Village Naya Khera. Udaipur. Rajasthan. India. It’s Monday late morning and I decide to climb Aranya, the closest major hill in India’s oldest Mountain Range – The Aravallis, 4000 ft high. Loose gravel, sand, soft rocks, freshly laid asphalt and dry soil. I cross all in a jiffy to find myself in a field of Maize and Bajra. Instantly, I see a huge-black-dog charging towards me from far. With his visible sharp canines and drooling long tongue, his loud barks echo from surrounding and I’m frozen. Should I run back or stand there in calm? Scared, I immediately start screaming “Go away. Someone, please save me!” I do not see anyone who can hear my cry, and the dog is mere 30 feet away. My end is near. And suddenly, the dog pauses, jumps over me and I duck him. He is jumping and circling around me, attacking every other second. Threatening growls amplify as I remove my hydration pack to use it as a barrier between us.
To my luck, a shirtless man in dhoti, holding a cane comes running from behind to shoo away the dog. That’s his dog, protecting the field. He guides me to the way to climb Aranya and we part. It takes me an hour to climb, I embrace the beautiful view of surrounding hills of Udaipur and lakes from the top and hike down in next half an hour. I’m out of water, so I decide to visit his hut again to refill some water and meet his family. He was accompanied by his son and dog when we last met. Now, I meet his other son – mere two years old – and his wife. She is a bit worried and excited as one of their does is in pain of labour and they are expecting a young one. The dog is busy scaring away black cobra spotted just a minute ago, behind their hut made of mud, bamboo and hay. I’ve never seen a young goat, so, I decide to stay longer as the man continues to explain about mahua trees and the beer he’s brewing by boiling the fruits. 10 minutes, his son comes out with an extremely beautiful white kid (newborn goat) in his hands, still a bit wet with very soft-silky-hairy skin. I’m their guest, so they hand the newborn in my hands as he runs back to the hut to help his mother clean and take care of doe. Exposed to his first sunshine, the newborn opens his pink eyelids in my hands and licks my sweaty t-shirt.
My eyes are moist in bliss, something I’ve never experienced before. With a heavy heart for no reason, I hand the kid to the man again and take a big sip of water from the steel mug I was offered minutes ago. His wife rushes out of the hut smiling and goes “This is an auspicious occasion for us. Our goat just gave birth to her first young. You must join us for the afternoon meal. It’s almost ready. Let me get for both of you”
Before I realize what’s happening, the man goes “We are poor. We don’t have loads to offer, but we’d be grateful if you accept this small present”.
I nearly drop the mug in astonishment and sit down on hand-woven-bamboo-cot and enjoy one of the finest meals of my life with all the gratitude. Roti made of a mix of bajra, maize and moong, sabzi made of mahua and dal (lentil soup) with some onions and salt.
Other day, I was sitting on the dinner table when I chomped on ribs of a goat and was suddenly thrown back in these memories where I celebrated the birth of a goat with such zeal and compassion. I’m partly a non-vegetarian now, but I realize, how much compassion these animals have to offer that often find space on my plate off late as a hidden part of my meal. I apologize to that goat who became a part of me that night, and I ask for an apology to those animals too who made their way to my plate over past one year. It hurts to imagine myself in their place. I hope, this new year, I will be bestowed with wisdom and compassion to be more of a human than I am.