The tears I cried that day did a few things to me…my spirit was touched deeply, my strength left me, my voice was lost and I fell into despair…
“Dear Women. You are so strong.”
I have been reluctant to share the events of my last days in Rishikesh earlier this year for fear of regurgitating and exaggerating on ‘a story’ which will never have the same effect on another, as it did on me. Perhaps that thought in itself has isolated me too much. My ‘ego’ has won.
How do I explain it when I have been locked into the traumatic events of that day and then have had to try process it on my own? Reaching for answers that have been fabricated by my own mind I have opted to release these events to The Universe, as a Karma Yogi should renounce all action, with the understanding that I placed myself willingly into that ‘story’, without expectation, wishfully expecting the best outcome, but without the right skills and tools.
Has this been an unfair path I chose for my life when I began working on the streets of Rishikesh. I have put myself in harm’s way many times to treat infections, illness and disease with the utmost faith in my abilities and my calling to serve, making many sacrifices which have brought me to this point of brokenness.
“Dear Women. You are so courageous.”
It had become increasingly difficult and demoralizing for me to continue my work on the streets alone. So when I heard that Anita was arriving to volunteer with me for a short time I was hopeful and embraced her enthusiasm.
On this particular morning my trusted Splendor Hero greeted me with a flat back tyre and without hesitation I rode it cautiously and clumsily with both feet just off the ground to the local mechanic for repair. Perhaps the day would have turned out very differently if I was not forced to remain in this part of town. A thin piece of steel about six centimetres long had put holes into parts of the tyre and waiting for a replacement was going to take much longer than expected. Anita arrived at my room in time to accompany me to collect the bike but we were advised only then about the new tyre and accepting of this inconvenience we started walking towards the road that connects Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula (two suspension bridges two kilometres apart from one another built over the Ganga River, which divides Rishikesh City from these two villages).
I caught Noni’s eye (a young entrepreneur and friend who also rents the motorbike to me). Sitting across the road he called over to me, but only after he’d repeated himself a few times did I eventually grasp what he was saying, “The cow’s having a baby.” I followed him through a small alley between the local stores, a connection from the top of Swarg Ashram down towards the Ganga. This route is used by locals as a short cut as well as by cows, some housed in the farm area below, but it is a steep and dusty slope littered with filth and rubble.
There she was. When I saw the wet ground at her rear I knew she was in labour, but by the time I had reached her I realized there was something terribly wrong with this picture. Mother cow’s head was sloping downhill and she looked completely exhausted. I struggled to understand what had happened but after questioning some of the locals it seemed she was forced down this path and fell. That would have been the cause for her to go into labour, but I was not aware at this time that the birth was premature.
“Come!” I shouted, “we have to turn her around.” I began to call to onlookers, all Indian men, who were on a level above both Anita and myself looking down on the scene. With some assistance and heaving the cow’s body was turned so that gravity could assist with the birth. She wasn’t pushing or making any other attempts to move. I did not know how long she had been in this position, exposed in the hot sun. Like most cows in Rishikesh she was emaciated, suffering from malnourishment, her skinny frame accentuated by the bones protruding from her backside. Now completely exhausted and lying on a pile of rubble my compassion fuelled the need to help her. The terrain she was on was hardly a place for any mother, human or animal, to give birth.
I am not sure what force came over me at that point. All I wanted to do was help her get the baby out. “Blankets, towels, water, gloves!” With some persistence and delegation I eventually had a pair of disposable gloves handed to me which were hardly the right quality for what I was intending to use them for. When putting them on the left hand broke and just my fingers were covered below the tear. I knew what was about to happen was going to be a disgusting mess.
Throughout every action I was trying to get as many people as possible to think with me. I implored, “Doctors, nurses, vets, Facebook groups, animal shelters, use your phones and call people. Get someone here quickly!”
It did seem like forever in those moments. Blood and entrails were oozing from the back side…it was time. I asked an angel what I needed to do and intuitively fought for space so my hand could move into the cavity. I was sobbing and can’t remember what I was saying. I do know I was trying to ask for forgiveness for any pain I was causing this animal and crying out to Anita if I should be doing this at all.
The baby was almost right at the entrance…I do remember my whole hand being swallowed by the animal and trying to translate my fears into compassion for all the vets, midwives and nurses who do this all the time…it’s normal, natural…I kept trying to tell myself, and necessary.
I was forcing every bit of strength into my arms and hands to grip the head and bring the baby into the world…it moved towards me and I managed to grab hold with both hands and pulled, first the head, then two front legs, then the rest of the body…then something else, something that just didn’t look right at all. It was a horrific clumping mass of insides that I couldn’t identify, a mass of small testicles covered with white veins. The cow may have been the right way for birthing but, a collapsed uterus? It was awful. We were now fighting against gravity to push the uterus back.
The calf was still connected to the mother with a long umbilical cord and between them now was her insides becoming clammy in the sand. It was sweltering. The sun was intense by now. I don’t know how long I had been trying to manage the situation which was now completely out of my control. I needed a knife or a scissors to cut the cord from the mother who although very exhausted and unable to move herself kicked her hind legs now and again which could have hurt the calf behind her.
Trying to make sense of everything afterwards the natural process would have been for the cow to give birth standing up. At which point the calf’s head appears and moving downwards the fluids automatically leave the calf’s body. Now at this wrong angle the calf was still full of fluid. A useless knife arrived and I forced it through the fleshy cord pulling with all my strength to work it through the tough rubbery mucous vein. A horror movie! We had been walking with blankets for donation which were at the top of the hill where we took the calf. We placed it on a blanket next to a wall that was providing some shade. We inverted the calf a few times to extract as much fluid as possible but when someone advised us that the calf was three months premature we accepted nature’s course.
During the chaos I had asked Anita to go back to the room for my first aid bag and shallow foot bath. Anita left shortly after the calf was delivered because the ordeal had taken an unfair toll on her and if I was to remain here she would go to the young brothers in Lakshman Jhula for their daily wash routine.
Two foreign volunteers had also arrived and we tried to keep the uterus as clean as possible in the bucket covered with plastic. We kept moving between mother halfway down the slope and the calf, and waited for a vet to come.
There were three of us now…’white girls’ amidst the locals doing everything we thought we could. I wonder what this all must have looked like to these men, ‘these men that do nothing’.
“Dear Women. You are so wise.”
Hours passed. Many onlookers had left the area. The calf was dead and wrapped in a blanket previously donated, which would not be used by anyone for their warmth.
I squatted at the mother’s head. Completely exhausted, hot, sweaty, filthy with bloodied hands. Tears were welling in the corners of the mother’s brown eyes. I tried to find something more in her eyes, a way to communicate, but they were just like mud. I said sorry so many times and sobbed uncontrollably by her side until her last breath.
Why is no one doing anything, my head was screaming.
I remember something my partner had said to me whilst visiting in November of the previous year. He, on behalf of all men, had apologized for the way women were treated by men in this world.
At that time, I had wondered to myself if it was necessary for him to do that but I appreciated the gesture.
Those words rang true in these moments, although I don’t think they would have any substance now.
I have had to accept that ignorance is a reason to forgive and in understanding the ignorance of men I have been able to let go, forgive, and even respect them.
My emotional ties to my calling in India were severed at this time. I could return home knowing that what I had done was enough for now. After spending five and a half months in India returning back to the west to face a divorce and displacement as opposed to compassion and support from my partner has been a dreadful challenge.
I have second guessed my calling to serve and I have been unsure of who I am. Psychologically scarred and scared to do anything.
This August month I will keep praying to the Divine Mother for her strength, courage and wisdom, to fill my cup until it overflows once more.
From War to Peace – Yoga for the Management of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Swami Ahimsadhara Saraswati
(Helen Cushing, Satyananda Yoga Centre, Hobart, Australia)
‘PTSD is a multi-layered condition with a range of long-term symptoms that prevent people from coping with life. They may not arise until years after the trauma if the person strongly represses the feelings associated with the trauma. The occurrence of symptoms is often unpredictable and erratic, undermining a person’s knowledge of themselves, their identity and their own trust in their ability to function reliably at work, in relationships, and in society in general.’Share