Farm Animals

D said, reading Bobo’s school diary ‘Bobo has to take pictures of some farm animals to school. They are making a collage in his class’

D sounded grave and serious.

‘Uh huh’, I acknowledged without paying much attention. Bobo’s playgroup had been doing farm animals all month. Bobo had taken a toy horse to school earlier. Bobo had also been repeating ‘rooster’ endlessly for a while. It was hardly a topic for grave and serious conversation.

D continued ‘I am going to write a note saying we don’t have pictures of farm animals’

I looked up shocked ‘Wait a minute. We have plenty of pictures of farm animals. My mom used to cut pictures out of Span magazine all the time when we were kids. Of course he is going to take pictures of farm animals’

I was not going to let my son fail at homework this early on.

D continued, still despondent ‘We don’t subscribe to Span. We subscribe to the Economist. They don’t have pictures of farm animals’

D had a point. The previous week I had foolishly attempted to read the magazine with Bobo on my lap. Trying to surreptitiously censor the pictures, I had noticed the astounding number of guns that had been pictured in the issue. Certainly no farm animals. But I was not going to lose an argument.

‘Of course they have pictures of farm animals. They had pictures of cows all the time during the Mad Cow disease’

D did not bother responding.

Suddenly something struck me ‘I will google the pictures and take printouts at work?’

D did not respond this time either but that was because he had the look of ‘my wife is such a genius on his face’

‘Gosh you are so brilliant’ he finally spluttered.

We agreed on that point.


Post-lunch, when the office is usually quite empty, I began to google for ‘rooster’. I was quite sure I did not want to get cutesy cartoons of farm animals. I wanted the real thing just so Bobo could see what the animals looked like.

I stuck gold in the first hit. I printed a glossy colour picture of a handsome and proud-looking rooster on an A4 sheet.

Then it was onto ‘cow’. This did not look so good. She was massive, almost like a black and white brick wall. The problem was that she looked a bit disgruntled. The cow was from an article on the mad cow disease (Ha. Take that D) and maybe that is how mad cows look…? Still, I was not going to spend lunchtime looking for cows with mellow expressions. Bobo could take what I found.

Another glossy colour A4 printout.

Then it was the picture of a horse. I picked the first one I spotted - an insipid looking light brown mare. Bobo could do well with learning that not all animals are handsome or majestic creatures.

At this point I began to wonder how big was the collage that the school intended to do. Surely the kids would not be able to work on such large-sized pictures. And surely the school should not think I was some sort of non-tree hugger who took such large and wasteful colour prinouts for a pre-schooler?

I considered reprinting everything on a smaller scale but figured out that that would infact make me a non-tree hugger.

I assuaged my conscience by finishing off with a small picture of a pig.


In the evening, I told Bobo that I had got the pictures of farm animals.

He obviously had no clue that he was supposed to take some to school. Still, he was excited by the envelope (Used one. Note - Environmentally conscious)  that I waved at him.

We went through the pictures one by one.

‘Rooster’, Bobo cried looking at the first. I gave him a big appreciative hug.

‘Penguin’ he cried next.


I flipped the paper to see if I had printed the wrong picture by mistake. But no. he was looking at the massive, disgruntled cow in black and white. The only animal he had seen in real life that was black and white was the penguin. And he had last seen a real cow in India during his infancy, the memory of which he clearly did not retain.

It looked like my choice of getting pictures of the animals instead of cartoons was already providing an education.

Still considering he got the horse, rooster and pig right, I began to wonder if the picture of the cow had been a good choice.


I showed the pictures to D, obviously waiting to hear more praise.

‘What huge pictures!’ D exclaimed ‘how big do you think the collage is going to be?’

‘Aha’ I replied ‘that is why I also got this small picture of a pig’

D said ‘This pig looks like it is quarter the size of a rooster. How do you explain to kids who have never seen farm animals which animal is larger?’

I protested ‘Hey. The teacher should think of that. That is why we send Bobo to school’

D continued ‘God, why does this cow look so weird?’

I was beginning to feel like the massive, disgruntled cow myself. I think D picked up the mood since there were no more comments.


The next morning I handed the envelope with the pictures to the teacher at school, cow included.

I am yet to hear how the collage is turning out.

I hope I get atleast one star for my effort.


Bobo School - One month later

Bobo stands eagerly at the door, waiting for his slow-coach Mummy to catch up with him. He has already worn his school bag and now wants to wear his shoes. It is the first time he has voluntarily taken the bag. He said ‘rooster’ earlier, a takeaway from the week’s focus on farm animals. 

As soon as the door opens, the neighbour’s four year old daughter jumps out ready with her school bag. She goes to a different school but likes to meet Bobo for a few minutes every morning. She quickly grabs his hand and both walk to the lift. Once downstairs, they part ways.

Bobo has mostly forgotten that till just a few days ago he expected Mummy to carry him to the lift, past the pool, to the condo’s back entrance and to the bus stop. He bounces past the pool by himself and then stops and asks ‘thuki?’ (short for ‘carry’ in Tamil). Then seeing his Mummy is in no mood to do so, he negotiates ‘bus  thuki?’ (‘carry me in the bus?’). Mummy is balancing his stroller, his school bag and her voluminous bag and is happy to seal the deal. Even with grandma walking with them, it is best to get him used to walking the short distance.

They enter the main road. Mummy thinks she spies their bus and quickly sweeps up Bobo in her arms and runs to the stop. She realizes she is glad of this excuse to pick him up and break her own rules about getting him used to walking. It is not their bus. Mummy, grandma and Bobo sit down to wait.

At the bus stop, Bobo begins to say ‘hi’ to passers-by and co-passengers as always. Some ignore him. Some smile back at him. Bobo is never discouraged. He keeps up a steady chatter, pointing at various things.

When the bus comes, Mummy puts Bobo on her hip, carries the stroller and bags and then hops in, trying to punch in her fare card. Sitting in the bus is a balancing act with Bobo eagerly trying to look outside. More difficult to handle than having him just slump listlessly on Mummy, but definitely far more preferable.

‘Patti?’ Bobo asks, wondering where grandma disappeared. ‘Patti will pick you up in a couple of hours. You play at school till then’. Bobo nods thoughtfully.
Bobo’s “construction” stop arrived. A nod to the heavy construction work ongoing just behind the bus stop. Mummy opens the stroller while Bobo suddenly begins to cry in a “I am bored to be going this but we have to keep up appearances” montone.

In the beginning, the tears were genuine, full throated ones protesting going to school. They sometimes began in the bus, sometimes in the lift and sometimes even at breakfast if school was mentioned. This was followed by a sad face. Over the days, the tears have become restricted to three slots – on leaving the house, on being put into the stroller at the bus stop and upon entering his school. Now Bobo has all but forgotten phase one of crying. By the looks of it, Phase two is on its way out too.

Bobo asks for his ‘pura’ (short for ‘porvai’ a.k.a blanket), sits comfortably in the stroller and the tears disappear.  Mummy and Bobo chatter about the blue car that is going down the road, about the trees and about the man cleaning the sidewalk. They walk the two side streets and then arrive at the school gates.

Bobo’s teachers greet him with big smiles. Mummy calls out ‘bye’ and quickly leaves the gate before he can begin another bout of tears. Mummy thinks that phase three i.e. the moment of parting  will produce the most tears. Every morning these gates have seen some of Bobo’s loudest wails and every morning Mummy is used to standing out of sight, behind the compound wall waiting to hear him stop crying. Some days he disappears into the classroom before he has stopped crying and Mummy goes to work knowing he must have stopped crying but feeling sad.

Bobo however has not let out even a whimper.

He is already in school mode. He can see his ‘friends’, he is itching to hop into the toys cars and he knows that beyond these are the rooms filled with toys and fun things to do. He does not know what is for lunch today (cinnamon toast? Bee Hoon?) but he is going to eat it. Mummy thought that Teacher Zira was overestimating his eating skills till he impressed everyone in the weekend by eating his noodles with a fork (Of course while spilling half of it on the floor).

There is no reason for Mummy to wait. She turns and starts walking back to the bus stop to take the bus to her office. Feeling happy and relieved.

And a little sad.