or at least I thought so, as I was an optimist you know. After wandering every here and there, I sat down besides a building, finding it somewhat shady there. Just then a puny little man brought something in a plantain leaf, which was round fluffy and about the size of my hoof, but however it was, it smelled fabulous. He kept the leaf in front of me I couldn’t believe it. I had wandered for two days without even thinking of sitting down and hadn’t even got a proper morsel of food and now when I sat down with resignation, I get something royal and deliciously smelling thing to eat.
I was praying and thanking god, for sending that man with something good to eat, when the cow, which had gobbled up the food I had found yesterday, came furiously nodding her head and did the same today. She greedily gobbled up all the three of them and left the plantain leaf for me. This time I was enraged, furious, angry and what not. My animal instincts took control over me and I involuntarily charged at her. She hadn’t expected this from me, and was surprised and stunned for a while. When she overcame her shock, even she charged at me with those deadly horns, piercing through my courage. I dodged her blow this time, but couldn’t keep on doing the same for my whole life. The next time she came running like a mad bull, I stood firm and my head dashed with hers. This way both of us were equally hurt, though she was young and strong, I had the benefit of technique. My mother had trained me in fighting techniques and I had been the trainer of six cows in my shed. Just because of this fact I was able to a tough competition, to that overconfident cow. Though I had the advantage of technique, she of had the advantage of age and strength. With her strength, as that of a bull, and with never ending stamina, I was already struggling. Our fight went on for about five minutes, a large crowd had gathered around us and believe me, these “intelligent animals” so called humans, didn’t even try to stop us. Gradually my stamina ceased out and I found myself fighting a losing battle with that cow. The cow came charging right into me and I fell on the ground gasping for breath. My cuts and bruises burned like anything. My head was spinning, the legs were shaking as if they would fall off. Even during such a disgraceful moment, the bitter memories of my master shooing me away from a place considered paradise, brought tears in my eyes.
It is all over, I thought. I decided I would fight away the cow and would put my life to an end, and along with my life would end my miseries, and I would, hopefully, find a place somewhere near god’s feet in heaven. With these series of random thoughts I stood up with all my remaining might and as I was about to run towards, that arrogant headstrong proud creature, I saw a face in the crowd. A face so young and calm. It was radiant like the sun itself. It was the face of a young, handsome boy. His torso was somewhat dark, so were his face, arms, legs, and all the other visible body parts. His twinkling shiny eyes, gazed continuously at me. “Accept defeat and come to me” his eyes said. “You are unnecessarily trying to do unnecessary things” I thought I was imagining it and tried to look away. But he was something one couldn’t ignore. I hung my neck down and turned my back at the cow, who was ready to attack, signaling that I had accepted defeat and wanted to be left alone. The cow seeming quite proud and happy with herself turned her back and went away, maybe to snatch food away from someone else. Losing interest in all this the crowd gradually faded away leaving behind only me and the boy.
On having a closer look at him, I noticed he was not one of the ordinary town boys with cropped hair, fancy clothes and sunglasses. He had quite long hair which he had tied into a bun, with a piece of cloth around his head. Some strands of hairs which had escaped being ties hung loosely over his shoulders. This hairdo, though sounding strange, suited him the best. He had a noble face with a slight smile over his delicate looking lips. He had neatly draped a yellow lion cloth around his waist and had a matching shawl across his neck and shoulder. His dark complexion didn’t bring any hindrance in his beauty. I short he was magnificent and was too beautiful to be an earthling. I blankly starred at him. His mere presence seemed to have a magical effect on me. I forgot all about myself and feasted my eyes on him. “Why did you call me?” I wanted to ask. But he hadn’t called me. And even if he had, I couldn’t have asked him because he wouldn’t understand and would consider my questioning as dumb mooing.
Just then he pulled out a stick like thing, from the behind of his dhoti. A stick had been a dangerous thing for all the cows around the world since eternity and I had always dreaded it like anything. I remember whenever I would misbehave or would try to explore my former master’s home, when I was a calf, my master would bring a thin long bamboo sick and would bring it down on my hip. Two whacks, and I would not think of doing anything adventurous, for a whole month. This was the reason I got startled, when he took out the stick. But this stick was quite different. It had some holes over it and had attractive designs at its ends. My instincts told me that, it was way too beautiful to be used as a thing to thrash cattle.
The boy gently brought the stick up to his lips and softly blew into one of its holes and lo! Behold, what a tune flowed from the holes. The music was simply too melodious. It filled me with fresh vigor. I forgot all about the cuts and bruises. I felt like a frisky, young calf bubbling with energy and enthusiasm. I forgot all about myself. All my soul knew was happiness and complete surrender to the boy.
Continuously playing the music, he started walking. Irresistibly, I followed him like a tail. I found that many cows had been drugged by the sweetness of this music, and were meekly following him, and one of them was my enemy cow. But on seeing her I strangely didn’t feel angry. The only thing I knew was happiness. Elements like hunger, anger, sadness, and helplessness seemed so unreasonable and artificial when we were with him. He walked and walked and right at his heels, we followed. He led us out of the town.
We went leaving behind, humans, their streets, vehicles, buildings, garbage dumps and every silly thing. We went away to an unknown destination led by the boy, whom we named ‘Gopal’, the protector of homeless and helpless cows like us.