Beastly encounters, Musings, Potshots

A coffee bean’s trauma (or, Nightmare on Dung Street)

Feverish insights into the goodness of dung and the oneness of all living things

Warning

A week or so ago,  a great Indian thinker—the Hon. Mahesh Chandra Sharma, recently retired judge of Rajasthan High Court—provided new and wondrous insights into the Divine Attributes of the Indian Cow [click here to read full report].  We were enthralled, delighted, by his revelations; we were eager to believe.

Alas, many highly ill-reputed intellectuals in India and abroad greeted Hon. Sharma’s revelations with amusement, skepticism, and even scorn. Our belief was shattered.

Was Sharma-jee wrong?

Is the bovine no divine but a mere mortal?

These and other weighty  questions kept us tossing restlessly in bed night after night, till we resolved to seek wise counsel from one of the world’s leaders in bovine research: Dr Pashupalan Moosa, Senior Director at  the Indian Cow Research Institute (ICRI), Gurgaon and  Head of the Product Innovations, Design & Development Labs (PIDDL), located in the sprawling 1400-acre campus of ICRI.

We met Dr Moosa in his spotlessly clean lab-cum-office. He was a curly-haired, bespectacled gentleman of about sixty-five, wearing a white lab coat and the placid expression of the Indian water buffalo. On the wall behind his desk was a fetching portrait of Kamadhenu, the Celestial Cow. Dr Moosa bade us sit and poured out two cups of black coffee from a large percolator. We accepted a cup gratefully and took a sip. The coffee was excellent: just the right warmth, strong yet not bitter, heady in fragrance, with a kind of wild, mossy, moist flavour that evoked the freshness of rain forests.

“We have ten minutes,” Dr Moosa murmured.

“Sir,” we began hesitantly, “the Hon. Mahesh Chandra Sharma has provoked considerable mirth and wrath with his claims that the cow is a divine creature. As a leading expert in bovine sciences, what do you make of his statements?”

“Of course Sharma is right: the cow is divine,” Dr Moosa murmured. “Just as you are divine! As indeed is a tapeworm, an ant, a chicken, a tick, a bacterium, a cuttlefish!” He leaned forward, warming to his theme.  “Listen: all living creatures on Earth are made of the same genetic stuff. Whether we are bacteria or Bactrian camels, conger eels or Congressmen, capuchin monkeys or capitalists, Komodo dragons or communists, giraffes or jihadists, all of us share the same DNA and RNA at the cellular level. We are all, at the core, truly One—whether we like the idea or not. All living things have spawned and evolved in the same great river of the Genetic Code, which some people call God by various names and others simply call names. So why should we exclude the poor bovine from this all-embracing divine realm?”

He was being a tad evasive, of course; but we were so awestruck by the potency of his words and his coffee that we let it pass. “All right, sir…but what about Sharma-jee’s other claims? For instance, he declares that a cow inhales as well as exhales oxygen! What kind of respiration is that, sir? It flies in the face of science!”

“Not at all,” said our colleague gently. “Haven’t you heard of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation?  It works because you can actually exhale part of the oxygen you inhale. So…it’s not only the cow that can inhale and exhale oxygen: we all can!”

“But…Hon. Sharma also quotes some obscure research by some untraceable Russian scientist named Shirovich to claim that a cow’s bellows can kill germs in the vicinity! Surely that’s absurd enough to make a buffalo laugh?”

Our learned colleague chuckled. “Well, first the point about a cow’s bellows killing germs. Here too Sharma is factually correct. It’s the media that’s got the story wrong! The media has misinterpreted the word ‘bellows’ to mean the sound a cow makes with its mouth, and ended up looking at the wrong end of the cow…um…pipe. You see, a cow does not bellow; it moos. By ‘bellows’, Sharma is referring to the simple, age-old mechanical device used for squeezing out gas from a bag at high pressure. Now, it is an established fact that a cow…er… squeezes out more than 60 litres of methane and other gases daily from its stomach bag – a direct result of its grassy, high-protein diet.  Think of it: 60 litres! Forget germs, no living creature can possibly survive such saturation bombardment by the highly aromatic emissions from a cow—not even an elephant that’s lost its sense of smell!” Dr Moosa paused and looked at us keenly. “If you like, I can take you across to PIDDL’s integrated cattle shed complex; you’ll vividly appreciate the point when we’re half-a-kilometre away.”

“There’s no need for that, sir!” we assured him hastily. “But then, what about this Shirovich, the Russian bovine scientist that Hon. Sharma referred to? He’s untraceable! We’ve hunted for Shirovich and his purported work on the Net, in libraries…but to no avail.”

Dr Moosa shook his head sadly. “I have no doubts at all that this Shirovich exists or existed, and that his work is authentic. My guess is that Shirovich must have quietly succumbed to an excess intake of bovine emissions while undertaking some long-term experiment, doubtless in some remote bovine lab in Siberia or the Ural Mountains where his demise went unnoticed. That’s why he is untraceable, poor fellow: a great loss to the scientific world.”  He sighed and refilled our cups with steaming coffee.

We fought off the feeling of unreality that was slowly enveloping us. “There’s also been a lot of unkind comment in social media over other things Hon. Sharma said. Like, he says the cow is a clinic! And he goes on and on about the healing powers of cow urine and cow dung…”

“Of course he’s right!” broke in Dr Moosa.  “You must try and ignore the cackling of the hoi-polloi!”  He paused, reached into a desk drawer, took out a small dark-brown package wrapped in plastic and handed it to us.

“Behold!” he cried. “This is the latest product from the PIDDL stables…er…cattle pens. It’s pure, fresh cow dung, painstakingly collected by my team from cows that have grazed only in the ISO 9001:2008-certified organic pastures of PIDDL. We’ve enriched the dung with vitamins and minerals, added subtle flavours, and given it a catchy brand-name: ‘PIDDL Dung’!” His face was flushed with pride and enthusiasm. “PIDDL-Dung is now being marketed as a breakfast-food supplement in 114 countries, including USA, EU, UAE, Japan and Australia. It’s one of the greatest success stories of the Make in India initiative!”Grazing dream

“That’s amazing,” we whispered, holding the PIDDL-Dung package gingerly. “But why is it only being exported? Why aren’t you marketing it in India?”

Dr Moosa smiled tolerantly. “Our marketing team knows what it is doing. Indians will never embrace any traditional Indian product—until the West first embraces it. Now that other countries, particularly the West, have started consuming PIDDL-Dung by the ton, Indians will soon follow in droves!”

We tried to speak but only succeeded in making soft mooing noises.  On the wall, Kamadhenu twitched her tail and gave us an inquiring look.

“PIDDL-Dung comes in six flavours at present,” Dr Moosa went on. “This one’s chocolate-almond; please accept it as a gift!”

“Thanks, but sorry, sir,” we mumbled, placing the package down on the desk. “It’s just a little hard to stomach the idea of eating cow dung…”

Arre bhai!” he cried. “If you can eat sheep’s brains and goat’s gonads, if you can gobble up fish eggs and frog’s legs, if you can wolf down globs of pounded flesh stuffed into bags stitched from pig’s intestines in the name of sausages, why’s it so hard to savour some clean, tasty cow dung? Hahn-jee?”

His logic was irrefutable, yet hard to swallow. “But …but these are animal feces!” we protested feebly.

Dr Moosa relapsed into moody silence.  But after a moment he looked up and smiled. “Did you like the coffee? Would you like some more?”

“So kind of you, sir… the coffee’s really superb. But we’ve taken up enough of your time, thank you.” We rose, nodded at Kamadhenu who nodded back, and shook our host’s hand.  He walked with us to the door.

“This is Kopi Luwak coffee, you know,” he murmured as we reached the door.  “It’s from Indonesia. It’s the most expensive coffee in the world. A kilo costs anything from 1200 dollars to 3000 dollars, that’s two lakh rupees…”

We were stunned. “What’s in that coffee, gold?” we asked.

He chuckled. “No, it’s not gold.  Although curiously, gold is the word used by local Indonesians to describe the animal feces from which they get the coffee beans…”

We clutched the door for support. “What!”

“Yes…you see, the coffee beans are picked out from the feces of the Indonesian palm civet cat. This lovely animal likes eating coffee cherries. The cherries are digested, but the beans stay intact as they pass through the animal’s stomach and intestine. In the process they absorb certain unique flavours, and so when they emerge…”

Dr Moosa broke off and started to laugh at our horrified expression. It was an extraordinary laugh: not quite human, rather a series of shrill, persistent monotonic beeps that grew louder and louder. It was almost like the sound of a morning alarm…

Mercifully, it was.

9 thoughts on “A coffee bean’s trauma (or, Nightmare on Dung Street)

  1. Re- read it.
    Excellent!
    That cowdung is a precious commodity was known to our housewives in villages centuries ago. BUT the uses were restricted to applying as fnished quoting to flooring
    but th e latest report is stunning. BUT IS MEANT ONLY FOR THE BRAVEST!
    VENKY

  2. Am wondering, at the end you were left with more questions than what you went into the interview with.

    Very good read though 🙂
    Keep treating us with such wonderful work.

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