It was the commotion made by a few women talking agitatedly among themselves near our house that first attracted my attention to the event. Otherwise in the placid morning atmosphere of an Indian village it would have gone easily unnoticed. Television was then unheard of and the whole village consisting of nearly two hundred people had just one or two radio sets and just one copy of a vernacular newspaper. So effectually, people had just one source of entertainment or information, namely talking among themselves. It didn’t matter how insignificant or useless that information was that got passed on or one learnt from one’s conversations. What mattered was that each shared with the other whatever one knew at the moment. I think man’s nature hasn’t changed much even now. Whatelse we are doing now even though surrounded by all kinds of gadgets like TVs, mobile phones, computers and internet except sharing things with others?

So in that morning stirred by the commotion among some women I asked the one who seemed the most agited,”What was the matter, auntie?”
In the village none called his senior in age by name. If it was a man, he was to be called an uncle, if woman an auntie.
I was twenty three then, recently appointed as a lecturer in a newly established nearby college and the auntie I asked to had a son who was of my age and had read with me upto high school when he quit study for doing a job.

Auntie said,”A goat of mine has been going through labour pain for the last two days and we feel concerned. This is her first pregnancy.”

It was about nine in the morning. I was preparing myself for the college. I had to take my bath and my lunch too. I had to ride the distance of about 5 kilometers by my bicycle. So I excused my self and after me the assemblage also dispersed.

Half an hour later as I was ready to set out for the college I rode on the bicycle. But as soon as I reached that auntie’s house on the way I thought to quickly pay her a visit and inspect the goat. So I got down at her house and walked up to the place where the goat stood tied to a post and auntie was standing beside her with some other men and women. Auntie smiled at me and showed me the goat. She said the goat had been taking nothing since the last two days. I saw that once in a while the goat was holding up one or the other of her front legs against her chest, obviously in pain. Strangely unlike us, the human beings, she was making no noises of crying or bleating. I felt sad for such a dumb creature and suggested Auntie to call for Ananta, the old man of a nearby village who had the reputation of having to his credit successful deliveries of hundres of goats, ewes, cows etc. who for some reasons had difficulty in labor. Auntie replied that the old man was greedy and would demand a hefty fee for his service.

I told her to think it over again and left for the college.

When I returned home slightly before the sunset the first thing that I did after taking a few bites of parched rice, an Indian food, was to go straight to the auntie’s house to see the goat. This time the goat was tethered to a post inside the house as the night was approaching. I saw again the assemblage of human beings around the goat and obviously the goat hadn’t delivered. I asked auntie whether she had called for Ananta, the countryside delivery specialist, and she denied by just shaking her head. I thought it strange! So many people incessantly talking and chatting around the goat and there was none to do the thing that could really save the goat and her kid ! I told auntie,” I am going to the nearby village to call for Ananta.”
The whole assemblage looked at me but I continued my focus of attention on the auntie herself who seemed as if she had lost some blood at my announcement. I knew the hefty fee of Ananta to be levied on her was a real cause of concern and it was weighing on her mind. But I became determined to stop this farce of showing one’s sympathy and solidarity by just incessantly talking and chatting around someone. Above all I sincerely wanted to end the suffering of a dumb animal and if possible give a happy ending to the whole episode. So I was preparing myself to foot the bill if she really became unable to pay. I knew whatever fees the old man charged for his service would be at least one third of the fees a govt veterinary doctor charged only for his visit. The cost for delivering was extra.

So I set out for the old man’s house in a nearby village. It had already become night and I had to cross a river in between which, at that time of the year, was fortunately carrying a stream of water which was only knee deep. This was the very river, the very place and the very time of the night where and when once a decade or so before I had met a holyman, almost like the Buddha himself who had a deep impact on my life. As I have already written about that beautiful experience in my story ” An unforgettable, holy encounter,” suffice it to say here that whenever I reached or crossed that spot I was instantly reminded of that incidence, that regal personage. But that was a full moon night and this time on my mission to the old man’s house it was early part of a dark night.

I reached the old man’s house. His wife was at the door. I asked for him. The old woman went in and a little later the old man, Ananta, came out. I introduced myself and told him the whole story and requested him to accompany me for helping the animal to deliver. Surprisingly he turned me down and became adamant that he would never do anything for that family to which the goat belonged. When I pressed him to know the reason of his refusal he alleged that he had been cheated time and again by the members of that family. They had availed of his services and never paid his fees in full. I promised him that this time I stood guarantee. He needn’t even ask them for his fees, he would get them from me. Then he relented. I asked what was his fees. He said fifteen rupees. That was exactly equivalent to three days pay that I got from the newly established college. But I agreed. The deal was struck. He went into his house, I thought, to bring his box of instruments with him to help him at the delivery and possibly to change his loin cloth and to drape something over his torso which was bare at the time. But when he returned a minute later he had changed nothing, added nothing. He was only holding a meter length of a thin rope of dried sawai grass. I was barely able to control myself from bursting out in a loud laughter at the contrast of what I had imagined a country doctor to look like and what I really found before me. I could also not connect the metre- length rope with the process of delivery at any stage.

However I liked the man though I met him for the first time. On the way to my village while talking with the old man I found he had many fond memories of both my paternal grandfather and maternal grand father. That explained why he trusted me. Even though scantlly clad and ill-equipped and not upto the mark in my imagination of what a man in his profession should look like, yet I trusted him because he was a legend in the area he lived. So he couldn’t fail this time.

When we reached the auntie’s house the place had become even more crowded. Every one that had heard my announcement had spread the word throughout the village. All were waiting for us. Ananta saw the goat and immediately put himself to work. Then I saw the uses of the thin rope. He put one end of the rope in between his right hand index and middle finger and inserted the fingers slowly through the vulva into the vagina of the goat. I imagined through that path he went into the mouth of the uterus and searched for the neck of the kid. After ten minutes or so he slowly pulled out his hand. But the rope had been fixed around the neck of the kid.How he pulled off that feat by just inserting two fingers with a thin rope in between was a mystery to me. Then he began to pull the rope hard outward without any jerk with both of his hands. He never asked for any assistance. It was a one man show all through. With that forceful pull of the tight rope one end of which was around the neck of the kid I thought we were going to see the emergence of a severed head. But surprising me and all the sixty odd spectators around, a perfectly unharmed,living black kid emerged and took his breaths for the first time. Then I knew Ananta hadn’t been ill-equipped; he was exactly equipped for the occasion. Throughout the painful process the mother goat never bleated once nor she was made to lie down. She gave birth while standing. Now as the kid began to bleat with his first breath I heard the mothergoat’s bleats for the first time.She became lively and was all concern for her kid. She began to lick the kid and a few moments later the kid unerringly reached for her tits at the rear end. It was a joy to watch the mother out of his pains and with her new bundle of joy.

In the meanwhile Ananta, my hero of the hour, had washed his hands and was asking me for his fees. I went to the auntie and took her aside and asked for fifteen rupees towards Ananta’s fees. she said she hadn’t any. I told her to forget it and never to worry about it at all. I went to my home, brought fifteen rupees and paid Ananta. I profusely thanked Ananta for having obliged me and pulling a dumb creature out of her pain.

As night had much advanced by then I volunteered to walk with Ananta till he safely reached his home. I hadn’t forgotten that I had almost forcibly taken out an old man in the night from an old woman with inducement of money and I thought it was my duty to hand over her husband safely back to her. But Ananta would listen none of that. He said he knew the area as well as he knew the palms of his hands. After we both crossed the river at the outskirt of the village he sent me back home.

While I was returning home I thought I had met a most remarkable man in Ananta who helped me doing something I would most likely remember to the last.

To surprise me, one day a week later, the auntie came to me and handed me the fifteen Rupees I had told her to forget about. I wondered was it the same woman whose family members had cheated Ananta and bothered him so much? What made her change?

Suppressing my surprise I asked her,” Auntie, how is the kid?”

As she replied I found that I had never seen her so happy before. She said,” Paresh, you should see how the kid is running around? How beautiful he is? What a joy it is to watch him play?”

Then I knew. That was not just the birth of a kid. It was the birth of a mother too, a human mother that too.