Authors: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Puffin (2011)
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In an increasingly urban world, where food is sourced from supermarkets and animals are seen in the zoo, even domesticated animals like the cow become an exotic species. Getting children to connect back to Nature so that they do not completely lose touch with their roots is essentially what Dr Devdutt Pattanaik attempts to do in his book – ‘Gauri and the Talking Cow’.
The book is part of the Fun in Devlok series – the other two books in the series being ‘Indira Finds Happiness’ and ‘An Identity Card for Krishna.’ Dr Pattanaik believes that ancient stories are a gift from our ancestors and the wisdom locked within these stories can be used by us to improve our lives.
Gauri and the Talking Cow answers three important questions – “Why is the cow useful to everyone?”, “How are the earth and the cow similar?” and “Why is Gauri another name for a cow?” The main character of the book is little Gauri, a typical city bred child who thinks milk comes from the cartons she sees in the supermarket. Her perceptions completely change when she meets Sweety, a talking cow, at the farmhouse she is visiting.
The present and past are seamlessly woven together – the present day Gauri is told the story of her name, which is in fact the name of Goddess Kali. Sweety explains things about cows to the curious Gauri and also talks of the cowherds who take care of them – the story then effortlessly goes back in time to tell of the first cow, Surabhi, created by Lord Brahma.
Surabhi was given to the rishis and she proved useful to them in every possible way. Her milk was drunk and also turned into butter, ghee, curds and cheese. Her dung was used as fuel for cooking, to plaster the floor of houses and also as manure in the fields. The urine was believed to have medicinal properties by Ayurvedic doctors. Since the cow provided the rishis food, shelter, manure as well as medicines – cows are known as Kamadhenu – she who fulfills all needs.
No story of the cow is complete without mentioning Krishna and the book narrates a story of Krishna as well as telling us that when we ill-treat the Earth too much, she goes to Krishna in the form of a cow, asking for his help. The clever girl that she is, Gauri quickly makes the connection between the cow and the earth and understands how they both need to be treated well by humans.
Important lessons are imparted to children in a non-didactic way. The entire book is basically a conversation between Sweety, the cow and Gauri. The conversation is a series of interlinked stories that help Gauri, and us, live better and wisely.