“I don’t have any toilet,” the Spanish owner explained as we checked into her beach hut complex. “When you need you must go outside into the field. Do not worry. The cow, he is eating everything.”
This was the surreal utterance that welcomed me to Kudle Beach, just south of Goa on India’s east coast. I’d come to get away from the madness of India for a while. Little did I imagine that I’d be getting away from toilets too, but fortunately I’ve always had what some people might describe as an unhealthy interest in lavatorial matters and this peculiar bovine toilet arrangement delighted me. I couldn’t wait to give this shit-eating cow some cause for rumination.
Having already evacuated my bowels that day I waited until the next morning before heading out into the field. There appeared to be a schoolhouse close to the dumping zone and when I went up at first some kids were high in the branches of a tree. I wondered what they were up to; in the light of their careful inspections of my output I concluded they were trying to spot jobbies.
When I returned later to check on the jobby there was no trace of it – the cow had indeed wolfed it down. It became my ambition from that point onwards to obtain photographic evidence of this perverted, stool-hoovering beast smoking one of my Jimmy Savilles. I didn’t see any evidence of the cow in action for several days, though its presence could be inferred from the way shits vanished from the field like ships in the Bermuda Triangle.
Sadly not all residents were as understanding as myself and the lack of toilet was becoming a trial to the owner. She was becoming tired of explaining to people who come in for lunch that there is no toilet. The irony of having an internet connection but no flush toilet was not lost on her.
“A different kind of person is coming here now,” she lamented, hesitating before continuing. “Particularly people from Munich.”
This surprised me – years of watching Eurotrash has given me an image of the Boche as the second most shit-obsessed people in Europe behind the dirty Dutch with their Shit Museums and foul pans with raised inspection platforms at the back. There is, I understand, a restaurant in Berlin in which all the seats are fully functioning water closets and the menus are rolled up like bog rolls. Perhaps it’s the toilets rather than the shit that appeals to them.
Filthy and backward as it may seem this traditional method is the best solution. Other shack complexes on the beach have installed flush toilets, but not only do they discharge a foul shitty soup into the bathing waters of the bay, their primitive plumbing is forever being blocked by people who insist on putting toilet paper down them. While it may seem revolting to use a little water and your left hand in place of a wad of Andrex, it is in fact far better than being left with bins beside the toilet, overflowing with shit-covered tissue. The system was absolutely foolproof – as one longterm Irish resident said:
“I’ve been shitting in the exact same spot for six weeks and I’ve never seen so much as a sliver of shite.”
You couldn’t get that performance from a proper toilet.
I wondered if the cow had had to be specially trained or if all cows have the same shit-eating instincts. I resolved to shit beside a British cow when I returned home to see if it would be feasible to radically revolutionise our sewage disposal system. However, when I revealed my plans to a dairy farming friend he assured me that British cows have no such appetites. He claimed that while emptying his septic tank with a vacuum tanker a pretty fresh toley had escaped onto the surrounding concrete, where it lay for several days. Rather than squabbling for the right to consume the tasty specimen his herd studiously avoided it, carefully stepping over the brown escapee.
Days passed easily in Kudle, I’d usually climb out of my palm thatched hut early before the day became too hot, thereafter my day was completely filled. A morning outing into the crashing surf, usually desisting after a monster wave threw me about like a washing machine, a few hours of hammock swinging followed by another swim in the afternoon. Food, drinks and homemade icecream were not only supplied at absurdly reasonable prices but also with a cheery promptness that wouldn’t have been out of place at a five star hotel. Doesn’t sound like much but it kept me busy for a fortnight. It was, in fact, so close to perfection that I’m not sure it wasn’t the genuine article.
It was after one of these morning swims that I had an unpleasant altercation with the ‘cow’, actually a young bullock. I’d left my sarong on the beach and the filthy animal had started guzzling it as if it was a tasty bunch of hay. I ran swiftly from the sea and confronted the brute, who stared at me belligerently while continuing to consume my sarong. Every time I attempted to retrieve it the little humpbacked runt attempted to butt me. On the fourth or fifth attempt it succeeded, bashing my shin with its shitty horns. The Hindu cow is a very different animal from its timid western counterpart. Due to its status as a holy animal everything gives way to the Hindu cow; they can stand unmolested in the middle of busy roads eating plastic bags while normally maniacal Indian drivers calmly negotiate their way around them. When they approach pedestrians in the street it doesn’t occur to them to give way. Unless the pedestrian steps aside the cow will simply walk right into them, genuinely surprised to find its path impeded.
Not being Hindu this deference to cows is alien to me and I was not amused at being assaulted by the beast. I really wanted to take a stick to it, but was worried that the locals might find this unacceptable and raise a lynch mob to teach me some respect. I contented myself with surreptitiously kicking some sand into its eyes and toyed with the idea of creeping out after dark to bash it.
I limped in to order my breakfast, muttering to myself about how absurd it is to allow livestock to eat people’s stuff and go unpunished. I looked up from my breakfast and was dumbfounded by the spectacle that presented itself to me. The very old, very small, gap-toothed woman who was responsible for cleaning the place was doing some cleaning of a sort, if smearing cow shit all over the floor can be considered cleaning in any way. She would slop a couple of handfuls of mature shite onto the floor, add some water, then rub it in lovingly with her hand. To conclude the process she’d take a strip of stiff leather and scrape the floor with a figure of eight movement, leaving only a thin layer of shit coating the red cement floor.
To put this into perspective it is common to smear cowshit in dirt streets – this not only shows reverence for the holy cow but also forms a grassy crust which keeps the dust down. That seems fair enough, by Indian standards, but I was flabbergasted to see this coprophilia encouraged in an establishment owned by a European, especially applying so subtle a coating that for a week I’d been completely unaware of this morning scatfest. Apparently it happened every day, you just had to be up very early to catch the grinning, toothless, old crone gleefully coating the whole floor. Very surreal experience, chomping away on your breakfast while nearby the floor is doused in dung.
My resentment towards the odious animal simmered until my wound had healed. Then, much to my surprise, it redeemed itself completely one afternoon when I went to the field to take a shit. I’d been expecting to lay a chicken bhuna style softee and was delighted when out slithered an oily amber plug, attached to which was a great tail of beige, smooth-sided and slightly grainy. I carefully repositioned mid-squat to prevent coiling and the end product was not less than 18” long and as straight as an arrow. I lingered to admire my handiwork, baking in the heat of the sun and watching the glistening surface fade to a more earthy, terracotta finish.
In the corner of the field I saw the sarong munching cow moving slowly towards me. It must have caught a whiff and was hungry for human shit. I’d omitted to bring my camera with me, so now it was a race against the cow. I had to get back to my shed, grab my camera, then get my ass back up in time to head the beast off at the pass. A whopping vegi toley and a great photo opportunity hung in the balance.
Fortunately I was fleet enough of foot to arrive back at the scene of the crime before the cow. I waited in position, eying up the cow and the jobby. It hesitated slightly when it saw me standing so near the stool and a three way confrontation, reminiscent of the graveyard scene in ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly‘, developed. Nervous glances all around, the glistening jobby appeared to be sweating in anticipation, waiting for someone to make the first move. I coaxed along the hesitantly approaching cow, no doubt it was wary of being caught perpetrating such a thoroughly revolting deed. It inched forward up the burnt grass slope and once he’d clapped eyes on my Class A shite there was no stopping him. He calmly surveyed the turd, amazed at the bountiful feast I’d quite literally laid on for him. It surely was a rare treat even for such a connoisseur of shit-eating. It sniffed the air a couple of times, as if savouring the bouquet, then began advancing slowly, grazing along the brown snake with what could only be described as relish. I’m quite proud to say that the jobby was sufficiently large that the cow had to pause halfway to swallow before concluding its meal.
I was absolutely delighted by the animal’s response. As a shit-eater it was truly one of the best, it snuffled it up effortlessly with the slow easy elegance of a sword-swallower, leaving no trace on its lips or the ground. As I composed myself, wiping the tears of mirth from my eyes, the cow stopped and turned its head towards me, as if congratulating me on supplying him with an especially tasty feast, and licked his lips contentedly. He wasn’t as content as me. I’d got several good action shots. I forgave the cow for assaulting me, my resentment towards him disappearing down his throat along with the turd.
All good things have to come to an end, including the tourist season at Kudle Beach. We left a few days before all the hutments and chai shops closed for the monsoon. I carried with me my precious film of the shit-eating cow. Restrictions on owning images of cows meant that I couldn’t even get it developed in the nearby holy town of Gokarna. As we walked across the beach for the last time the terrible retching cough of the cow-toilet provided a soundtrack to our departure. It sounded as if it was trying to dislodge a bit of shit from the back of its throat, which it probably was.