Monday, August 09, 2010

The UK Files - Lambing

My aunt lives in what is called a village, and the surrounding areas are full of farms and open areas. One such neighbouring farm organized a Lambing weekend, where the farm was thrown open to the public for a fee. It was no less than a fair. There were stalls and organized parking, and volunteers took batches of visitors around the farm. We saw geese, ducks, horses, a Shetland pony and goats in enclosures just outside.

Inside, we were first taken to the hen enclosure. Six thousand hens live here, and in a good week, the yield of the farm is thirty-two thousand eggs. Now that is astonishing. They are free-range hens, and at night, they are housed in a huge hen building. We were shown how tonnes of feed are pumped into the enclosures. Whew, did that building stink!

The hens are brought in when they are a few weeks old - all of them the same age. They lay eggs until they are about 72 weeks old, after which, their egg-laying ability decreases, and they are sent away to enter the meat chain. The whole area is then cleaned and sanitized, and the next batch of hens are brought in.

"How do you know which eggs are chick-eggs?" asked a little girl.
"There are no chick-eggs here," said the volunteer. "We don't have any roosters - this is a ladies-only section - and you know that you need both a male and a female to make babies, don't you? You don't? Ask your mother after you get home!" And she winked at the rest of us and escaped quickly!

We saw pens of little pink pigs with curly tails - they were so cute. One had got some straw stuck to its snout - and it was doing a little dance to free itself - that was great fun. There were tiny little enclosures each containing one ewe and her lambs that had been born within that week. If ewe1 has given birth to three lambs and ewe2 to one, then the farmers cheat by putting one of ewe1's lambs with ewe2 - so that they all have a better chance of survival. These lambs were adorable, and some were available to hold and pet. Puttachi held a three-day-old lamb in her arms, and it was the sweetest sight. Soap and hand-sanitizers were installed everywhere, and we were told to use them liberally.

I don't know about you - but I felt it then and I feel it now - an intense urge to just run and jump into this pile of hay.

The high-point of our visit was watching a live birth. There was a huge enclosure in which all the sheep in labour were housed. These had tiny oval openings, through which we peeping-toms could crouch and look. I actually saw a lamb being born. The poor mother was baa-ing away pathetically, turning round and round in the straw. Just as she started straining, two (human) helpers came to assist her. Even as we looked, a baby lamb popped out of the mother, along with the messy afterbirth. The next moment, the helpers left, and the mother started licking the lamb for all she worth. In a little while, she started baa-ing again - it looked like there was another on its way. But we had to leave.

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The just-born (Photo taken through a two-inch long oval opening)

We finished with a tractor-trailer ride around the farm, followed by two adorable lambs - white amidst green grass.

It was a fabulous experience.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Old dog, new tricks

I got my driver's license when I was 21. I drove very little, with my father sitting next to me. Since he took the car to work, and I wasn't really the jet-setting type, I didn't find any need for the car, and managed with autos and buses.

Then I went to study at Trichy, and then to work in Mumbai, where I didn't need to drive. After I got back to Bangalore, I was out of touch with driving, and anyway I took the office cab to work.

Even after I got married, I didn't ever feel the need to know driving. It is only now, when I have had to drop and pick up Puttachi from school, did I desperately feel the urge to drive, especially after dealing with faulty meters and rude drivers of autorickshaws. So I took a few driving lessons, and then drove around with S sitting next to me. After that, my father-in-law instructed me in the finer points of driving, and taught me driving in reverse and parking with great patience - and my confidence soared.

So today, I flew solo for the first time - I dropped and picked-up Puttachi from school myself - and I feel terrific.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Hand me a pair of ear-plugs.

One of the most difficult things that I have faced in bringing up Puttachi is that I've had to change a little of my basic personality to suit hers.

I am a relatively silent person, prefering to listen than to speak. But there is a limit even to how much I can listen to without going mad.

But Puttachi is the opposite of me. She loves to talk and she does talk all the time. When she is not talking, she expects me to talk. She hounds me to tell her story after story, and bugs me with continuous questions. So at any given time, there is always someone speaking in the house. And that is VERY tiring. I need silence and solitude, and sometimes, at the end of a tiring day, my ears feel like they'll develop holes, and my head feels like it'll burst. I have to literally beg Puttachi to stop talking and not ask me any questions. But of course, this request is followed by a "Why why why why why?"

Besides, Puttachi is always in high spirits and full of excitement. It is quite lovely to watch her, and my spirits are never too low for a long time because of this. But hey, sometimes I need to be normal. I need to not smile or laugh. I need to mope, sulk and frown to even out my facial muscles.

But I just do not have that chance. The poor thing comes to me with so much excitement and happiness that I cannot bear to pour cold water over that, so I end up joining in her excitement, and tiring myself out. And if I do give in to my primary instinct and sulk a little, she comes to me, full of concern, and asks, "Amma, are you angry, are you sick, are you tired, are you feeling bad, what happened Amma?" and she won't let go until she is convinced that I am not upset with her. And that involves smiling and assuring her that everything is fine.

I know that as she grows, the challenges will be greater. For instance, I might have to forgo my urge to loll around at home in my pyjamas on a lazy weekend, to cater to Puttachi's desire to go out and party (figuratively). There might be bigger clashes between our personalities, things I cannot even imagine - and I might have to change further in order not to limit Puttachi's growth.

I'm not sure if I'm doing the right thing, exerting myself, extending myself - I am not sure if this will hurt me in the long run, but I see Puttachi happy and blossoming into a sweeter and more enthusiastic person each day, and it feels like it is worth it.

Hard to tell. Someday, I guess I'll know the answer. Meanwhile, if you have any words of wisdom, I'm all ears.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

New Tricks up her sleeve

(not sure of the date of this one)

I go into the room to find that her brown dog has turned powdery and light brown. As I frown and ponder over it, she announces, "Dog asked me, "Puttachi, puttachi, please sprinkle some powder on me", and so I sprinkled powder on it."

When she knows something is going to get her in trouble, she employs this tactic. I have told her to eat her vegetables sitting in one place, but I come back to find it strewn all over the floor. "Oh, amma, the peas said to me, "Puttachi, please throw me on the ground", so I threw them on the ground.

New kind of questions I cannot answer.

She: Amma, say "plate".
Me: Plate.
She: Why did you say "plate"?
ME: Because you asked me to say "plate"
She: Why did I ask you to say "plate"?
Me: #$%$@

But I have found a way around it. I say, "tell me yourself", and I receive a very simple yourself. In the above case, she said, "because I like it." So simple, no?

Laughing at herself:

We see a picture of a snowman.

Me: Oh, Puttachi, do you know what you said for "snowman" when you were a kid? (she loves "when you were little" stories).
She: what?
Me: You used to say "Tone-man".
She: *Laughs her guts out - holds her stomach and rolls on the floor* Toneman! Toneman!
Me: *with a sudden doubt* Puttachi, say "Snowman" now?
She: Sone-man. *stops suddenly with shock. Then rolls on the floor again* I still can't say it!!

She: *waking up from a nap, still half-asleep* Brinjal... brinjal... where have you kept the brinjal?
Me: *Humouring her* Right, here, dear, you go back to sleep now.
She: *Sitting up, waking up* Ayyo, I said brinjal!!

Though S~ and I speak to each other a lot in her baby-language, we speak normally when she is around, one, to ensure that she knows the right way to say things, and two, to not make her conscious that for all her language abilities, her speech is not very clear yet. But once, I made a slip - I said a word like she would have said it. (I said, todine instead of kogile)
She immediately laughed and said, you said it like I do!

She sees a tube of ointment. She has forgotten the word "ointment"

She: Amma, what is that for?
ME: What, dear?
She: That oh-fen....oh-them....on-tem.... om-tem....
I listen patiently. Then she laughs loudly. I am not getting the word at all, amma! what is it called?
Me: Ointment
She: Ayyooooo ointment annakke yeneno andbitte! (I said all sorts of things instead of ointment!)
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