If you have been around long enough, you know that my Second Born is an artist. Perhaps I have also mentioned somewhere or other that I myself used to draw and paint as a kid (and won a few prizes too). But I don’t think I have mentioned about my father’s artistic streak or how I almost ruined his entire collection.
Pencil drawings were father’s forte, a hobby he indulged in whenever he got time off his job as a government official. Not only did he make drawings, but he would also pen a few lines beneath each one of his drawings. They were all in a drawing book in his study table which none of us were supposed to explore.
I was an exception. No, I did not have permission, but I explored anyway. I hopped into his study whenever I got the chance, took down the National Geographic and other magazines from the shelves to read and look at the glossy pictures (and imagine myself in faraway lands), went through his collection of books for something interesting to read et al. This was mostly during the afternoons when mother and most everyone else rested after lunch. My siblings were the outdoor kind, cycling, climbing trees, playing cricket or kuttiyum kolum and so on. But I loved to spend the lazy, hot afternoons reading and daydreaming.
What fascinated me the most on father’s table was his drawing book. Like I mentioned
above, I had already won a few prizes and fancied myself a budding artist. Nah. I am kidding. I just loved to draw. And paint. So this drawing book of his interested me greatly. Though we children were definitely not supposed to touch or move things around on his study table I took the liberty of flipping through the book every now and then during weekends and other holidays. I didn’t hesitate borrowing the book (when father wasn’t around) to use his drawings as a model to make my own. I even borrowed his pencils and erasers. Yeah, I certainly seemed to have believed in what-he-doesn’t-know-wouldn’t-hurt-him philosophy, a far cry from the present me who wouldn’t touch (or look) at anything that does not belong. Anyways…
So there I was one morning on a weekend, all ready for another session of pencil drawing. The necessary things were assembled. First and foremost came father’s book, then my own, next sharpened pencils, a pencil cutter (pencil points could break!) and erasers. They were all neatly laid out on the half wall of the front verandah of our house. I was all set. I began to draw.
Now you might think I am going off at a tangent here, but at this point of the story I have to tell you something about the cows in the area (after all there is a cow in the title). Cows, we have been taught quite early on in life, eat grass. Fresh green grass. And hay. Plenty of other things as well, like peels of vegetables and fruits and the rice gruel that I have watched grandma give the cows back in my ancestral home. I don’t remember much of what else she fed the cows, but I definitely don’t recall anyone telling me that cows ate paper, or soap, or as one tried once and had to be shooed away with cries of horror, firecrackers laid out in the sun to dry.
Our house was one of half a dozen in a coconut grove (there were other trees too, but coconut trees dominated). It was open house, anyone could walk in to the grove and knock at our house, or any of the other ones. Stray cows loved to wander into the grove and nibble at the grass or swallow the washing soap left out on the washing stone or (as in this case) swipe the drawing book of a dreamy girl off the half-wall of the verandah of her house while she went to the kitchen to quench her thirst.
I wandered dreamily back, probably humming a song, the creative juices sloshing in my insides dying to be let out as pencil strokes on paper. A brown cow was standing just beyond the steps, a drawing book in her mouth. Not mine, but father’s. I am not generally an action oriented person. I may hop, skip and jump when the mood strikes, but I take my time thinking things over and making decisions. Not that day. Shocked to the core, I dived into action.
HEYYYYYYYY! I shouted. The cow looked up startled and seeing me come running down the steps at it, shed its placid stance and trotted off, at the same time making valiant efforts to swallow the book whole. Shocked, sad, indignant and SCARED OF WHAT FATHER WOULD SAY, I bravely ran after the cow. Bravely. You see, I am TERRIFIED of cows. If I meet one my usual procedure is to make myself scarce and put as much distance between us as I possibly can. But here I was willingly going towards it and pulling the book out of its mouth.
Yes, I pulled the book out of its mouth. A chunk of the book had already been appropriated (swallowed in a hurry to chew at leisure) by said cow, who now seemed to have taken the loss of the rest of the book philosophically and moved off for greener pastures. I was close to tears. Nothing for it, but to face the music. Yup, I believe in facing the music rather than covering up and trying to escape. What a shock it must have been to father to find one third of his book chomped off by a cow. All the drawings on that side of the book were ruined with no chance of being salvaged. But other than the shocked expression on his face, father didn’t say a word when he heard what happened, which in itself was a surprise since he is short-tempered by nature.
Father cut out the drawings that had survived the cow-attack and stuck them in a different book. I felt really, really bad for him. I had been instrumental in his losing something dear to him. The other day he was showing the salvaged drawings (now photocopied) to his grandchildren and reminiscing about the incident. That’s when I thought I’d write about it on my blog (and share some of the pictures of his work).
©Shail Mohan 2017