Sunday, June 22, 2014

More on the cow theme

In my previous post, I wrote about the unlikeliness of cows appearing in lectures on Electrical Engineering and the purity of the engineering student's soul being evidenced by his not knowing that. Today we shall examine the all pervading nature of that animal in an engineering student's academic life and how I bettered the Olympic 100m record because of cows.

One of my closest friends, a fellow Wodehouse fan named Deepak, lived in a section of the hostel called the K block which comprised of single seater rooms and was architecturally inspired by a cowshed. So faithfully had the architect recreated his inspiration that cows from far and wide would saunter into the K block and reside for varying lengths of time, feeling completely at home. Non bovine residents of the K block seemed to accept their presence with generous equanimity but occasional visitors such as myself were more xenophobic. "Why don't you shoo them away?" I asked Deepak one day. Apparently the reason was that if you attempted anything in the nature of violence, the bovine would deposit evidence of its visit in the form of a cowpat bang in front of the shooer's door, and languorously walk away, leaving the hapless inhabitant of the room with the choice of either picking it up and throwing it out or inhaling bouquet-de-cowpat for the next few days.

Deepak also had a bicycle. Back in the 80s, this was like owning a Mercedes 380- SL convertible which meant that Deepak was much sought after. Not by the women, ha ha, because we had just 40 girls in the college (there were 1200 of us manly guys), all of whom had very exacting standards of male beauty (Tom Cruise might have made it, and Salman Khan, but not Deepak or I). As I was saying, it was sought after by the likes of me who thought riding a bicycle in the hot Manipal sun was the fun thing to do. And it was, given the level of activity in Manipal on a summer's afternoon. Deepak was ever cautious, though. He would, in a manner reminiscent of how the UPA government gave out gubernatorial appointments, give his bicycle to only the most trusted of his friends, among whom, I am proud to say, I figured prominently. Also, I did not, like another hapless friend our ours, bang into a cow with the bicycle. Cows thus disturbed tended to poop or urinate on you (when you were lying concussed on the road after the collision) and Deepak was rightly concerned that some of it might fall on the bicycle.

But my most vivid memory of that splendid animal is the time when I was endeavoring to clear my fifth semester workshop exams. I was, how shall I put it, dexterity challenged and in order to make up for shabbiness of the workpiece I had made as part of the evaluation, I had put  my all into the written exam. I had drawn heart wrenching diagrams of whatever it was that we were doing that semester - I sort of recall it was foundry practice - and liberally quoted from Tennyson and Shakespeare. My plan was that after the examiner had seen the workpiece and recoiled in disgust, he would read the paper and realize, with tears welling up in his eyes, that here was a good man, a decent chap, deserving in all respects save the minor one of being incompetent, and would give me passing marks.

The plan was working when suddenly I realized that I had rashly left the paper - my masterpiece - near the window and a passing cow, doubtless attracted by the brilliance of its content,  had decided to snack on it. With a yelp, I rushed towards the window but the cow shrewdly withdrew its head and headed off in the opposite direction. Crisis brings out the best in me. I quickly marshaled my thoughts and lit out of the door, executed a sharp U turn and gained rapidly upon the cow. It tried to sprint away but it was, and you, dear reader, will forgive my humble-brag,  no match for my superior intellect and athleticism. Within seconds, I had caught up with it and snatched the paper from its mouth. Miraculously -perhaps it was the force of my personality that had startled it into doing so - it released the paper undamaged. Observers quickly calculated that I had done about 100 meters in 9.7 seconds, but since it wasn't an official event, the feat never entered the books.

I passed the exam.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


The talk on one of our whatsapp groups turned to cows. That is to say, someone forwarded something about cows. Whatsappers are great forwarders of things and many of the things people keep forwarding to me appear to have existed forever, rather like the universe. I know there is a school of thought that believes the universe began as a little dot of very densely packed matter (like some of our suitcases), and suddenly erupted to fill up everything in sight (like some of our suitcases) and by this logic, there must have been a time when all the whatsapp messages in the universe were tightly packed into a little dot. But this would probably be 11.6 billion years ago, and anyway, all this discussion is deeply in the realm of metaphysics which you, dear reader, would judiciously choose to give a miss.

Coming back to the cows, the said whatsapp message dealt with how different economic systems would treat the possession of two cows. Between you and me, the thing went right over my head but the word 'cows' appearing so many times reminded me of the jolly old age when I was studying engineering and the class was being taught Basic Electrical Machinery by Shri K. J. Singh.

Shri Singh was a splendid chap, from the rustic heartland of Bihar, and while he was a great engineering mind, his accent was a little different from ours. Very few people understood anything of what he said (but that was also in part because most of us were singularly daft). However, everyone sat solemn and attentive in his class - he had a great personality - and wrote down everything that he said which sounded important.

So in one such class, he kept using the word cows. Some of the sharper chaps did find it odd - after all, cows and electrical engineering have little to do with each other - but everyone wrote it down faithfully in their lecture notes.

It was only many lectures later that we realized that the good man was saying 'cause'