A Memoir of My Mother

I was born on the fifth moon-up in month of the green grass in a run-down, cold, dark shed. My first experience of my owners were harsh voices that were most likely caused by drunkenness and ungentle, rough hands pulling me hither and thither. After slapping me around, and tying my mother back to a pole, the two men departed, leaving me, small and feeble on the cool unyieldingness of the floor. The moon was shining brightly, and I could see the outlines of sleeping bulls and cows right next to me.

I felt a nudge by me, and I beheld my mother for the first time. She had the clearest black eyes that bespake of love and warmness, and much misery. "Get up," she said kindly. With much effort, and with my mother's moral and physical support, I rose and walked for the first time in my life in that old brown shed. In my na?e curiosity, I went to another sleeping cow and nudged it. It opened one eye- which was bloodshot. I drew back in fright. It gave a snort, from which I found it was instead a bull, not a cow, and I ran back to my mother's protective shadow. The moon peeked, and showered its last glimmers upon me, and then fell, letting the dawn come out to have its turn, and the farm came to life.

My very first day was a day where I experienced the flavor of life I would be tasting for the rest of my life. My mother and I were transported to another stable. My mother informed me that this was where they kept dairy cows. It was rather crowded in there. I could barely lie down in there. A forbidding wooden fence separated my mother and I. There was a raucous metal bowl, with a flimsy aluminum divider in between, obviously meant for my food and water. It was empty.

It was then that I received my mother's first lesson of wisdom. My mother, by the way, never gave lessons of wisdom as the grandmother cow next to me did- austere and stern. My mother gave lessons in a kind way, often with jokes and tales. In any case, my first lesson of wisdom was to always make the best of my surroundings. I decided to employ this lesson, and made a game of jumping high from where I stood in my stall to see my mother. This naturally made a clanging noise because of the chain I was bound to. Although I enjoyed the noise immensely, other cows in the stall, including the grandmother cow complained of this. My mother gently chided me. I got my second lesson of wisdom: Never annoy one's neighbor. Instead, love and cherish them, and comply to them like you would to your family.

Two sun-ups afterwards, I was grabbed by the halter by one of my owners and roughly shoved outside. This was the first time I had been outside and seen the lovely green grass. I sniffed the sweet smell of the air, which was slightly tinged by odors of food, oil, and meat, but I tried to ignore it, and submerge my self in the fragrance of the clovers. I got rather giddy, and pranced around, feeling the mud slush around my feet, and the grass sway in accordance to my hooves. The wind blew a soft breeze, sending waves of scent of a distant flower field. However, my paradise was not meant to be. Seeing me prancing about made my owner run, throw me down, and tie me to a near by tree. While I was wondering what I had done, I was severely beaten. I stood stock still with shock and nervousness. After the drunken owner was sure I would stay put, he let a child approach me. The child was young, only up to my owner's knee. She was very scrawny. I eyed her curiously, and tried to sniff her. She held back shyly. Then a little arm came out and touched me. It tickled, and I gave a guffaw, which came out rather like a moo. She screamed, and hit me. "Bad cow!" she said. I looked at the other humans watching, completely sure that this child would be yelled at for her misbehavior. Yet the others just laughed, remarking how cute she was. I was upset. When the child continued to torture me, I couldn't stand it. I gave a very loud moo which vibrated through the air. The drunken owners just stared at me, and then in a commanding voice, proceeded to yell and beat me. Then I was kicked into my stall, and the iron door which opened and closed it was clanged shut. I stared dismally at the floor. Here I was, hungry (for I had not eaten anything save the measly amount of milk which I received once a day), beaten, and put in a jail where I would never return. I felt my mother's questioning eyes on me. In a mournful voice, I related the events to her. She gave a moo of sympathy. I touched my nose to the fence, knowing my mother did the same. It gave me a sense of courage, and I felt much better.

My mother was always sacrificial. As I was growing up, my youth caused me a great appetite. Unfortunately, since we were only dairy cows, we never received enough food. Sometimes, I recall, I had desperately wished to turn into a meat cow, for even though I would die sooner, I would get food. Of course, at that time, I didn't understand the meaning of death. Although we received only about half a bowl full of fodder, my mother always slipped almost all her food under the fence to me, leaving only a nibble for herself.

My mother was also extremely patient. We, being dairy cows, received many hormones instead of food. Sometimes, the owners being rather drunk, didn't inject the hormones in a right spot, and then it really hurt. Although I always complained, my mother took her burden, and never complained. Nor did she ever get impatient with me and lose her temper, and I am quite certain I did so.

Life went on this way, each day in the dreary little stall. My mother often told me stories to easy the drudgery of our little wooden world. Even the grandmother cow next door sometimes forgot her irascibility and told me stories of her childhood as well. Reflecting back upon these times, I see that though these times were dull and lifeless, they were a perfect paradise when my mother spoke to me. However, this paradise wasn't going to last very long.

There came a day, when 72 fortnights had passed, when all the cows in the dairy were gathered together. The drunken owners seemed somewhat bright and cheerful. It was as if they were trying to act happy, but not being able to do so, partly due to them never practicing this emotion, and partly due to their insobriety. About 75 of us were packed in a rather small truck. By some miracle, we were all able to fit, albeit rather squished. By another miracle, I was next to my mother. As the rest of the cows were getting in, we started to get cows landing on one another. My mother, weak though she was, lifted me up onto so that no heavy bull or cow may land on me on accident. After we were all packed up, the journey began. The heaviness of the air, the jolting of the truck, and the warmth made me fall asleep. Occasionally, I felt the truck stop, and I heard the drunken, cheerful-through-pretense voices of the owners speak with the sharp voices of another. Through my drowsiness, all I remember is the voice of the owners saying something about giving money, and the sharp voices saying they don't take bribes, and then the owners raising the number of something, the money I suppose, and then the sharp voices saying fine, and then the truck going onwards. As I said before, I was sleeping the whole time; I have no idea what my mother was doing.

After several moon-ups had passed, the owner brusquely grasped the cows and threw us out of the truck. Many had broken limbs due to this mishandling; many had already gotten broken bones through the mishandling of the journey. I looked around, and spotted my mother. I looked into her eyes and saw fear written there. She tried to smile, but didn't succeed very well. I looked in awe around, trying to see what made my mother fear something. There was a dead, red brick building, from which smoke was creeping out. The gruesome smells of blood reeked through the place. One by one, all the cows were led to a man standing in front of the building. Some were thrust aside, most were taken in the building. Woeful cries sounded from within. I saw the grandmother cow go in, and then my mother. She halted in the doorway, and looked at me. That look said all that ever needed to be said. The man whipped her and she went inside. I looked on, horrified. I strained my ears, hoping for a sound that would be my mother coming back outside. But instead I heard several heart-rendering bleats, which I knew belonged to my mother. Then I heard my mother's one long moo. I knew my mother would never come back outside.

The space in the truck was desolately empty as a few cows made the journey back home. I was one of these cows. Yet, there was only a part of me that came back. The other part of me was gone forever.

Copyright ? 2002 by Aditi Mhaskar. All Rights Reserved
May be used in unchanged form by avowed Animal Rightists if accompanied by this copyright message.

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