A few years ago, a good friend, James, came down to Bangalore from London to study Kannada. My friend and I met him in a cafe in Bangalore’s quaint old VV Puram district. James, or Jam as we call him, is a chap prone to the most inane hilarity, armed with a wry British wit. Later, as we sat in a park near the old Bull Temple, he cracked us up with one joke or another. Evening melted into the night by the time we bid goodbye. “Till the cows come home,” Jamie laughed, waving us away, an allusion to an earlier joke where we had pondered about that very English phrase. An allusion also to the fact that he was leaving Bangalore that week.
I was reminded of that memory today when a real cow did come home. My parents’ house faces a vacant plot, overgrown with weeds and the occasional dead cat. In winter, residents in the area use the plot to burn leaves. The dry smoke crowds the air and my mind, making me want to run away from there. Into this ashy plot, though, comes a cow.
She has a tag on her collar, and her big black body scrounges the ground looking for anything edible to eat. What could she possibly find there? I wonder. The cow has a friend, though. My Mom. Cow 677547 knows the way to the compound wall that divides our house from the plot. There, she stands waiting for my Mom to emerge with a banana or two. She is patient, although she blows her nostrils, waiting for the slow humans to make their way to her. I don’t know whose cow she is or how she knows the way home. Cow sense? But she knows my Mom because she comes here every day. Today, I step outside, ready to go somewhere that makes me sound and feel busy when I see her. One ear rests on the wall and she looks up hopefully at my arrival. I stand there, startled, and not knowing what to do, I take her photo. She is not interested in me, posing and peering into my phone’s camera. It’s my Mom she wants. I yell for my Mom.
When my Mom does appear, she turns away from me swiftly, going over to my Mom, and swallowing the banana my Mom gives in one large gulp. She stands there then, looking dolefully at her. “Is that all?” she seems to ask. “That is all for today,” my Mom says, patting her head. More flaring of the nostrils. She bends her head, miffed.
Slowly, I watch her turn away, waddling away with dignity when she realizes that no more food is to come from our house.
“Till you come home next,” I softly whisper to her retreating tail.
Somewhere in freezing London, I think Jam would be happy to know that the cows do come home.