Monday, November 7, 2022

Emotional connections of Gomi

Let's set the scene correctly, Gomi is a cow. Sacred, respected, and almost like a family member to its owner, Uncle Hariyani. 

Rahul - Uncle Hariyani - and me, at Paul Cafe, Deira City Centre (Dubai)

Our coffee conversation today [6 Nov 2022] went from Uttar Pradesh to Nainital, Chopta, Dugalbitta, and the awesome views from the hilltop Surkhanda Devi temple. The narrations by Uncle Hariyani were like a National Geographic crew showcasing the region ... I felt as if I was walking with him while appreciating the views.

Let me trek back to the Himalayas after a short detour into the emotional connections of Gomi, a cow that became Hariyani's "asset" when he acquired a small piece of land in Uttar Pradesh near his home. Gomi was housed on the land and a caretaker, Raghunath, was appointed to look after her on the land, some 200m from home. Why was she named Gomi? There was a cow named Gomi during Uncle Hariyani's childhood days and the sentiments of the name continued its legacy.

With the induction of Gomi into the household equation, it became imperative that Rahul walk to the land every morning to get his mandatory "dose of calcium and minerals." Raghunath would milk the cow, squeezing it directly into a mug lined with a cloth to filter any dirt or debris; with a small chunk of sugar on the cloth thus giving the warm fresh milk a mild sweet taste. The daily ritual continues as long as Gomi is lactating. If you hear Rahul explain the morning walk, clad in a blanket in the cold mornings, squatting near the cow shed and drinking the warm milk ... you know that he remembers those moments as clearly as if it was just yesterday. That was the freshest of the fresh milk, from cow to cup every morning.

As the family shifted to Kutch, among the paraphernalia of the household, Gomi was also transported to the new home adjacent to the salt fields where Uncle Hariyani was a high-ranking officer, and the house had a large compound. Gomi must have missed the open land and freedom in Uttar Pradesh, but now this home near the salt fields of Kutch is to be her new abode. She might be missing her old home, which added to the fatigue from the long drive, but she was calm as Raghunath accompanied her to the new territory. But her brain re-wired the emotions when Raghunath, a sincere employee and a loyal caretaker, was returning to Uttar Pradesh. Gomi ran to him as if she knew he was going away for good. If she could speak, she would have wept. Rahul says "Although Gomi does not react actively like a puppy, her emotions are clearly visible." 

Now Gomi is a resident of a new shed, and her life went on with the organized cycle of being pregnant, giving birth, and ensuring the supply of milk to the household for several years to come. With Rahul in charge of the feeding, his mom deals with the daily milking, making yogurt, and churning ghee from the milk. Apparently, his mom talks to Gomi giving instructions to move, turn around or back off, with Gomi responding by her hissing and obeying the instructions. Hearing the story, I can visualize the emotional connection that Gomi had with the family.

Interestingly, in those days the studs (selected bull meant for breeding) were premium assets. The owners would have a forward reservation for mating and cow owners would make bookings for the service, with a fee. We do not see such bulls walking around showing their arsenal, instead it would be guarded carefully with a regimented feeding of the right nutrients and minerals. 

Over time, the "mating technology" changed and controlled insemination of dairy cows became prevalent. Now, literally speaking, the job of the studs has been taken over by veterinary field staff armed with a catheter. That made a host of show-off studs redundant! The unemployment became so bad that now we see them roaming on the streets doing nothing and just munching on whatever they find. With this twist of the times, people began protecting the dairy cows from the studs to avoid involuntary insemination. 

Rewinding back to B.G. [Before Gomi!] when Rahul was 10 months old he had his episode of grabbing red hot amber scalding his palms, and thereafter at an older age a further episode of holding on to the edge of the culvert while riding in it and crushing his fingers ... and at around 4 years old he wandered off from home, crossing 2 railway crossings to reach town!! The tea stall owner held him at the shop and called his mom to "rescue" her wandering son. 

Today Rahul is a top gun of a large audit firm based in Business Bay, Dubai ... you would least expect to hear this part of him being a "curious puppy" who roamed off to town at 4 years old, and having experimented with fire leaving permanent scars on his hands to tell the story :-)

It's time we fast-forward to the Himalayas ... the "walk with Hariyani" today revealed places like Nainital with 3 mountains surrounding a lake, a narrow road winding by the edge of the water, and old rustic hotels lining the trail. Rahul's school was atop one of the hills in a cool climate and awesome views like in Lauterbrunnen. I can picture the ambiance and the exhilarating school atmosphere up there.

Uncle Hariyani walked me through Haridwar, Badrinath, Kedarnath, and Gangotri. His version was that these are like our 4 fingers ... "you cannot cross from one to the other from the top ... you need to ascend and descend to get to each one" ... and while those are the 4 popular destinations, the serenely tucked away places are Chopta, Dugalbitta, and the Surkhanda Devi temple at Kanatal. With his explanations, these small towns have immediately become my "top of the list must-see-places" ... and I can imagine the scene around the Surkhanda Devi temple which is perched on a hilltop with an end-to-end view of the Himalayas. I had a peek at the Himalayas when I visited Darjeeling and Sikkim ... I can visualize the beauty and the golden sunrise views here. 

Uncle Hariyani has stayed at the PWD Guest House at Dugalbitta, constructed in 1925 by the British, which was used as an accommodation for Jawaharlal Nehru at one time. As he and Rahul reached the Guest House, at night, circa 2005 for their stay, the place was pitch dark as the caretaker did not get the message about their arrival. After showing the letter of reservation, the caretaker scrambled to find kerosene, start the generator and then run to a nearby dhaba (stall) to quickly get some food.

As the generator kicked off and lights came on; it was like "abracadabra" ... the place lit up to reveal its finesse. The hallway was laid with a smooth soft carpet that makes you feel like you are floating as you walk, and the top-class wooden furniture gave the place an aura like none other in its class. The food that came from a non-Michelin star-audited dhaba was absolutely flavourful and reflected every bit of taste notes of a home-cooked local cuisine. 

Rahul's description of the night was "you will discover the real meaning of silence when you stay there" and about the breaking of dawn "you will see the golden sunrise on the sprawling snow-capped mountains when you wake up in the morning." 

With all these stories and descriptions, I can see why these places are synonyms for an adventure of a lifetime. Looking forward to my next "Switzerland experience" :-)

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