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I Met My Soulmate at The Madman’s Farm

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.

https://thehumaneleague.org/article/do-cows-have-best-friends


“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.

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Lessons on Resilience from a Five-Year-Old

By Rhea Rego

Four minutes and the pain will pass. This profound sentence from Chiku, Shashi’s incredibly wise and mature five-year-old has taught me so much about resilience and sitting with the pain until it passes.

While enthusiastically pedalling on the rocky road to the Learning Centre one evening, Chiku and his cycle had a terrible tumble. He crumpled up into a ball and started to cry. I picked him up, brushed off the dirt, and we went and sat by the side of the road together. I could tell he was in a great deal of pain, so I asked him if he wanted to go home. “No”, he said. “Let’s just sit here for four minutes. I’ll be okay after that.” 

And indeed he was. After a few minutes, despite a badly grazed knee, he got up and we continued our evening jaunt to the Learning Centre. 

Being a Highly Sensitive Person, pain is a part of my everyday life. The things around me affect me so deeply: my personal pain, the pain of the people around me and that of the world: it all accumulates into one giant boulder that feels too heavy to carry. The only way I know how to cope with it is to distract myself. I talk to my friends, throw myself into my work, listen to happy music, or attempt to fill the deep void inside of me with all the food I can find. But band-aids don’t fix bullet holes and my bullet-ridden body is tired. If we don’t really feel our emotions, we tend to suppress them and they manifest in twisted, often unrecognisable ways. They show up in our bodies as anxiety, stress, or depression, of which I feel all three. And the harder I try to get rid of the pain, the longer it stays.

The harder we try to get rid of pain, the longer it stays. The best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain.

Chiku taught me a valuable life lesson that day. It’s important to sit with the pain until it passes. Pain is inevitable, and the only way is through. 

 It’s a human tendency to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It’s innate in us to turn away from what hurts and to run back to safety. Which is why my first instinct was to ask him if he wanted to go home when he was hurt. But this little one, wise beyond his years, knew that he needed to sit through the pain. 

Katie Kacvinsky, the author of the book Awaken writes:

“Pain’s like water. It finds a way to push through any seal. There’s no way to stop it. Sometimes you have to let yourself sink inside of it before you can learn how to swim to the surface.”

So thanks to Chiku, I’m not running away from pain any longer. I’m going to sit with it, be it for four minutes, four months, or four years. There is no timeline for when I should be over these emotions. I am learning to give myself permission to feel the pain. No more resistance. To stay present, acknowledge it, accept it, listen to it, and breathe through it, even though it’s overwhelming. To feel it, in all its excruciating messiness, is to heal it. 

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On Flowing Through Life

by Rhea Rego

This Too Shall Pass.

Shashi’s favourite quote, beautifully and lovingly painted at the entrance of the Mudhouse kitchen by Anjali from Bangalore perfectly summarizes the transience of life. 

A message of solace to the brokenhearted but also a reminder to savour the present moment, while remaining detached.

 

Everything flows, the good and the bad. Some might ask, what’s the point of it all if nothing lasts? Why fall in love, make a new friend, or start something new? Ah, dear friend, the beauty of life lies in its impermanence. Just because something doesn’t last forever, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bask in the wonder of that moment. Our life is as beautiful and fragile as the wings of the butterflies that flitter from plant to plant, flower to flower. 

As I run my hands through her waters, the ripples of the holy Narmada whisper to me: Everything flows. We cannot step twice into the same river. When you step into the river for the second time, neither you nor the river is the same. 

Every moment of every day, we are all changing. The same goes for the farm. Every second of every day, it is changing. Seasons come and go and with it, an array of different fruits, crops, and vegetables. Every day, the sun rises and sets. This is a fact of life. Yet each time, every sunrise and sunset is so unique: sometimes an explosion of colour in the sky, scattered by clouds, sometimes a quiet descent behind the mountains. Even our beloved ancient moon goes through the same old phases, yet each time it waxes and wanes, it ages. 

The farm has lovingly welcomed hundreds of visitors over the years. Some stay for a few days, some for a few months. Eventually, we all have to leave. Even if we do return after a while, neither we nor the farm are the same. Regardless, we always leave a part of us behind. A quote at the entrance of the Mudhouse, a painted logo on the gate, books donated to the Learning Centre, bamboo saplings lovingly planted, weeds carefully removed. These are only tangible contributions. The intangible ones are often the most memorable. Food lovingly prepared, songs sung, hugs exchanged, hands held, laughter spread, tears wiped, comfort given, philosophies discussed, memories made, lessons learnt: every single person who visits the farm leaves a mark in some way, and the farm leaves a mark on them.  

A farm favourite melody by Kabir goes:

क्या लेके आया जगत में,

क्या लेके जायेगा,

दो दिन की जिन्दगी है,

दो दिन का मेला

What have you brought into this world, and what can you take away from this world?

Life is, after all, just a two-day fair.

Why do we take ourselves so seriously? We come here with nothing, we go back with nothing. Might as well enjoy the carnival of life.

Ever so often, the winds of injustice ruffle our feathers and we are determined to change the world. We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, as though it is up to us to save it. It is for people like us that Aldous Huxley writes:

“It’s dark because you’re trying too hard. Dark because you want it to be light. Lightly, child, lightly. You’ve got to learn to do everything lightly. Think lightly, act lightly, feel lightly. Yes, feel lightly, even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. So throw away all your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly, my darling. On tiptoes; and no luggage, not even a sponge bag. Completely unencumbered.”


 This life can be taken away from us in the blink of an eye. So we must tread lightly and love deeply. Remain detached, for everything changes, yet enjoy the beauty of NOW. And always, always remember, for both the good and the bad, This Too Shall Pass.