Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Keeping Boars at Bay.

Oh so delicate - the rice panicles
It is the second week of October now, and the paddy fields are now lush green and heavy with promise. The slender stalks have put forth delicate looking panicles.  Every day the colours change – from lush green to a pale green and then a golden tinge begins to show in places.  Each day the panicles look a little fuller – the grains are growing safe in the tough husk which protects it. 
Changing Colours - now only the grass on the embankment is green
But then this protection is just not enough to protect these fields from the wild boar. O yes, the wild boars from the adjoining forest are making nocturnal sojourns into all the surrounding fields and making a merry meal of the tender grains. And along with it a whole lot of destruction! Surely they could eat their fill standing on the embankment and chomping only on the grains, could someone teach them some table manners please?  But no, they stamp around, roll around when their back feels ticklish, and in general ruin  a sizable area of the field. 
The boar has been here
 The villagers have all taken to sleeping in their fields at night, each field has a neat elevated machan in the middle. Sometimes groups of youngsters pitch in and I guess they party out in the open, you can hear music and then some fire-crackers and loud hoots. And they successfully drive the boars away from their fields, right into ours as our fields are directly in the path back to the forest.

A machan built in one of the fields

So now the only solution is for us to sleep in our fields!  And that is exactly what we did. Since we did not have a machan ready, we decided to use our tent. Our farm-hand Manjunath cleared a small area of the thorny shrubs and weeds which have grown so abundantly in the rains, and we pitched our tent in a little circle of Arecanut palms. A thick blanket on the floor a couple of pillows and blankets as it gets quite chill during the night, and we were ready.  Of our four four-legged companions, we decided to take Johnny with us as he is not fussy about where he sleeps unlike Phoenix and Misty who would insist on snuggling into the tent. And Zuki is like the breeze, you just can’t confine her, she would spend the night wandering around and cry if she is tied. So Johnny it was
Johnny can make himself comfortable just about anywhere.
. We had dinner and armed with a plate and a ladle and torches, made our way thru the farm to the tent – our paddy field is beyond our areca plantation. Walking in the thick canopy of the palms, you suddenly realise how thick the undergrowth is, and not wanting to risk putting our foot on any unsuspecting snakes, we clanged the plate and ladle all the way.   We tied Johnny to the nearest Areca palm and got into the tent. It is fully sealed, so we had no worries about mosquitoes, bugs or even snakes.  And it is supposed to be an all weather tent.  But I guess all-weather does not include Malnad rains!  The brilliant moonlight soon got obscured by a thick cloud cover and soon there was a good drizzle..... gentle to begin with and then heavier by the minute. And it continued the whole night long. we started getting a gentle misty spray of rain into the tent as well. This was rather unexpected and we had no umbrellas even if we wanted to walk back home. So we slumbered through it, lulled by the musical sounds of the night.
The moon glistens,
a silver sheen,
the breeze ripples,
rustles and sings,
an arecanut falls,
with a resounding plop,
And the tent is drenched,
drop by drop!

Johnny did not seem to mind the rain at all and slept curled up. A couple of times we awoke to his low, deep warning growl and sure enough we could hear the heavy footsteps – we clanged the plate loud and long and the boar moved on. It was indeed a good thing that we brought Johnny along.

At daybreak, the rain ceased and we walked out to check whether the fields were safe. Yes they were, and we would have to continue this right until we could harvest the rice.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Blackie goes to Berlin

If you thought we are crazy with our love for animals, our daughters take it a step further.  When we moved to the farm, both of them had to spend long periods of time in Mumbai as Dipika was doing her M.A. at Mumbai University and Divya was teaching in Ruia college. Both of them found the house unbearably empty with all the animals here at the farm and both brought one kitten each home. Kippi was born near the staff room in Ruia college and Divya would feed the mother cat as she looked starved and weak. Soon the mother and kitten started following Divya right into the staff room much to the annoyance of the other staff members.  So while one staff member took the mother cat away, Divya brought the little kitten home and named her Kipchuk – shortened to Kippi. 
 A few days later, Dipika found a tiny little black kitten trailing her from one classroom in the Kalina University premises all the way to the other. It was so soft and lovable, she could not resist, and so Blackie came home.
 Kippi and Blackie got along very well and entertained everyone with their antics. 
Just having fun

And this June when Dipika got a scholarship to study in Berlin, the first thing she said was “I am taking Blackie with me.”  A cat all the way, when there are so many restrictions, so many regulations, and the uncertainty of the availability of pet-friendly accommodation - ...oh the hassles and the tensions. But no, she had made up her mind and went about the whole thing with a dog-headed or should I say cat-headed determination.  First the formalities for taking the cat; and then the formalities for bringing the cat back into India on her return a year later. Everything was based on the identification of the cat – and no, a simple description of a black cat with a white star on its chest would not do.
Don't forget to put in the colour of my eyes.
 So you had to get a Micro-chip embedded under Blackie’s skin, which could be read electronically by a special Micro-chip reader.  Our veterinary doctor had neither done this before nor did he know where a micro-chip would be available. So began the hunt for a vet who could do this. A flurry of phone calls to friends and animal lovers in Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai followed – Dipika was willing to take her cat anywhere in the country to get it micro-chipped. Finally we got the contact of a vet in Mumbai itself who could do it.  So in the first week of July, Blackie got a little injection on the nape of her neck and she was Micro-chipped. Then followed the vaccinations, as prescribed by the Pet-travel regulations.  The European Union (which is Rabies-free) is not satisfied with just the vaccinations, you need to make sure that your pet’s immune system has generated the adequate number of antibodies in response to the vaccines. So precisely a month after the vaccines, you need to send a blood-serum sample to the lab – wait, not just any lab, only a EU-approved lab, to get it tested. Now EU-approved labs are present only in the EU itself or in US /UK.    So then began the hunt for a courier service which could carry a ‘Biological Sample’. DHL, TNT, BlueDart, Fedex.... all of them refused. Finally UPS was the only one ready to accept a ‘Biological Sample’ provided it was accompanied by  a certificate from the doctor stating what the contents were and a letter from the EU approved lab stating that they would  accept the package. Both the letters were not a problem, the sample was packed in a double leak-proof container set – the serum sample does not need refrigeration, and it was sent.

 A week of tense waiting before the results came by email – ........All Clear .... now Blackie could actually enter Germany.  But wait, we are not done yet – The Animal Quarantine Authorities in India had to check everything and certify that she could leave the country and that she could enter back after her little mistress was done with her academic year.  So the little mistress who hates doing ‘paper-work’ and dealing with such official work, actually took Blackie and all her documents and went all by herself  to the Animal Quarantine Department which is located in KoparKhairnare and dealt  with all the government paper-work  and came home with the work complete.  In the meantime,  the last hurdle which needed to be dealt with, was getting an airline approved pet-carrier in which Blackie could travel in the cabin of the aircraft and not in the luggage- hold.  We did have a carrier of appropriate dimensions, but it was a hard case, and anyone who has carted one around with a cat in it would know that it is quite unwieldy. The perfect carrier was a soft, flexible bag with a small mattress inside which could be replaced and a lot of thoughtfully provided features.  But, the company would not ship it to India.  Finally after a lot of search, Dipika found another brand which could be shipped to India, and the case arrived. With a little flexi-bowl to provide water or food to the occupant, a small opening to slip in your hand and comfort the little traveller and a plush interior for total cat-comfort.  Blackie loved it at first sight and claimed ownership over it right away. 
The D-day finally arrived and we waited outside the airport with apprehension till Dipika and Blackie were through with all the formalities.  Fortunately everything went thru smoothly; I guess the authorities are used to plenty of people carting their pets across the world.  Blackie behaved herself when she had to be taken out of the carrier and put back in during the baggage scan.  She was quiet during the journey and enjoyed all the attention at immigration in Berlin.

So as of now she is enjoying the onset of the Berlin winter and making the most of the elusive Berlin sun!
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