Sitting by the campfire and surrounded by an eager audience, with a glass of whiskey cupped in his hands, my dad would regale us with stories of his boyhood days in Goa.
Three generations of family and friends welcomed these tales that ranged from school pranks, teenage flirtations, celebrations of high days and holy days and some that were too good to be true. I look back with nostalgia for those days.
“My father was an only child and was given the best that his parents could afford,” he began. We were all ears. “His parents were privileged to own their own cow. They got one so that their precious son could have undiluted milk and its products daily. It was a milch cow that probably produced more than three times the amount of milk than other breeds commonly seen in the village did. A passerby might remark: Look how healthy that cow is, and don’t forget to notice its full udders, it must produce a bucketful of milk twice daily! The kids around smirked because a remark like that was sure to have dramatic results on the cow.
“Sure enough, within minutes, its udders began to harden; and the poor cow bellowed its discomfort. Within an hour or so, they were as hard as a rock and the distressed cow couldn’t be quieted. My great-grandparents tried whatever means at hand to soothe the animal to no avail.
“You have to take the cow to Nachinola village to the dishticar, my great-grandmother declared, he would cast out the ill effects of the evil eye! So off they went over hill and dale, crossing a river dyke enroute, about five or six kilometres away.”
With his eyes as big as saucers behind his dark rimmed glasses, my dad raised his shoulders and said to us, “I don’t know the nature of the ritual that was performed, but very soon after, the cow was soothed. It hung about the courtyard until it began to feel the beneficial effects and its udders softened. They made the trek back home and by the following day it was back to normal.”
“What did the trick, Papa?” cried my curious daughter.
“Perhaps it was the traditional dry red chillies and raw rice that my mother used to circle over our heads when we returned from play every evening,” he explained, then, pressed further, “It may have been a more powerful potion and recitation accompanying the ritual too.
“However, the amazing part of the story is that this cow began to make her own way to the dishticar every time she began to feel her udders harden; and the dishticar would work his magic without asking anything. He had come to recognize her. She found her way to his place and returned home again, after being fully cured, along the same route every single time.”
Evil eye does not discriminate between man and his sacred cow.