by Rhea Rego
It was love at first sight. On a blissful November morning, I was basking in the glorious sunshine at my writing spot: the stone bench near the Gaushala. The tranquility at the Madman’s Farm, enhanced by the gentle rustle of leaves and lively orchestra of crickets, frogs and birds provides the most conducive atmosphere for creative juices to flow. This was enough to put me in a trancelike state and I was lost in the moment when I met my soulmate, who was casually ambling along. Our eyes locked and my heart was filled with an inexplicable joy.
Gouri, my sweet little cow friend, came forth to lick a stretched-out hand and stole my heart in the process. She’s my favourite thing about the farm. Whenever I was sad, I’d go sit next to her. She’d put her head in my lap and lovingly gaze into my eyes as I sang to her. My morning routine encompassed walks to the Gaushala where the very mention of her name would make her stop whatever she was doing and rush to meet me. She goes crazy for guavas and I found this out in the cutest way. She came up to the bench where I was sitting, licked me, and then went up to the guava tree and looked at it suggestively. She did this two or three times before I got the idea. And so I went up to the tree (the farm has an abundance of guava trees, plenty for all the insects, birds, animals, and humans) and plucked one for her and one for me. This became our new ritual. We’d spend a few moments every day happily munching on the delicious juicy fruit. Feeding her brought back memories of my parent’s story of how when I was nine months old, I got lost and the result of their frantic search was that they found me in a leaf pit, feeding fallen amlas (gooseberries) to a very bewildered cow.
Fun fact about cows: they have best friends! There’s this heartwarming article on cows which is a must-read.
“Studies show that cows with similar dispositions gravitate toward one another, forging close relationships in the process. So, essentially, cattle bond like humans do: they’re driven to seek out relationships with like-minded individuals, and they can even form lifelong friendships in the process.”
And so, Gouri introduced me to her best friend (I call him Gautam) and I was elated to be a part of this new group. In the short period that I’ve known them, Gouri and Gautam have given me enough love to last a lifetime.
“Caregivers at farm animal rescues and sanctuaries see firsthand how cows get attached to humans. Like other species, they give and receive affection through grooming one another. Thus, they love when their human caregivers give them pets and scratches, especially on the chin or behind the ears. If a cow spends enough positive time with a human, they might start to see them as part of the cow’s “herd.” They’ll show affection back to humans by licking them, following them around, or even cuddling with them.”
Unfortunately, the lives of Gouri, Gautam and their herd are at risk. As the freezing gusts of wind blew through the farm this winter, they took with them the life of a fragile newborn calf. The whole farm was devastated. This isn’t a new story: every winter, thousands of newborns, elderly, and sick cows die in Madhya Pradesh’s freezing cold. Shashi’s plan is to cover the Goushala with sheets to protect the cows from the icy winds. While Shashi is too humble to ask for donations, I, on the other hand, am shameless. A little help would go a long way in making sure they are safe, warm, and comfortable through the biting North Indian winters.
It is on that stone bench under the bowers of a slender tree, soaked in sunshine that I was accepted into a herd and provided the purest form of love. My cow friends are the most intelligent, loving animals who deserve to be protected at all costs.