[My mother’s account of raising pigs in India]
Found a book on pig farming. Just the thing I think, all you’ve got to do is get some pigs and you’re in business – what with the Government encouraging pig-farming and all that.
I wrote off to a farm asking permission to purchase a pair of piglets and was asked to call at Katpadi the next day.
We set off on motorbike and scooter, my brother and his friend on the motorbike and my husband and I on the scooter. When we got there we discovered there were only two sizes available, the first size too large to be carried by the pillion rider on his lap and the other still sucklings, with one month to go before weaning.
We settled for the babies. Oh, we’ll bottle feed them, we told ourselves, and off we went.
They squealed almost all the way back – about thirty miles of squeals. Only when we were nearing our farm did they settle down and enjoy the ride.
As soon as we got back there was no time to rest, beds and bottles had to be prepared. Feroke (the male) and Sara (the female) were hungry all the time. They could never get enough. In fact Feroke would quickly finish his bottle (an old beer bottle) and would rush over to where Sara was daintily sucking on hers, scuff her aside, grab the nipple and go guzzle, guzzle. He’d drink till the milk dripped out of his snout. The milk bill was enormous and still they were hungry all the time – so what to do? We decided to feed them on porridge and milk. That solved the problem.
They were kept in a Deal Wood packing case in the common room during the night. The first night they were exhausted and slept right through. The next night I heard a slight noise and cautiously opened my eyes – Feroke and Sara stood cheek to cheek peering at me. I jumped up from my mat, took them to their packing case, tucked them in and went back to sleep. A little later they were back so what to do? I give them their bottles.
All too soon they were grown up. We had to keep them in separate pens till Sara was eight months old, which was a reasonable time to get her mated. The number of times poor Munuswamy had to repair the pens. If dinner and lunch was a little late, we would hear smash and they’d be out to see what was happening. At night the kitchen, which was just a small hut, was attacked because there’d be no-one to chase them away.
The children would go piggy-back on Feroke and Sara, a hilarious sight. Then Faroke took to chasing passing villagers. One man climbed a tree to get out of his way and howled at us to call Feroke back to his pen. Irate housewives would come storming in holding broken pots and warble out a list of misdeeds committed by Feroke and Sara interlaced with juicy words of abuse.
So for their sins, the pigs had to be put in very strong pens.
Then Sara upped and gave us six beautiful bouncing piglets. I attended at the births – but that didn’t give me licence to touch the babies. No. If I did they’d squeal as if I was pinching or poking them and Sara would charge. Believe me, when a huge sow, however sweet looking, chases you – you run.
The piglets grew round, pink and beautiful and we loved them, except for their nasty habit of squealing about us to their mother. Soon they were weaned and kept in a huge pen by themselves.
We had so much difficulty keeping them in. The smallest piglet would stand near the fence and one by one the others would climb on his back. Then they would be up and over the wooden fence jumping down to freedom. There was only one snag – the little chap who had turned himself into a chair for his brothers and sisters was left in the pen squealing blue murder because there was no-one for him to climb on.