Part 1 at this link
Munchi is a small stray cow who was running around Salawatte injured and frightened for a number of months, with no one able to catch her to medicate her. Citizens had called vets, govt departments, the police, no one had helped. With the help of village cow-handlers, two working housewives from Wellampitiya managed to organise the rescue but now the issue was how to save her from the other people like butchers and cow thiefs who could be watching the situation.
Wellampitiya is known in Sri Lanka for it's drug addicts, criminals and underworld gangs. Shootouts, drug stashes and mysterious disappearances are rife. Men came and stood in rows staring at her and some fed her absurd amounts of bread which constipated her pitiably. I had to draft a notice against such.And Zeenath and I would surely lose our jobs and be bankrupted if we had to feed her so many kilos of fodder a day in the city.
So we needed to transport her out to safer pastures. I picked Hanwella because the original cowboys who rescued her were from that area and because it's a pastoral area ideal for a retired bovine. There were rolling stretches of greenery where she would be allowed to live in peace.
But there was massive red tape to go through.
The cow was presumed ownerless but I didn't want some butcher to pop up and get me arrested for cattle theft.
The last thing I needed was to have to beg people to get me out of jail. So I asked my neighbours to confirm they had no objection to me removing her to a safer location. Twenty signatures and a grama sevaka approval later we needed 1) veterinary certificates of health 2) traffic permits once the lorry was approved to transport her 3) Vetinary approval of the lorry we would use 4)approval from the divisional secretariat that she could be transported. Each of these documents needed a set of sub documents or things for approval, for example the cow and the transporter had to be inspected by the veterinarian etc etc
It's not as easy as it sounds on a tight budget ...the lorry from hanwella, one of the very few who agreed to transport a live animal especially a bulky and unpredictable cow...was charging 7500 and that was just to take the cow there. It was busy at that time (30th December 2016) on some other work and could not come to Colombo for the agriculture office to stamp their approval
We had just a few hours to get through all this red tape before govt offices closed for the year....the lorry was still in hanwella 2 hours away...roads were clogged with last minute shoppers...govt offices were closing and the vet was saying he would have to go in the field in the afternoon...which was of course a euphemism for I've-had -enough-of-this-I-want-to-go-
We begged and grovelled for him to stay.
My rescuer partner Zeenath hit on the idea of getting the photos of the lorry watsapped to us. Certain relevant officials noted that I had a media identity card and subsequently decided to understand the difficulty we were in and that it was inadvisable to keep her in Salawatte on the night of the 31st. They agreed to bend rules and sign the approval on printed photos of the truck. The truck driver on the other hand was struggling bravely with technology and took about 45 minutes to wire the photos.This is not the first heroic thing he did
And by the time the transporters photos came in, the owner of the communication store in front of the agrarian office had gone out to lunch...
I nearly burst into tears because it was almost 3 pm ...time to close counters in govt offices… I grovelled at a large flaccid young man sitting in for the communications operator and he gave me a very cool rude look of "no-can-do-dumb-cow-now-get-
I gave up with it and took the phone along to the vet, who looked at the photos and signed the form,sternly telling us that we must use that particular truck and no other. We pelted, in a stand by tuk tuk, to the Divisional Secretariat office in Kolonnawa.
And then a certain guy at the divisional secretariat, whose task it is to officiate the matter of cattle transport, rudely and condescendingly told us that the counters had closed at 3 pm and didn't we know it was 3 26.. Sarcasm rudeness patronising condescension everything out public sector employees are best known for all rolled together with derision for two stupid women who were trying to save a cow....no I don't have to look at your cow photos he sneered adding that the payments counter was closed so they could not process the matter. And the official payment was 50 rupees ...the price of one Cheap local cigarette.
He was ready to insist on this formal payment- and make my friend, a woman on a crutch, go back home.
We knew that if Munchi was kept in Salawatte over the 31st a lot of uncomfortable things could happen to her including cownapping and slaughter. Her purported owner the hindu Oracle had allowed her free, she was technically ownerless, butchers had been eyeing her..We had to keep her tied due to the medications we were spraying on her...but the very fact she was tied mean that here was about a hundred thousand rupees in unsupervised walking beef tied to a jak tree in the seediest, most criminal infested area in the marshes of Wellampitiya.
Also my friend Zeenath and I had taken the last of our annual leave and vacation and were at the ends of our budgets…so Zeenath pitifully begged the chubby DS man to help and with much attitude and pomposity he went through the motions.
Then just at that moment a very distinguished looking slim young man with files in his hand came over and greeted Zeenath and talked to her. Unlike the rude cleric he listened to our story and with serious concern looked at the photos of our silly cow.The snooty cleric in the background looked rather shaken when he saw this and shuffled his papers with more genuine effort. It turned out his enthusiasm was because the gentleman who was talking to us was a Western Province UNP provincial counsellor....
So at 4 pm on the 30th after about 6 hours of going round and round we got the cattle transport permit to hand went and gave Munchi some food and went home to frankly collapse with exhaustion in my case and Zeenath limped home to cook for her husband.Tomorrow was Saturday December the 31 and we had to get Munchi up into a small truck and onto the noisy streets of Colombo. She was young, traumatised, hated men, and weighed half a tonne…
I worried a lot because I had no idea how this could possibly be done. Munchi was terrified traumatised no nonsense determination....we only had a small Mahindra truck to put her in. That's a bit like putting a large and angry muzzled bulldog into a kitchen sink...there could be more trauma.Down came the Hanwella Cowboys Lal and another fellow led by the Honcho Prasad and things began to happen so quickly we were spellbound like watching a movie.One of the boys expertly lassoed our grumbling girl which happened in a blink of the eye too quick for us to record. The rest of the process is on record...how a resisting angry traumatised bovine anxiety was gently but firmly trapped and pulled towards the truck.Then miraculously she was in and on her way to greener pastures! Prasad was in the front of the truck with the files of official documentation and Munchis yellow ear tag and worm spray bottle.
And I followed in a bus biting my nails.
Munchi is now retired in a large beautiful land in Hanwella. She didn't like the look of her first adopter who was a dark very bulky man with a rather startling face. If you shut your eyes and thought African Butcher whatever picture you come up with is what Lal looks like. Practically a doppelganger of the late Ugandan Idi Amin. I don't think it's polite to judge people by their looks but clearly Munchi had not got that memo because each time he touched her rope she charged off like a runaway rhino until poor Lal got tired of the rope burns and being dragged for miles and returned her in disgust. So now she lives in quiet pastoral retirement with Prasads mother and niece who are allowed to stroke her head and hand feed her so long as they don't touch the rope which she is touchy about.
There are three important lessons I have learnt from Munchi's rescue
1 There is no official organisation in Sri Lanka mandated to help a distressed domestic animal.
2 Regular housewives can sometimes succeed at a task that has confounded strong men. you just need to be positive.
3 Even if you are born destined to be barbecued if you have the right attitude you can be brave take no bullshit and drag yourself to freedom, as this stubborn little brown cow had.
And of course- that there are a lot of loving positive people around to be found in the unlikeliest of places <3
Wound healed fast due to very professional attention of SKYPET vets
Here she is recovering with a small furry friend
She recognises me and comes close - sometimes . othertimes she runs a mile
In her element the jungle