On one of our trips to the stream, many months back in the first term of school, we came across a calf who looked very badly injured. We were walking along the forested path to Sliding Rock (the flat open bed of rock which is usually our centre of activity or non-activity by the stream) and he was standing very still by himself amongst the trees.
Being injured, he was nervous and scared, and tried to move away as we passed. So we continued to Sliding Rock and spent the hour in silence. Thursday afternoon stream-times are generally quiet: we have about an hour there and the children are asked to spend that time observing or resting rather than playing and doing things in groups. Sangeetha and Vijaya had stayed behind with the calf to see what they could do to help. There are usually large herds of cows grazing along the stream bank, and I think they were there this afternoon too, but the calf had obviously separated himself completely from the rest of the cattle. One of his legs had been deeply cut, and a bit of the broken leg bone showed in the open wound as the end of the leg dangled. He stood extremely still when undisturbed; you could perceive his discomfort only when he tried to move away. The owner seemed to have left the calf – we guessed he didn’t have the resources to get medical help for the animal.
We called the animal help organisation Krupa and they sent a doctor the next day. The calf was still there, but Krupa didn’t have a stretcher to carry him away for treatment. CUPA was then called, but we were uncertain for another day or two about whether they would show up. The kids didn’t know about the developments because nothing much happened before they left on Friday afternoon. At Shibumi, we were beginning to feel worse, and helpless. After many phonecalls, a CUPA van arrived around midday on Saturday, and Sangeetha and I went with them to the stream.
It turned out that this team hadn’t brought a stretcher either. All they had was a very thick long rope. But they were resourceful and sincere people. They tried getting close to the calf and lassoing him with the rope, but the calf’s nervousness was terrific – even with his broken leg he somehow leaped away. The team then sort of surrounded him and tried to sneak up on him, while the calf grew more and more agitated. It all happened in a blur: in the chase the calf suddenly stumbled down the steep bank and splashed into the stream.
Sangeetha and I had already begun to wonder if we had done the wrong thing in trying to rescue the animal, and when the calf fell in we were both almost in tears and our insides had constricted completely. Surely this was far more trying for the animal than the original injury! We kept asking each other and the men whether we shouldn’t just leave the calf alone; at the same time everyone was telling each other to be strong through this bit of the animal’s suffering. The calf would die a painful death if left there: he would be unable to find food, and maggots would begin to eat him up from the wound. The men persevered and finally managed to lasso the calf in the stream.
In the calf’s eyes there was utter fear, an absolute, passionate look of terror in the whites of his widened eyes. He was pulled out to the edge of the water with great difficulty. It was decided that we would bind his three good legs to a wooden pole and carry him to the van by the pole. There is a house on the bank, fortunately quite close to where we were, but we had to bully the caretakers of the house somewhat to allow us to bring the van into their property (normally one can only drive a vehicle upto a point about 15 minutes walk from the stream).
It was a truly mammoth task carrying the calf up the steep bank to the house. One of the men got kicked in the ribs while trying to bind the legs. The calf had defecated where it lay, because of the fear I suppose, and the wound looked worse, bloody. There were four or five of us altogether, and each one’s strength and commitment were needed. Throughout, the men from CUPA did not complain or blame the calf in any way for giving them trouble. Naturally, the animal was tremendously heavy, and those of us directly holding up parts of his body were having an additionally hard time keeping our grip on the combined wetness of the water, shit and blood.
With the amazing commitment and strength of these men, we managed to get the calf onto the van. We drove to Shibumi, the men washed up and were paid before they continued to CUPA, agreeing to give Sangeetha a ride home. There was a strong sense of goodwill among all of us by this point.
I was quite sure the calf’s leg would have to be operated on, perhaps even amputated from the knee-down. However, Sangeetha called CUPA the next day and found out that they had only needed to splint and bandage the leg, and that the calf would recover in some time. … 🙂