During our childhood my brother, the youngest in the family, then aged four, came up with an unusual request. He wanted someone younger to him. It was all because he was at the losing end of all the physical fights we siblings had. At the time our parents solved the problem by getting him a kid – a goat’s kid – a female one. That was how goat rearing commenced at our home.
In the evenings, after school, we used to take the goat out into our farmland for grazing. We had to be on the lookout to ensure that the goat did not forage on the Tapioca (Kasava) cultivation, mainly to save the cultivation and also to save the goat from food poisoning. Little did I then know that the toxicity of the tapioca foliage was due to the presence Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN). During the Monsoon rains, we had to cut the necessary forage from the trees which acted as support for the black pepper wines.
The kid grew real fast with all the attention and forage that we children heaped on her. In a year she matured into a beautiful doe and was ready for a mate. A Doe would come to heat by the end of summer and it lasts for two or three days and the cycle is repeated every three weeks.
In Kerala, the schools reopen after the summer vacations on 01 June but my Alma Mater, Sainik School Amravathinagar, reopens only by 15 June. During my Grade 7 summer vacation, after the schools reopened for my brothers, our doe bleated one entire night. In the morning Amma said that the doe is on heat and it is time to mate her. That day our farm-hand did not turn up as he had pneumonia due to drenching in the monsoon showers the previous day. I was the only one now free to take the doe for mating.
The village had a tea-shop run by a man named Kuttappai. The tea-shop served as the meeting place for all village elders and doubled up as a reading room. All dailies and magazines published from Kottayam found their way there. It also served as the village ‘parliament’. It was indeed a house of knowledge, and doubled up as a cultural-political-social-entertainment institution, where anything and everything under the sun – from international relations to state and village politics; science to the Bible; communism to capitalism – were discussed. Gossips too found their way in, obviously as spicy as the narrator could make it.
Kuttappai reared a flock of goats housed in a thatched shed to the rear of the tea-shop. He used the milk from the goats to make tea and obviously the village folk relished his special tea. The flock was led by a majestic buck. The buck also served as the village stud and Kuttappai charged Rs 10 for every mating.
At about 11 o’ clock, I walked our doe to Kuttappai’s tea shop, as per Amma’s advise because that was the time when the tea-shop would be empty of customers as people would have returned home after fiery debates and discussions. Obviously that was the only time Kuttappai would be free to facilitate the mating.
On reaching the tea-shop, Kuttappai instructed me to tie our doe closely on to a coconut tree adjacent to the goat shed. The smell and sight of the doe in heat made the buck tied in the shed restless and his snorting and kicking increased, at times reaching a violent stage as if he would bring the entire shed down.
After 15 minutes, Kuttappai emerged from his tea-shop. The buck was tied with a long rope and Kuttappai released him so as to make him reach the doe. The buck went around the doe, smelled and licked her vulva and when he was about to mount her, Kuttappai pulled him back into the shed and tied him up. That was a staged foreplay for the buck.
Now the buck had turned real violent as the frequency of his kicking multiplied and the volume of his snorts became louder. After 10 minutes Kuttappai again released the buck and he came charging in and mounted the doe and the entire mating was completed in a few seconds. Kuttappai now pulled the buck back into the shed and like a conqueror, the buck stood with his head high, but the tone of his snorts had changed as if to announce his accomplishment.
A doe generally gets into heat in the later part of summer and in Kerala, it coincides with the onset of Monsoons (June to September). There are certain indications the doe gives out when in heat. Her vulva swells and become red, and she may have some vaginal discharge. She tends to eat less and become restless because the hormones associated with fertility kick in. A milk producing doe may decrease her milk production due to the hormonal changes. Her frequency of tail-wagging suddenly increases and her bleats become longer, especially at night.
During the monsoons when the doe goes into heat, the buck goes into rut. During rut the buck urinates into his mouth and on his chest, face, and beard, turning them yellow. The scent glands near his horns become overactive. These lead to an unbearable stink – in reality the stink is to attract a doe in heat towards him. During rut a buck would snort, grunt and kick its hind legs. It tends to give a terrorising look with its upper lip curled up.
In the evening when Amma returned from school I dutifully reported to her the events of the day and posed some uncomfortable questions about the procedure and the need for it. The School teacher in Amma responded with poise and she summarised the entire event as an act of depositing the sperm by the buck in the doe’s womb where it would fertilise an egg and would result in formation of an embryo. She also explained that the rooster and the hens also did the same and so did humans. Thus began my introduction to sex education.