Thursday, November 29, 2007

Jubilees of the bovine kind

(Cows of IIT grazing outside CSE dept
before KRESIT happened)

Inhabiting a verdant green landscape for most of your working life changes the colour of the glasses through which you view life. All through one's working life one has interacted with the bovine population, like rest of Mumbai interacts with the four wheeler variety, three wheeler variety, and sometimes the two legged variety.

Back in the middle seventies, we were not yet a "brand". There were no real "show" standards. Twenty five years of sweaty summers, heavy monsoons, combined with vague maintenance, had converted the corridors to a dripping labyrinth, where students with uncombed hair, mismatched "hawai" chappals, missed breakfasts, forgotten umbrellas, and unsubmitted assignments, hurried , sometimes late for classes; more so, as they encountered an angry buffalo, head down, horns pointed straight ahead, sauntering towards them with single minded dedication.

I mean, constantly chewing the cud amidst the greenery, traipsing long distances, to meet up with other buffaloes and cows , exchanging notes about pesky troublesome dogs, and newly cleared , now unavailable, green patches on campus, can get a trifle boring.

If you are of the bovine kind, that is.

Suddenly folks started noticing us. Visitors increased. Every now and then we would see the advent of a high tech anti cow/buffalo device. We have several gates , which I suspect , exist for the sole purpose of closing at odd times, so people can jump over them. Several such gates , at a non trivial cost were modified with, what I was told is a Buffalo deterrent grill. A metal grill fixed on the road , in which the buffalo was supposed to get stuck as it placed its hoof on it. I am not sure whether they have standards for buffaloes. Obviously , a high tech institute has high tech buffaloes with super high-tech feet. One could see several of them routinely strolling over the grill, chewing to themselves, flicking tails at imaginary flies, as they sauntered towards newer department buildings, wondering how long they could outwit the technologists.

Then watchmen were given terribly low tech implements called lathis, and asked to chase errant buffaloes who dared to appear in the path of a "learned" population. The corridor was a favourite arena for driving them out. But I also remember the time, in the middle seventies, when the keepers of our security, stood in polished splendour, as an Ambassador car drove through the corridor from Chemical Engg to Central Library, carrying some Russian dignitaries, who probably could not wait to see the Russian mainframe we were using them. Students , employees and cows, often the target of shoo-ing security, stood by in stunned , open mouthed disgust.

Then there was the time, when a huge herd of buffaloes and cows, had just about had it, wandering for greens and running from lathis, and just sat down , in the middle of the road that runs from the main gate, and turns at the guest house. It was very impressive, cows coming home at dusk, and resting their tired bodies, fairly invisible in the frequently failing electric road lights, as two legged and two-wheeler types dodged around them. It was almost as if they were having a meeting.

Well, that's what happens when they inhabit an academic institute. Mindsets change.

No amount of lathi based cajoling worked, giving a well deserved victory to the original inhabitants of the campus.

Life has become tough since then. Leopards have threatened their space. The bovine society is alarmed over the attacks on its members in the black of the night. Like they heard on TV as they grazed in the semidarkness outside some flats at Hillside, crime in Mumbai has increased. A sign of the times.

So it was with great wonder that i noticed this cool November morning, around sunrise, a hefty buffalo, sitting is solitary splendour in the well appointed, landscaped grounds of the Kanwal Rekhi School of IT, nonchalantly chewing away, with nary a look at the several security types, trying to make it get up and leave. A great image opportunity after 50 years of combat between the two legged and four legged types. And the location was perfect. High Tech, meets low-take.

A raised lathi, and a tentative abusive command elicited a disdainful sneeze, a dismissive look from heavily lidded eyes, a flick of the tail at a pesky fly, and the animal continued its rumination, probably contemplating ,on the next paper it would publish in the Bovine Annals of Technology titled, "Making it to the golden jubilee : reminences of the bovine kind......."

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