i was going to kasturba to say goodbye to my beautiful students. i promised them yesterday, as they begged me with love and tears in their eyes, that i would return today for hugs. i wanted to take the morning train, at 11, but unfortunately i missed it by a few minutes; odd since it’s usually woefully late. the next train left from forbesganj at 12;58 (in theory) and at 12;50 i went to buy my ticket. the ticket seller was agitated and swatted me away, refusing to sell me one. confused, i headed to the platform, where the plethora of colours and cries meant that the train was yet to come. i found a free corner of a bench and began to read. 12;58 came and went. at 12;15 a goat wandered by. she’s a local gal – a familiar face and a kind one. she’s black and white, but mostly black. she’s particularly recognizable because her horns curl backwards tightly against her head; her right curves over and behind her nubian-esque ear, but her left comes around and presses against her cheek. and her left teat is forked, like a snake’s tongue, with two tiny ducts.

she was scavenging for scraps on the platform (although demonstrably not starving) but it pained me to see her nibbling at dusty dirty bits of who knows what. i dug into my bag and found that i had a handful of crumbled, dried neem leaves that i had picked in kolkata by the lake and taken home. i rummaged around and then fed them to her, one at a time, slowly. her lips were fuzzy and her breath warm and goat-like; comforting. she was grateful to have something green to eat. you’ve seen my car, so you’ll not find it hard to believe that i found several bedraggled cauliflower leaves in my purse as well, and these she ate appreciatively. when i had nothing left to feed her i began to scratch her chin. she hesitated at first, pulling away, but soon she relaxed into my hand and so evidently was in bliss that it brought tears to my eyes. her head rested in my palm, her eyes closed, and she uttered several soft guttural goat sounds of pleasure. animals here, though treated ‘well’ by third world standards, are never pets, and since she clearly was a vagrant, she’d had little affection in her life. watching her eyelids droop and her head tilt and her ears flop was such a beautiful demonstration of happiness, for both her and for me. my fingers were soon blackened with goat grime, and i felt scabs and dirt against her cheek and chin, but for 15 minutes of a hot day on a crowded platform of a filthy station, a girl and a goat were both calm and content.

after the lady trotted away i struck up conversation with the nepali man next to me (‘animals is best friend,’ he said, and i couldn’t have said it better) and discovered that the earlier train, the one i’d meant to catch, had struck a tractor loaded with bricks on the tracks and several passengers had died. that was why there was no train. that was why i got to spend time with a black and white goat.

and, yet again, i experienced the particular peace that comes with being in the right place at the right time. with the right ruminant.

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