Amongst the many villages I was fortunate to serve as a veterinary surgeon during my short tenure, while in the Kerala Government Service, I have a soft corner in my heart for Kadinamkulam. Never else have I found people and animals living in such harmony and competing with each other in their sense of humor. I really enjoyed working in that beautiful village. Being an isolated area in a remote corner of Trivandrum district, no one even dared to think of a posting there, in the late seventies. The mantle fell on me twice and I consider myself lucky to get posted there twice.
The events that follow happened in 1981 during my first tenure as veterinary surgeon at a dispensary in Kadinamkulam. Kadinamkulam is a peninsular piece of land, in the northern coastal region of Trivandrum district flanked on three sides by water, vast and peaceful Kadinamkulam lake on the east, the Arabian Sea on the west and the famous Muthalapozhi on the North, where the lake meets the sea. The caressing lashing of the waves on three sides makes the village sleepy.
Each house- hold had a coir spinning unit, a cottage industry, where the ladies toiled hard to keep the kitchen functional. The male folk did the odd jobs during day time and ventured in to the sea at night. Those who had nothing else to do took to illicit brewing and competed with their neighbors in consumption of their home made product. Atmosphere in the day carried the fragrance of burning dried husk, a by product of coir industry, which was used as fuel for cooking. The night air was charged with the aroma of burning sandal sticks, camphor and chiming of bells escaping from the huts of black magicians who numbered quite a few. Some who had regular jobs also took up black magic as part time job. In this category falls Vasudevan, an attendant, and Ibrahim Kunju,a part time sweeper of the Veterinary dispensary.Â Those were a thing of the past. This village was not left far behind in the flow of men seeking job to the gulf countries and the whole atmosphere drastically changed. Transformation appeared in the form of high raise buildings, neatly laid out roads, and mechanization of coir industry.
As a veterinary surgeon, I have often been abused, kicked, and bitten by my patients. Not for any grudge or hatred they bore me, but it was the only way they could react while being subjected to some of the painful procedures. A strong kick from a cow at the most vulnerable of parts can send any Vet flying out of the cattle shed. You’ll find more calluses on the shinbones of a Vet than on any international hockey player. Appu was a rather nondescript dog who stands out from among those who subjected me to such abuses. I’ve never seen a dog with such a sense of humor. Appu belonged to nobody but the whole village owned him and loved him.
His performance as a stud was extraordinary and the females, of the species often fought to catch his eye, as a result you will find many of his offspring in and around Kadinamkulam. His testosterone level was so high that he started venturing out of the village in search of variety, and the villagers thought that enough was enough and decided to castrate him.
Castration is a surgically simple-enough procedure in which the testicles are removed and the animal rendered neutral. The mantle fell on me. I still hate having to do it but when the owners insist, you have no other go. We decided to do it on a Sunday morning. Sunday came; Appu was given a royal bath and courted into surgery by a horde of well wishers lead by Martin, the village butcher. Martin was the most sought after person when any act of dare devilry was to take place in the village. I have often wondered in my wildest of dreams whether Martin was an identical twin to one of those massive Swiss brown bulls we had at Mattupetty. He had a very muscular frame, a patchy head, flat and flabby ears and a droopy moustache over riding his broad overturned upper lips. Moustache was always smeared with filtrates from the local toddy which he consumed at regular intervals to keep his blood alcoholic levels at a constant.
He was seldom seen with out a red scarf tied around his neck-a trade mark of his profession. Today he seemed to be in an inebriated condition, may be to muster enough courage to witness my surgical expertise. Appu, at the other end of the leash, behaved like a well brought up child and came in smiling. During those days short acting anesthetics were unheard of and we used to undertake minor surgical procedures under local anesthesia. He was muzzled, lifted on to table, forced to lie on his back with his legs stretched apart. After grumbling a little, he decided to co-operate and lay still.
In veterinary profession, the doctor often has to perform the role of a barber, anesthetist, and surgeon terminating as a pathologist performing post mortem examinations. The barber’s job comes first in any surgical procedure and I considered myself quite an expert at it. So preparation of the site was undertaken, Appu’s scrotum was scrubbed, lathered with soap and shaved neatly using a razor. Not fully satisfied with my first attempt I half a second go at it till his scrotal skin shone, like a well-polished shoe. My shaving skills on the dog’s scrotum were well admired by the crowd. The height of excitement to the crowd was when somebody said in a husked voice “He would have done better as a barber than a surgeon” followed by an explosive laughter all around. “He seems to belong to the Russian Bolshevik party” said somebody, and another blighter very enthusiastically corrected it as “Indian Ball shaving party”. My morale was at its all time low. I failed miserably in an attempt to put on a sheepish smile. Hands started shivering and sweat dribbled in to my eyes from my forehead blurring vision. All the enthusiasm in me began to evaporate. All of a sudden I became a target for shooting practice for the entire hostile crowd. The savage crowd around me seemed to enjoy the boisterous time. I have often experienced that in times of such crisis god appears in the form of some Avatar to fish me out. So must be the case with all Veterinarians.
This time reincarnation was in the form of Martin. A nasty snarl from Martin followed by a few selected obscenities brought the spectators to a pin drop silence. Taking advantage of the momentary relief, I soon regained my lost ground. This quality has stood me in good stead many times later on in my professional life. Most of the large animal surgeries are done in the open, and cattle shed often becomes a make shift operation theatre and a bale of straw an operation table. As country Vets we are often at the receiving end of such nasty sarcastic comments by unwanted elements at the most inappropriate of times.
It is not often, a human being gets the chance to show off his shaving skills on the adornments of another species. Proud of my performance so far I decided to brief the Sunday morning crowd on the surgical procedure they were about to witness. I put on the air of an expert surgeon, who has performed countless number of castrations (in actual fact, it was the first I was to perform singlehandedly and I was trying hard to keep my hands from trembling). “A linear incision of about an inch long will be placed on the scrotal skin after infiltrating local anesthetic under the scrotal skin and into the testicles“, I expounded. There was total silence and the crowd drew nearer. “This exposes the tunica vaginalis which is also incised and on applying a little pressure the testicles pop out of the incision”
Through my extended peripheral vision, I pretended not to see the many eyes popping out of their sockets eager to hear what I was going to say next. “The testicles are then removed by severing it from the spermatic cord. The nonvascular portion and the vascular portion are knotted together to arrest any bleeding. The wound is left open for effective drainage. Scrotal sac shrinks in a weeks time”, I finished. All this time Appu was listening to me with glistening eyes, wagging his tail. He was in a very happy frame of mind, unaware of his losing his masculinity a few moments from now.
“O.K. lets start” I said and took the syringe loaded with local anesthetic in my hand. Everything happened in a fraction of a second, Appu jumped up and took off like a streak of lightning, and the crowd ran after him. Their attempts proved futile, I collapsed into the chair, my image badly tarnished and my spirit at its lowest, unaware still of the calamities yet to come.
Monday-morning hours are always busy and so the previous day’s misadventure was forgotten. It was a cloudy morning with only streaks of silver sunshine reaching the earth through breaks in the cloud column. After the day’s busy clinical routine I was settling down into my chair to scan through the day’s newspaper, when my eyes were blinded by a beam of the sun’s ray reflecting off some glistening round object. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was Appu standing by a coconut tree just in front of my door, in a urinating posture exhibiting his shaven ornaments mockingly at me. I pretended to ignore him but couldn’t help look at the end product of my shaving skills through the corner of my eyes. There was a strange expression of superiority on his face as if to belittle the veterinary surgeon in me. I was reduced to the status of an underside shaver, that too of a nondescript dog.
It became a routine affair. Every morning he would come at the appointed hour to flash those shining balls at me, pivoting on one leg and the other extended skywards. Sometimes swinging them like a simple pendulum till I either got annoyed and started howling abuses at him or until those orbs lost their momentum and came to a standstill. I was mad for revenge. A doctor gunning for his patient sounds ridiculous.
He was due for his next shave. Another Sunday morning was chosen. This time he was overpowered and the shaving neatly done. As I turned around and started scrubbing my hand there was commotion behind me, Appu inflicted a gaping wound on the hand of Martin who was pinning him down and dashed off the table. I was reminded of my physics master, who taught me that light travels faster than sound. The yells of the bystander reached me much later than flash of his freshly polished orbs. Days passed and to add insult to the injury, my favorite flasher now did it two times every day.
We decided to go in for a third and final attempt, myself as willing as the rest. This time the modus operandi was well discussed, briefing given like from a commanding Officer to his subordinates. All possible loopholes plugged, Appu was sedated, and the shaving gone through quickly, I had become an expert at this particular part by now and could do it even with my eyes shut. There was a sarcastic twitch of his upper lips even under sedation. Is he up to some new gambit, I wondered. He seemed to be drifting in to his own world of fantasy. Local anesthetic was infiltrated under the scrotal skin and in to the testicles. My hands trembled as I took the scalpel. “A bold linear incision on the scrotal skin” Dr.P.O.George Sir’s stony hard voice seemed to echo in to my ears. Mustering all my courage I DID IT. A neat incision, but it went in a bit deeper than expected.
There was a jet of blood that missed my right ear by a whisker . The pin-drop silence was broken by a big THUD. All eyes were shifted from the canine scrotum to the motionless huge inert mass which was lying flat under the operation table. With great difficulty a semi – conscious Martin was shunted out of the operation theatre.
Later on in my professional life I have often observed that it is the heavy and muscular ones who buckle under the sight of blood. May be the butcher couldn’t stand the surgical atmosphere. Surgery was under local anesthesia and recovery was uneventful and Appu walked out of the dispensary like a drunk. I went away on a week’s leave and on my return I was annoyed to learn Appu was missing since surgery. Much to my relief, Appu returned with his empty sac in a few days. He was never the same Appu ever again. Lack of male hormones seemed to have had its impact on him. He seemed to develop a lot more fat around his waist and was no more interested in the opposite sex.
He suddenly developed a sudden interest in taking up night patrolling in right earnest. He soon became a terror to bicycle riders without headlamps or pillion riders, a role strictly meant for the policeman those days. He never came back to the dispensary but every once in a while he would come to its rusty gate lean against it and exhibit his shrunken scrotal sac, resembling a dried up lemon at me, all the while keeping a blank expression on his face.