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The International Writers Magazine
From India

The Perils of Illiteracy
Shobha Nagendran

The brown cow was either suicidal or grossly illiterate. How else to explain why she did not take heed of the name calligraphically etched upon the granite slab affixed to the gate post?
"Oh! This is the most luscious spread ever!", the cow must have thought to itself (if it was capable of thinking); she nudged open the unlatched gate which was left so conveniently ajar and without delay dived onto the tufted verdure and began chomping up knolls of fine Mexican.

She swished her tail incessesantly to drive away those pesky insects which swarmed and buzzed surely in warning?
Cows don’t normally eat ornamental grass. They stick to their tested meals and lay back in barns or in the back of cowsheds and doze off in the afternoons and nights. Maybe, those cows don’t really have a reason to, for they are fed six times a day on Lipton Cattle Feed, megatons of freshly cut bovine favourite jungle green grass, and unlimited volumes of sun-dried golden hay as munchies whenever their gastric acids even dropped a hint of becoming active.

Shotorupi (meaning One with a Hundred Forms), was the name of the brown cow. She had never enjoyed the dietary luxuries which her cousins from Jersey took for granted. She survived by eating anything and everything that appeared in the roadside trash collector including old socks, plastic covers, old books, and sometimes even stubs of pencils, broken ballpoint pens, and chalk bits. This scholarly diet did nothing to improve her literacy. She gained no knowledge even while being around when those monthly adult literacy classes were held in the open air close to her residence.
She enjoyed her simple daily life in a manner only a cow is capable of. Political turmoil did not affect her, nor was she depressed by the religious riots that periodically took place in her locality. Life just went on, the same way as any previous day.

Today was different. There was a festival or a celebration of sort going on. Children had not gone to school. They were playing on the streets, unmindfully messing up their bright new scintillating coloured dresses, laughing, shouting, and hungrily awaiting the lunch hour; while their mothers, grannies, aunts, elder sisters and cousins were cooking up gastronomical delights inside stuffy kitchens.

To the frail old wizened man half asleep under the shade of the great pipal tree, the advent of the brown cow appeared as a message from the masters themselves. He shouted out to get his army out from the kitchen. The cow became terrified with the mobbing and before it could turn and run, the believers had tied up its forelegs and hind legs in smart pairs and took the bellowing creature into a one way journey to the recesses of the unknown
Shobha Nagendran June 2007

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