It’s 2nd October, a Friday morning and I’m twiddling my thumbs at home. Why am I not in office, you may ask? Because on this very day, 146 years ago, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi entered the world rubicund and squalling (so I would presume)
The only difference with this baby and the rest of.. well.. humanity, is that, years later, he died with a portfolio of work even the United Nations would’ve been proud of (and probably is).
A lot has been said, written and debated about him over the years, but this post is certainly not another birthday card in disguise.
As I mindlessly scrolled through my Facebook feed, I was inundated with articles and digitally enhanced pictures of the quintessential Gandhian spectacles. It made me think of another visionary, much closer to home.
A Man Of Vision
My Grandfather was a colonel in the Indian Army who fought during the war of independence and one of the first 5000 to be officially drafted into the ranks (and that’s saying something). With an affinity towards nature, medicinal herbs and agriculture, he truly was salt of the earth – a straight shooter, who lived life on a military schedule and the embodiment of a man of the land.
Over the years, he steadily expanded his acreage and created an ecosystem of farm hands, flora and fauna. I remember him always busy researching, trying out new farming techniques and generally saving the local village populace with natural herbaceous remedies.
One fine day, he decided to save a dying breed of indigenous goats called the Jamnapari. Well, calling them goats would be a bit of a misnomer, as the gentle giants looked more like a mating gone wrong between a Llama and a common mutton-curry goat.
He enrolled my father in the cause and the two of them decided to save the world – one Jamnapari at a time.
Research indicated that the animals came from a hilly-ish area and had to be carted back via a couple of off-beaten tracks, frequented by dacoits a.k.a bandits.
Yes! You heard correctly – Bandits.
(The plot thickens..)
In those days, lawless miscreants laid waste to the land and rampaged the countryside, kidnapping and looting any man that dared venture into their territory (think of a Mackenna’s Gold kind of setting).
Unfortunately for us, the goats lay just beyond this valley of terror and there was literally no way around it.
Needless to say, the transportation of the creatures caused my mother and grandmother many a sleepless night, especially with the addition of a bounty on their better halves heads. (Yes, this did happen!)
The House Warming
Nestled in the heart of the forest, was a cozy structure created specially for our furry little friends. After much ado, they had finally arrived! By now, we kids were damn near effing curious to see these fabled creatures. I swear we felt as if we were going to rear unicorns – such was the level of excitement. Click to tweet!
All was well for a few weeks, after which we realized that they weren’t eating properly. The vet was called and much brainstorming ensued. The result: the feed was not dry enough. They were used to a particular kind of vegetation and the lush greenery in their new abode didn’t seem to go down well – I guess they couldn’t come to terms with their newfound luxurious lifestyle. (Well, what else can you expect from a goat?!)
So, of course the fearless duo packed their bags and traversed the breadth of the country, yet again, to cart drier fodder. A week later, happy goats with full bellies reigned supreme in the jungles of central India.
The Goat Annihilation Virus
After a couple of months, our high-maintenance guests sprouted some un-identifiable lesions on their face, legs and hooves. My grandfather and mother (remember she’s the plant genetics/chemistry major of the family) racked their brains and finally concluded that the deadly and contagious foot-and-mouth disease had come a-visiting.
Everything from foot to mouth was tried to no avail.
They all perished.
We visited the farm a couple of weeks after the entire area had been disinfected. A ghostly silence replaced the bleating of the goats and kids.
While looking at the remains, my grandfather remarked, “We need to do something about the Jamnaparis. Next time we should learn from our mistakes.”
With all the innocence of a 10 year old, I replied, “Nana, I don’t know about you saving them, but you sure contributed a little towards their extinction!” (please note inherent sassiness since childhood *wink*)
He glanced down at the apple of his eye, laughed and trained his eyes back to the remnants of a noble project.
For many years the goat farm lay abandoned, as the forest conveniently enveloped that what it had temporarily rented.
By sheer hard work, it has now been transformed into a gorgeous jungle resort – The Ratapani Range Retreat. The foundations of the goat sheds have been integrated into cottages overlooking the lush valley.
And if you try hard enough, you might just hear a welcoming bleat!
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This post was *featured* in Paper.li! *happy dance*
- Hippy Llama: George Lowther
- Family guy gif: Tumblr