With greenery shining all around the place Kammaje wouldn’t have looked prettier, a small village near Kinnigoli town. Jackfruit and banyan trees on either side of the road increased the beauty of the place. Some of the people here were agriculturists with vegetable growing in their backyard, while another few had jasmine flowers, few more were beedi workers and the remaining were in the gulf, pouring their sweat to make their dear one’s life a happy one, back in Kammaje. Among these people lived an old man called Bommayya. With dirty stinking clothes that were white eons, torn Luna slippers and small star shaped silver earrings. Earrings were worn by men back then, not for fashion, but as a religious custom. Even though he was around 70 with gray hair, worn out body, knee pain didn’t stop him from earning his daily bread. In that whole of Kammaje and Kinnigoli there was only one Cowboy and he was Bommayya. Unlike the imaginary fancy cowboy on horseback with boots Bommayya was a real cowboy on his feet and slippers.
Dark clouds dominating the sky, it looked like it would rain any minute and the showers would pour from up above. While people were all busy collecting logs of wood, dry coconut leaves outside their house to save it from rain, Bommayya was calling names out loud without worrying about the rain. Inka, Bannu, Inna…. When he didn’t get any response he increased his speed, cursing the cause of his worries. The eye blinding lightning, the roaring thunder was unable to shake his gut. It was his love for his cows that made him walk faster in spite of his paining knee.
“Enchina saav maryere!” making me search for them in this bad weather. Let me get my hands on them and I’ll show them what I’ll do, saying this he continued to walk. Birds were flying back to their nest, somewhere in the background frogs were crying to indicate that the most awaited rain is on its way to shower on the dried lands. Bommayya stood for a while under the big mango tree near Jilly Bai’s house and then his eyes danced listening to the familiar Moo of his cows. When he saw them tied he said “so again, you ladies went to her farm!! Again, my ears will bleed listening to her complaints, and then I have to compensate by giving her free manure. He walked towards his cows and patted their back with love and said “why don’t you listen to me? Huh?”
“How many times I have told you Bommayya to keep them out of my farm?” Jilly Bai’s loud firm voice startled him. Old broken specs perched on her nose, wrinkled up face, gray hair and bent back Bommayya wondered why she still works on the farm. Her sons were well settled in Bombay,wonder why she’s dying here alone on this farm Bommayya thought. Politely he folded his arms as if asking her forgiveness and said “Sorry Jilly Bai, I know this is not the first time, I don’t know why they always come to your farm. Next month you will get the manure, on hearing this, her face lit like 100W bulb. It was like patient’s craving matched with a doctor’s prescription. Jilly Bai wiped her hands with her sari and said “if you insist, then who I am to say no. Anyway take the cows and go, it’s going to pour soon. Saying thank you to Jilly bai he untied the cows he started walking them home.
Bommayya’s father Tukra was into toddy business and mother Nursy was a house wife, being the only kid Bommayya enjoyed his early childhood. But when his father fell from a palm tree and died, Bommayya realized his life is not going to be easy. He, along with his mother moved to his paternal uncle’s house in Kateel. With his mother into jaggery business he went to school only till class 3. He never felt that education will help him earn some money that’s why he quit school and joined his mother in the jaggery business.
Bommayya was in his late twenties when he met Devaki, a widow. Her loneliness or his loneliness he doesn’t know what made him fall in love with her. He started to visit her daily in the night. Sometimes Bommayya would tell her his worries, troubles and Devaki would listen to him with all ears. He never gave a name to his relationship with Devaki because he never felt the need; he never cared about the society which he lived in.
When his mother questioned him about his relationship with Devaki, he lost his calm and fought with her. When he realized he can never make her mother understand his relationship with Devaki, he left his mother for good and started to live in a small house near Kammaje. He bought some cows with the little money he had and started to earn money with its manure and milk. With time he learnt everything about the cows, their diseases, cures, mating time, breeding, milking, etc. As he didn’t own any land he would take his cows to the forest owned by government to graze early in the morning, sit with them for a while, talk to them, and tell them his sorrows, his only listeners who never complained. Later he would untie them in the forest to enjoy a little bit of freedom and come home. Most of the time the cows would wander in the jungle and then come back home in the evening whenever Nishmitha bus pass through the main road. That’s the unique routine the cows followed. Whenever they fail to return to home on time Bommayya would walk and search for his cows until he find them. Many a times he had walked till Kinnigoli searching his cows inquiring passerby about his cows.
Men can suppress their need for marriage, craving for kids, but women can’t. Devaki started pressurizing Bommayya to get married and start a family, but Bommayya became mute to Devaki’s pleads. When he couldn’t take it anymore of Devaki’s nagging he started to drink liquor. He would drink daily and come home and pick up a fight with Devaki. When Devaki couldn’t take his tortures she left him never to come back. Depressed Bommayya vowed to never fall in love again. With the cows by his side, Bommayya never felt alone.
When his mother passed away, he mourned for days. He never felt so lonely and abandon his entire life.
One fine morning Bommayya was taking his cows to graze in the forest. While crossing the road one of the cows started running seeing a vehicle, Bommayya tried to control the cow but he couldn’t when the cow increased its speed, its then Bommayya lost his balance and fell on the ground. Bommayya was hurt badly, with bruises all over the body, bleeding head, with great difficulty he reached home and held a cloth to his bleeding wounds. As he was scared that if he goes to the hospital, they will admit and there will be no one to look after his cows, so he stayed at home bearing all pain without cribbing. Seeing his bad condition his good Samaritans neighbor bought him food and fed his cows.
In the passing days when it was impossible for him to move, he cried from his bed thinking about his cows. His neighbors forcefully took him to the Mangalore’s government hospital and admitted him in. His hands and legs were plastered and he begged the nurses to let him go as there was no one to take care of his cows.
After two weeks when the doctor let him go saying to look after himself. He was happy with the fact that over the moon as he will be seeing his cows after a gap of two weeks. When he reached home he was devastated to see his empty cow hut. He called them by their name, he called louder, but no cow showed up. He waited till evening, but his wait turned unfruitful. Its then his neighbors told him that few of his cows were stolen and remaining cows were sold by a rich Konkana guy. He knocked on his door in the midnight, cursed him, his ancestors, he cried and yelled. There were no words to describe about his misery. Konkana guy to shut Bommayya’s mouth gave some money and told him to get lost. With the little money in his pocket Bommayya looked at the sky and said “you punish me, I don’t care but why my cows?”. He wiped his tears then and said “I will get you all back”,
Few of his cows which were bought by some of his neighbors returned his cows free of cost pitying him. There was not a single day when Bommayya wondered about his missing cows and cried. He wondered whether they are fed properly in somebody’s house, or slaughtered for meat.
It was monsoon season; his old house couldn’t take the heavy weight of rain and collapsed. With mud-wall leveled to the ground and roof gone, Bommayya made the nearby bus stop as his home, with water pouring in from all sides. He never complained about anything, in fact, he never felt happy, his cow by his aside he felt content and peaceful.
Old age was the only thing holding up Bommayya from doing his daily chores. His eye sight blurred and his joint pain increased, but still he took the cows for grazing daily.
When Bommayya’s old heart changed its beating pattern he wondered what will happen to his cows if he died. He was admitted to same hospital again by his neighbors. Doctor never thought he would make it. With his senses gone, he talked about his cows with other patients over and over again. Sometimes he would call his cows name loudly and say “come home, it’s late, it’s getting darker. The strangers will take you, come home, come to me”.
In his absence, his cows were stolen again and dragged to the slaughter house. Cows cried, calling him in their own language while he called them, told them to come to him and he will save them from all bad things. Even though he lost all his senses, he knew his cows were in danger. One fine day when he closed his eyes with all images of his cows and memories of his all loving cows floating in front of his shut eyes he never opened them again.
The ages have been passed, time has been rolled like a roller coaster ride, but there are no cowboys like Bommayya in Kammaje. After all this years the bus stop bearing the sign on Bommayya’s existence and cows still stands in same place.