Till we make peace with our past we will continue to look at ourselves with utter contempt and breed inferiority complex in next generation
I could almost hear Mali talk. It was a tender moment. I was overwhelmed by intimacy. My eyes were moist.
I had woken up late that day, and shouted for my mother. When I did not get any response, I went to the cowshed. I knew, instinctively, she was tending the cow. After my mother milked her, Mali raised her head, tilted it and exposed her neck.
“Look at her, she asks me to do this every time,” said my mother and scratched for five minutes. Then she kissed the cow on her forehead. Mali was looking at me. I was sitting on the bundle of straw. And I was jealous.
As a child, I grew up with animals. That is a strange way to put it, but it’s true. We had a big buffalo along with other animals at our home. The image of my grandfather, squatting under the giant animal, with a bucket between his knees, every morning and evening, year after year, is imprinted in my memory.
Every time that image is conjured up by nostalgia, it evokes the complete setting of a traditional village house. I hear the sound of the jet of milk striking the bucket again. And I can smell the fresh dung.
As a teenager, growing up in India, in a different environment, I distanced myself from this background. When my other friends, mostly from urban backgrounds, shared stories of their childhood, I cooked up stories about mine.
This caused a lot of complexities deep within. I was ashamed to talk about the things that I loved most. How could I tell them my favorite place was the cowshed? How could I say I loved the smell of cow dung?
I could not. It was dirty. Uncivilized. Uncultured. Backward.
I felt, if I tell them that I miss the buffalo as much as I miss my grandparents, they will laugh at me. This was not untrue. In fact, when jokes were made about poor people of rural background, and their animals, I laughed the loudest.
It took a long time for me to make peace with these complexities. And I am not sure whether I have been able to deal with it completely. I think, writing about Mali now, the cow my parents have at our home, is also an attempt to do that.
My son, five years and two months now, born in India to an Indian mother, is growing up in a different world. Recently, while we were home for Dashain, he came back crying from the cowshed. I was worried.
Even when he was not here, in Nepal, I had been telling him stories of my childhood.
Adding to that the imaginations of a five year old, he must have made a remote and romantic image of his father’s home. And he was very excited to see the cow, and see his grandmother milking the cow. But when Mali moved her tail violently to welcome him, she splattered the mix of dung and urine all over. He came back crying, smelling like dung, his clothes nicely painted.
I had a hearty laugh. Sid was angry. So was my wife.
As a family, we have lot of challenges. The cultural differences add to our challenges. Generation gap between us and our parents, and now between us and our children, has its own dynamics. I have to explain to my son that farming is respectful. And I am proud of my parents. But I also have to convince my parents that better hygienic method, with new technology, needs to be adopted.
But as a society, too, there are multiple challenges we face.
Even in our own generation, I have seen people who are ashamed of their background. Many people, who after a good education have been able to make a decent progress for themselves outside their traditional set up, look at their background with a lot of contempt.
This psyche, I believe, seeps into almost everything. If we can love our past, make peace with the complexities and do away with the inferiority complex, we can sort out many things.
I am waiting for the day when my son will milk the cow. And I am, equally eagerly, waiting for the day when my mother will use gloves while working at the cowshed.